Friday, May 22, 2009

What do roses smell like?

I realized with a start the other day when I was speaking to a small group that I have a tendency to hang my happiness on outside events, not on any sense of inner peace. For the first time that hit me as a bad thing. That behavior has been ingrained in me for a long time, and was a pretty time honored tradition to get me through tough times. The fact that it has largely worked may prompt some to say, "Why mess with a good thing?" But, the startling realization was that I was reliant on things totally outside my control to get me through, and I need to take better control of my own sense of well being. What do I mean by all this? Allow me to illustrate:

As you have likely guessed, I am a Steeler fan. I have not missed watching a game in I don't know how long, but it was before this century, that I can say for sure. This past fall, I had to do some pretty amazing things to keep that streak alive, including watching the second Bengal-Steeler match up on my phone. But, I completely live and breathe Black and Gold. As the team goes, so go I. Obviously, they gave me a good fall and winter this past year. But, it's a long off season. So, I fill up some of the void with American Idol, as you have likely also guessed. I transfer that Steeler Nation fervor to the ultimate American guilty pleasure. I choose a contestant and hook my star to his or her success or failure. I'm pretty good at it; generally speaking, my favorites do well. But, when they don't, I sulk. This year, Adam Lambert was totally my man. So, yesterday everyone had to walk on egg shells around me, and I caught myself saying somewhat tacky things about Kris Allen that I didn't particularly mean - he seems nice enough. But, I will move on, now pinning my hopes on the Penguins in the NHL playoffs and the summer movie season. By the time the last of the blockbusters roll out, it should be close to training camp, then pre-season, and then finally, finally, life can begin anew. This is the cycle I have followed for a long time. But, what happens when there is a crack in my carefully constructed system? For instance, the year after Super Bowl XL when Big Ben was in the motorcycle accident during the off-season, and The Bus let it slip early in the season that Coach Cowher would likely retire? The team didn't even make it to the playoffs that year. I was miserable. Rush, my favorite rock group, eased the pain that year with Snakes and Arrows. But, bless them, they can't ride to my rescue every year, and the Steelers can't make it to the Super Bowl every year (well, maybe...), and there isn't always going to be a David Cook or an Adam Lambert to capture my attention. When left to my own devices, the pressures of the family dynamic I find myself in threaten to overcome me. I tend to become overwhelmed and often rather maudlin.

So, when I made some simple statement the other day that alluded to the Steelers and Super Bowl XIII as my outlet, it suddenly came crashing in on me; any happiness I glean from life is totally outside my control. Inner joy? I totally don't know what that is. Sense of self? Who am I without the Rooneys, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu and all the rest of the roster? They make me proud, I realized, not anything that I do myself. If I can tell you anything with absolute certainty, it is that this is not a healthy way to go through life. But, I don't think it's as easy to change as it might seem. For my part, I'll work on changing that after I see how the Penguins fare in the Eastern Conference finals...I'll keep you posted on how it goes.


Now, this is what true happiness looks like to me!

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