Overcoming Sins of the Past

Anyone who meets me more than once knows I am a rabid Liverpool fan. Even if they do not quite understand what that means. I live in America so most of my cohorts have no idea what support for a team looks like in Europe. We do get our fanatical fans in our sports. It’s not the same.

To be clear, I am a Liverpool supporter. I am going to talk about Leeds United. Then I probably won’t do it again. Until Liverpool next plays them. Unless they beat Liverpool. Then I will kick on as if the game never happened.

As Jurgen Klopp says “football is the most important of the least important things.”

I love that. For me, the beautiful game gives me hope, pulls joy from despair, and shows a path for life that I have never been able to put words to. It is no more and much more than a bunch of players kicking a ball about, everything and nothing at all at the same time. It shows what is possible when we can work together for a common goal. Even if the goal seems unlikely, even after doing a lot of things wrong.

In Liverpool’s first game of the 2020-2021 Premier League season, they faced Leeds United, a newly promoted team from the Champions League. Ultimately, Liverpool won 4-3 in a scrappy match riddled with Liverpool errors and saved by a Mo Salah hat trick, made possible by two Leeds penalties. 

Much was made of Leeds United being promoted back into the Premier League after a 16-year absence. They had once been great. They had once won the league. The press is enamored of the tale, the great vanquished team coming back at last. Overcoming the sins of the past.

Back when I first fell in love with Liverpool in the mid 1980s, I don’t remember Leeds United at all. I do remember them in the late nineties and early 2000s, a team that seemed to be burdened with scandal after scandal.

I don’t remember details and timing, just the shadows of events. Two Leeds players were charged with assault of an Asian student, causing life-threatening injuries to him. The Leeds United management borrowed a large sum of money against the hope that he could pay it back with proceeds from European nights in Champions League football only not to qualify for Europe. This brought financial ruin to the club. On a night in Istanbul, two of their supporters were stabbed to death in a riot. Relegation, despite a streak of success, seemed inevitable. How could they overcome all that?

I was more worried about how Liverpool would overcome their being “knocked off their perch” by the damnable Manchester United under Sir Alec Ferguson. Liverpool had their own demons to overcome. The Hillsborough disaster of 1989 weighted heavy on the team. Some went so far as to blame us supporters for what could not have been our fault. It was rough and heartbreaking. It hurt the club. Our mentality no doubt suffered for the loss of lives on that horrific day.

Liverpool went through their own penance through a series of mismanagement and poor decisions. Thirty years. It took us thirty years to win the league again after being legendary for decades. So Leeds down in the lower leagues was not even on my radar. I did not think they could overcome the sins of their past. I was not certain Liverpool could either, but I never worried they would be relegated. I had hopes that Everton might be…ok, ok, I digress.

Sixteen years in the lower leagues and here Leeds United are again. Giving Liverpool, the reigning champions, a proper match. We all have our sins of the past to overcome. Sometimes it takes a few hours to put your ship right. Sometimes it takes sixteen years. Or thirty years. Or a life time.

While I have never assaulted anyone contrary to reputation or been caught in a riot or crushed in a stampede, I have bet financial stability against future success and lost. I have let my demons off their leash and nearly been devoured for letting them lash out at me. I have hurt others by my own inaction or caught in my own pain.

My body and soul have suffered for making poor decisions that I knew were risky or plain stupid, decisions made in despair. I fell into the trap of blaming a cruel world and my mental illness for my shortcomings. This never works. I have power over my own life .

No matter our circumstances, no matter what others would have us believe, we all have power over our own lives. And we can all find absolution and strive toward our best selves. Truth be told, most of us will never get there. But the point is not the ends but the journey to get there. The journey is a beautiful game. A dance that never ends.

There is power in acknowledging that, perhaps, we have not always done what is right for ourselves or others. And forgive ourselves. And each other. Nothing is more powerful than true forgiveness. It is an easy thing to write. A terribly difficult thing to do.

Strength, mercy, kindness, and humility are essential elements of renewal and always the hardest to bring out of ourselves. Invisible demons never quit their assault on us, lying and tearing us down. It takes hard work to beat the world back and push yourself toward your potential. Without exception, all individuals have a gift to bring to this life, a light in the darkness, or at least, to discover what hides in the darkness and create from it. Kick on.  

