Exposed And Unconfident

I did something really stupid this weekend. I mean really, really dumb. Monumentally idiotic. Imbecile-level.

I shaved my beard off.

Now, there is an actual story behind this. My soon-to-be 11-year-old daughter, Emma, has been on me forever about 11535683_10155777623840217_2116900964301603517_nhow my beard scratched her face when I gave her kisses. She had actually started refusing to let me do it. As a sort of truce, I said I would shave it off for her birthday, which is in August. I decided to surprise her, though, by doing it a little bit early.

Well, actually, that’s not my entire reason for doing it when I did. I’m going to be starting college classes soon, and it was very important for me to have the beard when those began. Let me explain.

I’m pretty sure that before this past weekend, I had not been without a beard or at least a goatee for somewhere around the last 10 years. I distinctly remembered despising what I looked like the last time I shaved everything off before that. I had grown a beard in the first place, though, because I hated my face. I mean, I literally hated my face. It’s pasty and doughy looking. It has no real shape. It’s just this white mass of flesh, and my skin isn’t the best in the world either. A beard, as the old saying goes, covers a multitude of dislikes.

Okay, so I made that last saying up, but it really is true. I didn’t realize the level of confidence facial hair gave me. If you’re thinking I’m attempting to make a joke here, I assure you I am not. While most men (and women) are attempting to look younger, I actually wanted to look older. Nothing like a few white hairs in the beard to accomplish that. It not only made me look older, though, but it also made me feel older. The baby face was hidden away, and I finally liked what I saw in the mirror. I didn’t worry as much about what everyone else was seeing because I was so comfortable with what I was seeing.

vitabeardI can’t really put into words how traumatic this shaving experience has been for me. Several times, I have literally wanted to be sick when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror these past few days. I have actually looked up information on the internet about beard-growing supplements (Yes, Virginia, there is something called “Vitabeard.”) and ways to stimulate facial hair growth. Since I started noticed stubble again, I keep rubbing my face just to feel it there.

I am serious when I say this has messed me up a little.

Thankfully, even Emma has said I should grow back the whiskers, so I don’t have to fight with anyone about the decision to do so. As I creep toward rejoining the ranks of beardom, I am realizing I have learned a valuable lesson from all this. If you find something that makes you feel whole and confident and true to yourself, think very carefully before you go messing with it. Even if you do change it, though, and you don’t like it, you can always try to get it back. It may take a little time, but keep your eye on the prize.

Now, if you’ll excuse, I have to go count the hairs on my face. And measure them. Individually.

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Super Weird, Part 1

(As I’m writing this, I’m at home with either the flu or strep throat. Tests for both came back negative at the doctor’s office yesterday, and I’m currently on medication for both. I don’t think I’ve been this sick in a long time. I meant to have this up yesterday, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So no “Tuneful Tuesday” today. Just pretend it’s Monday with me.)

I used to write every now and then on the blog I maintained before this one about how I had basically given up on watching the Super Bowl. The main reason for this was because I just don’t like watching football very much. The game is too slow, I don’t get the rules half the time, and I hate the way people in America are utterly obsessed with watching it all the time. The secondary reason is that people just sort of stopped inviting me to Super Bowl parties, which were really the only way I saw any of the games at all. Perhaps they figured out my main reason. Hmmm…

This year, however, a good friend and co-worker invited me over to his house to watch the Super Bowl, so I thought I would give it another shot. I am no fan whatsoever of the New England Patriots, but I did appreciate the Seattle Seahawks taking down Peyton Manning last year, so deciding which team to root for was a fairly easy choice to make. Maybe one day, I’ll explain the dislike I expressed in that last sentence, but that’s probably another post for another time.

By now, primitive tribes in the deepest heart of Africa probably know how the game ended, but just in case you don’t, here it is in a nutshell: Seattle has the ball on the 1-yard line with 24 seconds left in the game and decides to run a pass play, despite having three downs to get the ball into the end zone and Marshawn Lynch, one of the most feared running backs in the NFL, in their backfield. Patriots intercept the pass, massive brawl breaks out on the next play, Patriots get to move the ball out of the end zone, take a knee, game over.

