Beneath the Cloak: An “Out Crowd” of One September 10, 2008Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
I’m a little reluctant to write this. On the one hand, it would be good to get it off my chest, and it would probably help my fellow Caps fans to better understand where I’m coming from. On the other, I’m less than comfortable putting this up on the web for all the world to read. But with as little traffic as I get–three figures is a very good day for me–not that many people are going to see it anyway. So…what the heck, why not?
A couple of days ago, one of the more visible–or at least, more audible–Caps fans gave me a good zinging on the Capitals message boards. I completely misread his intent, and ended up giving him both barrels in return. That got ‘em talking, as they say, and I know there’s been a lot of discussion just from the page count. I have yet to read any of it, as I spent most of last night responding privately to the person in question. The tenor of his initial message to me was that he was only kidding in good fun, and, in essence, that I get a lot of ribbing because I’m liked. I wrote him a longish apology, which he accepted. Still, there’s a whole forum’s worth of Caps fans who probably want to know what the heck that was all about. So, here goes.
The truth is–and this is not to sound like I’m throwing a pity party here, but it’s true–I have almost no experience with being liked. I almost have no frame of reference when it comes to being accepted.
There was a beer commercial a couple of years ago–I want to say it was for Coors Light, but I could be wrong–with the tag line, “Here’s to Love Songs.” It was the one that introduced the “and twins” shtick which ended up jumping the shark in a hurry. The one line in there which still haunts me is, “I love burritos at 4 AM.” Haunts me? Yes. Because I knew that that was something I’d never get to experience. I don’t have a group of friends that would be out at 4 AM eating burritos. No, check that–I don’t have an organized group of friends, period. It’s my fault, really: I’m not out seeking, so there’s no way I’ll ever find.
And the thing is, it’s not just romantic love that’s missing and not missed, as I wrote about a while back. It’s everything. Heck, I even keep my own family at a distance: even though my brother’s family is close enough to the Metro that I could see them anytime I asked, I don’t. My nephew and niece are growing up fast, and I barely see them. As an uncle, I’m a failure.
But when you’re a one-man “out crowd” for most of your formative years, when you grow up with very few close friends, and when you get it hammered into your head that in the end, the only person you can trust is the person in the mirror, it’s not that easy to get away from that mind-set.
I grew up an Army brat, and that made for quite the nomadic life for the first decade and a half of my life. Every couple of years, the boxes would come out, everything would be packed away, and I’d have to start from scratch in a new city–and sometimes, a new country. The names and faces I grew up with were always changing; I lost touch with almost all of them as soon as we got to our new duty station.
We finally ended up settling down–sort of–in Harford County, Maryland, in the late 80’s. And from 7th grade all the way through high school, I was with the same group of kids. But I didn’t fit in. I was a choir boy, both figuratively and literally (I made All-State Chorus my junior year), and that wasn’t exactly the popular thing to be doing. I got by, but it wasn’t fun. I never got beaten up or anything crazy like that, but I also never got invited to Sadie Hawkins, either. I left people alone, and was pretty much ignored in return–when I wasn’t being incessantly picked on. There were a few exceptions, but those pretty much proved the rule. I have yet to attend a class reunion: frankly, I doubt I’m missed.
I was generally liked at my church youth group, but being liked didn’t end up getting me any friends away from youth group activities. They liked me when I was in the group, but away from the group, there were none of those 4 AM burritos. Even in a group where I did everything I could to fit in, I was accepted–but that was as far as it went. I’ve lost touch with all of them, as well.
From there, it was on to a hitch in the Navy that didn’t go at all as I’d hoped it would. When I got to my first permanent duty station, I ended up on the wrong end of the office politics, and that was misery enough. Now add being at sea for, sometimes, two consecutive months. I had to get by, again, more or less alone: I had no choice.
So by the time I was old enough to drink–not that I would, but at that age–I had pretty much resigned myself to a life of solitude. I’d been without close friends for most of my life, and had learned how to get by–“live” is too strong a word–without them. Being alone actually was more comfortable than being with other people–still is. Maybe I’m just so comfortable being an out crowd of one that I’m unconsciously trying to stay that way, and losing friends in the process.
But there’s more to it than that.
Not long after I left the service, I started having spiritual experiences that were, let’s just say, less than pleasant. My church was less than helpful: while they admittedly did all they could, the results were incomplete. I started investigating angels because I knew that they were the ones who could fight this directly. I asked for help, received that help, and saw firsthand the power of the forces of Light. Louis, I think that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Ever since, I’ve done what I could to advance the Light. I’m no saint, and frankly, I’m about as imperfect as it gets. I can’t do much: a few kind words here, a few prayers there, perhaps some distance healing work over there. I’ve been lovingly told–more than once–that it’s not my job to save the world; it’s to live the best life I know how to live, and shine the Light as best I know how to shine it.
But Light is only half of it. There’s Darkness out there, as well.
When I say that there’s a war on for my soul–which I believe there is–that doesn’t make me unique in any way. Because there’s a war going on for the soul of every human being, and that includes you. You may not be consciously aware of it, but it’s happening nonetheless.
I have seen both Light and Darkness at work in my life. I’ve known raw fear; I’ve seen unbridled hatred; I’ve lived with debilitating guilt; and I’ve experienced pure, unadulterated hopelessness. Darkness isn’t pleasant, and it’s no fun to fail in my struggles to defeat it–both Darkness without, and the seed of Darkness which all of us carry within.
But I’ve also felt the comforting love of an angelic embrace; experienced the peace that passes understanding; known, if infrequently, the simple joy of being alive; and seen firsthand the superhuman mercy of God.
That’s why I try my hardest to stay close to the Light. That’s why I always end up coming back, in my writing, to Spirit. That’s why I try, and fail, and try again, to live the holiest life I can.
And that’s another part of why I over-reacted with so much fear to that well-intentioned ribbing the other night. Drugs are something I can’t find funny in the least: they’re an engraved, gold-plated invitation to the Darkness without, and they nurture and feed the Darkness within. And the idea of losing the Light–not just losing it, throwing it away–was something that scared the hell out of me. Or, more properly, scared the hell into me–seeing it again, it wasn’t a response of the Light. So despite my apology having been accepted, the wrongness of what I wrote still lingers. I failed. I have to do better next time.
Coming full circle, that’s one reason I love the Capitals as much as I do. Everyone in the organization, from Ted Leonsis on down, has accepted me as is: outlandish dress, goofy spirituality, funky lightshows, 8-shots-of-espresso hyperactivity, the whole bit. Game night for the Caps is my time to play, too, and even though I have a unique way of cheering on the team, it’s accepted–at least, to my face.
Still, I do wonder sometimes how much of it is genuine, and how much is just good business sense. My seat in 417 would be very easy to sell if I could no longer come to games. When it comes right down to it, I’m replaceable. The Caps would do no better, and no worse, if I weren’t there. So at the end of the day, nothing that I do really matters one way or the other. My blog is niche, and goes mostly unread and unheeded. The players may very well see my lights on the bench, but they’re not being encouraged, never mind inspired, by them. If I weren’t there, I wouldn’t be missed.
Or so I tell myself when the loneliness really gets to me. I guess I’m not so comfortable being alone after all.
Excepting private messages, I do not plan on reading or replying to the Capitals boards for the balance of this week. I need to retreat, heal up, and make final preparations for a long hockey season ahead. I do intend to be at Kettler this Sunday for rookie camp. Hope to see you there.