Another piece from my friend John, who has recently gone through some serious shit.

Man, I just want to go for a run in the woods. Slap the Beats on. Press play on some thick, disgustingly slow heavy music. Sync my strides into the drone-y drums.  Find the quasi-march tempo. Just roll for a while. Smell things. Feel my systems activate. Test them. Call down to Scotty and see what the engines can handle on the next climb.

I can’t do that right now.  

At my request, some doctor cut part of my left arm off a couple weeks ago. My shoulder joint actually. Total reverse shoulder replacement. Wow. As my friend Fatballs compassionately noted, my shoulder had turned into a “bag of assholes.” Pretty accurate description. The doc has set forth very clear, very strict instructions for the time being: do nothing. 

Back in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s my football coaches repeatedly asked me to sacrifice my body for the team. It wasn’t really a request but more of a command, and those of us who responded were patted nicely on the head. As a positionally-undersized, testosterone-fueled teenager seeking the approval of coaches, teammates and family I responded to the command – I gave my shoulder joints to Coach Ro. I would launch my body into and through big dudes, so that they could not move forward another inch. My mind was stronger than my body. My shoulders would pop out and some D-rate trainer would pop them back in. I would go back onto the field and launch myself again and again and again. I’d go home after games and try to raise my arms to put on a shirt as best I could through the pain so that I could go meet up with the guys for post-game hangout. My team never made the playoffs, and I never played another down after high school.

Consider my body sacrificed for the team.

Now I’m an older guy, a dad, a husband, a lawyer. Grey hair setting in. Progressive-lensed specs resting on my nose. But, in certain respects I don’t feel much different than the testosterone junkie kid that willingly trashed his body to stop a ball from going from there to here 30 years ago. I got that sweet, sweet jazz from from being in the mix, in the game, doing more than I should have been able to physically. I must admit I still love that sweet, sweet jazz of biting off more than I can chew. 

Variables are different now though. But the mindset of overreaching seems to persist. Why would I want to run a marathon? Why would I want to ride a century? Why would I want to take on physical challenges with no apparent reward and only high probabilities of fatigue at best and injury at worst? Obviously there are physical benefits for my body when training for those things, but our bodies are transient meat machines that carry around our true ever-lasting selves. For what team do I now sacrifice my body on these runs and rides? Coach Ro died like three years ago. I doubt he cares if I sacrifice my body any more. Dumbest ideas ever. I’m not 150 pounds by any stretch. I’m not twenty-five anymore. I don’t even have all my working joints anymore. What the fuck, as the kids say. 

Now I sit on this convalescence couch with a recently installed titanium shoulder joint forced to physically pause for a while, forced to think about some things. Thinking about the unexpected crying as I sat in the hospital awaiting surgery, crying that had nothing to do with the fear of surgery, but more with recognizing a huge demarcation in my life, symbolized by the removal of a body part. The fleeting youth of my meat machine officially exposed.  Thinking about the truly unconditional love offered me by my wife in these moments when I cannot care for myself as she feeds me, brings me medicine and tucks me into bed. Thinking about my kids likely scared by me having gone through this whole event and learning their dad is not made of steel (just titanium now) and perhaps wondering about my mortality for the first time. Thinking about that inevitable physical slowing of my meat machine juxtaposed with my mind-self chomping at the bit to get back out there on the proverbial field for more sweet, sweet jazz. 

The jazz is different now, though. It’s ripened. It has nothing to do with sacrificing my body anymore. No connection to that nonsense. The sweet, sweet jazz is mine now. It’s not for anybody else, not for Coach Ro, not for my parents, not for the guy running past me at a 6:50 pace. 

I’m like Ivan Drago, “I fight to win! For me!” I forbid myself from sacrificing my meat machine for anybody else. I will only use my meat machine to get that sweet, sweet jazz to advance the peace of my everlasting self. And when the day comes when my meat machine can’t find any more sweet, sweet jazz I will finally and simply turn this whole operation over to my true everlasting self, in total, and await the issuance of my next meat machine.

But until then, I’m going to sit on this couch and heal up. Then, I’m going to get strong again. Then, I’m going to put my Beats on my dome piece, hit play on some gross doom metal and put one foot in front of the other for a bunch of miles along some trails and over some streams and think about how neat my meat machine really is and all the fun stuff it can do.