Napalm, George Will, and Baby Smiles...Seriously
I woke up early, got to work late, and ate no breakfast. I drove several blocks out of my way to score some coffee, hence the lateness (not an official lateness as I made it there by 8:30am but late as in hauling my arse at a much too speedy rate through everything from getting dressed to grabbing some joe…I mostly just wanted to use the term “joe” right there). I stumbled into work without a key to my office, and realized much too late that I left every single work accoutrement at home…bag, day planner, prescription of bovine tranquilizers, etc…so it’s been an interesting morning to say the least.
The only reason I bring this all up is to make a point…kinda like the old adage of, “I told you that story so I could tell you this one…” Before I left the house my day was obviously spinning out of any kind of reasonable control. The gears were all in motion and my morning was gonna be messed up. I was moving at too fast a pace…my thoughts were everywhere but where they should have been and I was scattered, to say the least. Then June handed me a beaming, freshly awake, Zoey. She smiled up at me, I subsequently melted, and WHAM-O, the universe had some order for just a few minutes. June needed to grab the car seat from my car and chucked me our beautiful offspring (nice teamwork I must say) to handle while she managed that feat of engineering that removing a car seat always seems to be. I was harried, I was in a hurry and then suddenly and oh-so happily I wasn’t.
Zo’s smile is one of those all time great gapers, a giant beaming “you’re my entire universe, you know” kind of smiles that some people manage to keep their whole lives. It’s like how some people have a laugh that just leaves a place empty when it’s not echoing around, and you don’t miss it until it’s gone. Zoey has a smile like that kind of laugh. It’s big and it’s all consuming…it swallows her entire face. He eyes disappear into this adorable squint as her cheeks overflow and her face grows undeniably wider. The smile is at worst, infectious, and at best, the slayer of all evil and a saver of souls. It makes me swoon, as it very well should.
Now…as I joked earlier, I told you that story so that I could tell you this one. When I arrived at work I got into an almost instant battle of wills with a young man in a bit of a crisis. It was oddly about the symmetry between baseball and everyday life (yeah, I dunno, that’s how I do…). Aside from some obvious distinctions I think they're awfully parallel. My argument was that baseball reflects a similar invariability as life does itself. His, was that I was full of sh!t. At that early hour and considering the organizational apocalypse that was the start of my day we could not agree to disagree.
The discussion poured all over his crisis until there was just baseball to talk about, not the sky falling or the locust swarming. He was a friendly but enthusiastic (and oh-so appreciated) waster of time and after the morning I had endured I appreciated his company. My feeling is that everyone’s life has spun so unnecessarily out of control that it is often times unrecognizable. We don’t make bad decisions or put ourselves in bad positions on purpose. Of course we don’t. We don’t realize that we’re doing it until it’s much too late. We’re spinning far too fast for our own good and baseball tends to bring us back down to a proper speed. Our lives should more closely resemble the “Voyage of the Contiki” than Superman doing laps around planet earth. Baseball gives us that, a chance to match rhythms with the natural world, to get in tune before we impose our will, if we are even capable of imposing anything. What baseball teaches us is that most times we are not capable, most times we will fail to impose our will, and most times we will be dependant on the outcomes of a hundred other influences.
“Bullsh!t,” he said, “That’s George Will conservative, traditionalist, propaganda crap!”
He seriously said that. Now my morning was getting good.
“Are you high,” I retorted, “George Will can kiss my bare butt. This has nothing to do with George Will, you juvenile delinquent." He liked the delinquent slur very much. I caught him grinning at it. “This is about individualism AND teamwork meshing together. This is about failing more than you succeed. This is about needing people. This is about withstanding an ass kicking and then coming back with one simple act. It’s about adjustments and self-awareness. It’s about losing a good fight, being over-matched sometimes. It’s about slowing the hell down so you can see things more clearly. That’s life!”
“Are YOU high?” He laughed, “That was the biggest horsesh!t napalming I’ve ever seen (he actually said “horseh!t napalming). It’s a game, a dumb one, as most are, and you’re just distracting me you hope salesman.” That salesman bit was pretty good, I thought. That’s really all I’m doing half the time.
“Distracting you?" I said, incredulous. "Not intentionally,” I spat, because I wasn’t. This argument was something I’d scripted a dozen times in my head.
“Well," he smiled, “it worked. I gotta go," and he got up to leave, "Thanks, that was fun." He shook my hand and bounced out the door with a head full of my immodest crap rather than his own. God$@%it , I love this job.
Once I settled back into my morning I felt a surge of recognition, of understanding and something akin to enlightenment. Here I was preaching the gospel of a snail’s pace while my own universe was tipping at a silly speed. Here I was distracting (as sincerely and unintentionally as possible) a young man in trouble while I myself needed the distracting just as badly. Finally, in a sweeping wave of comprehension, I was suddenly aware of just what my daughter had given me this morning. She made me step back from the plate, adjust my batting gloves and think about the next pitch, maybe even just breathe a little because I didn’t notice that I hadn’t been doing that one simple thing.
Today both baseball and a little girl’s awe inspiring smile slowed me down to that place that I needed to be, and I didn’t even know that it was happening. My young sparring partner helped as well, distracting me as readily as I did him, and without even the slightest awareness that the furious pace of my day’s dismantling was completely within my grasp to halt.
I hate it when people talk all mamby pamby about “learning a lesson,” but today I did. Slow the hell down…take the time to give a girl a moment to smile at you because maybe one is waiting for that moment, to talk to someone, to laugh at your own ridiculousness…and never, ever underestimate a kid’s vocabulary or wit. That guy was some kind of awesome!