And support Liverpool so that you will never walk alone in the wicked storms of this life.

Pug Corner – Frankie and Social Distancing

FAA406AB-4FEB-411B-B0D4-795B80C80813Frankie is confused. Pleased but really confused. Her daily routine is turned upside down and now she has to think of other activities to bark about.

The human is home ALL the time. That never happens. Frankie cannot properly nap in the morning after walk and breakfast. The human is there, chattering in ways that have nothing to do with treats and tummy rubs.

Walks. They are strange. Frankie loves visiting the dog 2D1097A5-80DA-4969-BA35-EAAE2CD6AFBEpark and getting pets and love from all the people there. And now the human will not go to the dog park. When we see Jaspar, the world’s greatest French Bulldog, Frankie cannot go near him. Why?

The human says social distancing. Germs are about. What in the world is a germ? Is it like a cat? Whatever it is, it makes the human sad. She cries sometimes for no reason at all. She does not watch her favorite game with the Liverpool thing that makes her dance and sing. Frankie never thought to miss that.

Frankie does not know what social distancing means and does not, will never believe that being alone all the time can be good for dogs or bipeds. Germs be damned.

1942B05B-8264-4EBC-8935-F5F2EA23F5AEEspecially Frankie’s human who does not get enough love and play as it is.

How is Frankie going to teach the human how to interact with other dogs and humans, teach it the value of the pack if the human refuses all pack behavior? Just a little longer, the human says. It is not forever. The only time a pug understands is forever so what is happening?

It is a mystery. At least the human is here and feeding Frankie every day. There is still an eternity to save my human.

December – Knight of Wands

img_0155The last card for the drawing of 2019 is the Knight of Wands. This heralds creative success. But my, if that is so, November’s Strength put a high price on it.

 

A Difficult November

I worked tirelessly on cleaning up my book for querying as my mother lie dying. She will not live to see it published so I read it to her out loud, not knowing if she even heard it. November really tested faith and hope dealing out despair in pairs.  I have never seen my father look so defeated. Or my brother so angry.

Mental illness and addiction are demonic. That awful cry of how do you save someone from themselves? The story of how my mother brushed up to death (again) is not one I am ready to tell at this time. She has survived a major surgery but remains hospitalized unable to walk or even sit up on her own. She has weeks, possibly months, of PT and rehab to pass through with a body that is so weak that she faces long odds. I know she won’t live much longer but I hope she can find some light before the end so it is not the darkness that takes her.

I cling to the things that make life feel bearable. The routine of work. My writing. Liverpool FC. Time with family and friends. But all feels weighted. Looking for good news in the New Year on the other side of a long and dark road back to the light.

 

January 2019- The Magician

img_1436So on New Year’s Eve, I did a tarot card reading for the year, one card per month. For January, I drew the Magician. It fits for the first month of a new year. It is a card for new beginnings. It signals that conditions are right for pursuing one’s dreams. That is a lovely way to proceed into the year.

I do not go in for divination or fortune telling. It’s like trying to predict the weather. There are too many factors, too many decisions that can change conditions slightly in one way or another.

Now, that does not mean I discount some greater power (God, however you conceive the concept) sending prophets from time to time. But it is not the future such beings predict. They are giving a promise from God. This is nothing like that. There are no promises here. The cards help spark potential, something we all have, or warn against foolish decisions or actions.

January is a good time for the Magician, a time for a little spark of creativity, a push forward, a new beginning. So off we go.

 

 

2019 – Year of King of Wands

img_1433For Christmas, my daughter gave me a bar set to fix a most excellent Old Fashioned and a deck of tarot cards.

Naturally, the bottle of bitters ended up shattered on my floor after a few tries of making my own old-fashioneds so I turned my attention to the tarot deck. I had to reaquaint myself with the cards again.

In my university years, I played quite a bit with the tarot deck. I loved the beautifully painted cards so my daughter gave me a wonderful gift.  I did worry I might accidentally summon some kind of mischievous or demonic spirit considering the fate of the bitters. And maybe I did. I decided I would reflect on the coming year so I shuffled the card and did a thirteen card spread. One card to signify the entire year and each of the others for each month. I figure each is worth a blog post.

The King of Wands signifies long-term success in its upright position. There is more but this is the aspect I will concentrate on this year.  It will be a lot of work, but hope springs eternal.