I may have mentioned a dislike for Peyton Manning earlier, but I’ll give the guy credit for one thing: He controls his pete carrollown game. Why in the world Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson didn’t audible out of that play the second it was called in to him is beyond me. Since he didn’t, though, that only leaves one person to blame – Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about professional sports is the almost insanely high confidence level of the people who coach and play them. Did Carroll back down from the call he made at all? Nope. Not in the least. “We had a terrific call, but it didn’t work out,” he told a reporter after the game. The man actually used the word terrific. Even if I did not regret my decision one iota in that instance, I would never, ever use the word terrificTerrific calls win games. No, Coach, this was not terrific.

As I was driving home from my friend’s house, I began thinking about how I would respond to making a bad play call like that, one so completely wrong that it cost my team the goal it had been working toward the entire season. My conclusion didn’t take much thinking, because I know myself; I would still be on television, radio, the internet, whatever, apologizing to anyone who would listen to me and self-flagellating myself to an endless degree. I don’t know if I could call another play again. I might just leave football altogether.

Yet, there was Carroll, a man who has won a collegiate national championship and a Super Bowl, talking about his “terrific” play call immediately after his team lost the big game. Where does that confidence come from? Is it born out of a complete aversion to reality, or is it the makeup of someone who is completely comfortable in their own skin and able to live with their own decisions? I grew up believing that type of confidence was pure arrogance and should be avoided at all costs, and in many instances it is and it should be. There is a definite elasticity to it, though, which allows people to shake off their mistakes and move on to whatever happens next.

Before anyone thinks I’ve lost my mind, I’m not advocating that we all try to be more like Pete Carroll, because most of the time I think the guy is a pompous jerk. What I am saying is, we could probably all stand to go a little easier on ourselves and not wreck ourselves over every mistake we make. Yes, professional athletes and coaches sometimes display irrationally high levels of confidence, but they’re able to move on to the next play, the next possession, the next game. I guess, in a weird way, I do want to be more like Pete Carroll.

Tomorrow, Part II: Commercials!

Default Mode

buzzRemember in Toy Story 3 when Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear and his gang found that switch on the back of Buzz Lightyear that would change his settings? While that switch provided some laughs later on in the movie when it turned the space ranger into a Latin love machine, it also enabled Lotso to revert Buzz’s personality back to his original factory settings … and the change in personality was not a good one.

I believe everyone has a sort of default mode we revert back to if certain switches are activated. For some people, that default setting is one of confidence. For some, it’s one of determination. For many, flipping the switch can be a good thing, resetting the system and getting everything back in line. For others, though, what they revert back to or fall back on is a state of negativity, uncertainty, and doubt.

I’ve heard a lot of recurring themes coming from people around me lately. “Stop saying you’re sorry. You’re not allowed to apologize anymore.” “People wouldn’t notice your negative faults so much if you wouldn’t point them out.” “I know you can do this. Why do you think you can’t?” “You should learn to accept compliments.” “Stop beating yourself up so much.”

I could write all this off as a series of coincidences or just the results of a particular phase of life I godspeakinghave entered. I’m not that naive, though. I can see when God is trying to tell me something, even if I’m still trying to fight it tooth and nail. I’m being pushed to change, but I want to switch back into default mode. I’m really not good enough, I’m inadequate, I won’t get it right, I’ll be discovered as a fraud eventually. It’s where I’ve naturally gone for so long, it’s difficult to think another way.

Just like the Buzz switch, though, maybe I’ve got another setting I didn’t know about. Maybe I can actually think positively about myself and the things I can do. Maybe I can realize everyone has their own set of issues and problems they deal with, and I’m not the only one to ever struggle. Maybe the things I don’t feel I do as well as someone else are good enough for me and better than I realize. Maybe I can change after all.

Of course, the next step in the process is to remove the “maybes” from all those statements. I basically have to replace my default setting, altering the state of mind I slip into when pressure arises. I may not become a Latin dancing machine, but I do believe I can become a better person. That should take me to infinity … and beyond (Sorry, I couldn’t resist…).