We’re lucky to be alive
Because of my neurological disease, I was invited to observe a boxing class for people with neurological diseases.
The class is designed to improve balance, movement, and coordination. It’s called “Let’s Get Ready to Stumble.”
No. It’s not. But I attest that humor, like food, water, and shelter, is necessary for survival. Life is hard. Shit happens. Bad shit happens. And life will break you and fill you with bitterness and anger and consequently, railing against this life will only further break you. Right now, we’re all struggling to accept the contradiction that life is both a pleasurable and painful experience. Eight years of living with a progressive brain disease, I learned I could find humor in my circumstance while enduring mortal fear. And if I didn’t, if I took life too seriously and didn’t accept it’s contradictions, I would have been knocked-out long ago.
Not because the movie is long ( it’s one hour and forty-six minutes), it’s that every time I started the movie, the kids charged in with a foam football and turned the living room in Lambeau Field. They didn’t care I was stretched on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, enjoying a movie. The Never-ending-Suburban-Living-Room-Super Bowl was kicking off whether I was in attendance or not.
“The Tender Bar” is about J.R.’s coming-of-age, an aspiring writer, he struggles with self-doubt, absent paternal love, and personal identity.
One night, in his Yale dorm room, J.R. suffers an existential crisis. He wrestles with his writing ability, questions his intelligence, and believes his acceptance to Yale was a mistake.
To which Wesley, J.R.’s roommate explains that luck, not intelligence, is the reason the human race has skirted extinction and survived thousands of years of illness and predators. And luck is the real reason why some humans even attend Yale. “Everyone alive is lucky. Luck is why were all here.”
This week, I thought a lot about Wesley’s dorm room declaration. Especially, when I was enduring the following:
-Walking Maggie May in a relentless 8 degree wind chill.
-Food shopping Sunday morning which reminded me of World War II battlefield footage I once watched in high school History class.
-Studying the Protestation Reformation with Chase.
-Hearing a funny, dry-witted colleague I once shared a classroom with in my first few years of teaching high school English recently passed away. I called him, “a grizzled veteran.” He called me a “punk kid” who didn’t know his “who didn’t know Dickens about Dickens.” He was a good man.
-Reading a new report about how Covid is now mutating and spreading with the speed and ferocity of the linebackers currently in my living room.
Members of the boxing class formed a loose circle. They talked about how they celebrated New Year’s Eve. A gentleman wearing gray sweatpants, a gray sweatshirt, and sporting a pair of blue boxing gloves told the group that he couldn’t reveal details about his New Year’s Eve events smirked and said, “Let’s just say–I had a lot of fun.” The circle laughed.
And then on a brutally cold January morning, as a pandemic raged across the earth, as every human alive teetered on a see-saw of contradictions, the boxing instructor began leading the circle in stretches for a boxing class for people with progressive neurological diseases.
Everyone is lucky to be alive.
Again, I want to welcome everyone who subscribed through the Book Funnel promotions. I hope my silly, dad brain brings you insight, comfort, and humor each Friday.
Also through Book Funnel, I’ve teamed up with some awesome authors who are giving away their eBooks for FREE for a limited time only! Please checkout the links below and help emerging authors get discovered.
Poem of the Week: Good Bones by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
Lately, I’ve been on a Maggie Smith kick. Her poems are beautiful and brutal. Comforting and discomforting. Her poems capture the contradictions of life. I love “Good Bones” because as a parent I’m guilty of hiding some of life’s ugly truths from my kids in order to protect them. And it’s interesting to think of parents as realtors. Parents sell the world to their children. If parents sell a broken world of bitterness and anger, their kids will buy a world, they believe, is broken and angry and bitter. And to survive, the kids will behave accordingly.
But if parents sell their kids a world that has potential, that has “good bones”, their kids are likely to develop the vision needed to see beyond the anger and bitterness that pollute like asbestos siding. So as parents, we must ask ourselves: What kind of world are we selling to our kids?
If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at email@example.com. Thanks!
Don’t be like my kids. Read Bedtime Stories for the Living.
(According to the Amazon reviews you won’t regret it!)
Joking aside, if you read BSFL I would love an Amazon review! Due to some Jeff Bezos concocted algorithm, more book reviews lead to greater exposure. And greater exposure equates to higher book sales and as I wrote in BSFL, “college for three ain’t free.”
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Here’s what I’m currently reading: Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith
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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, and a former award-winning high school English teacher. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a beer with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com