I just read an article on Rich Clune, of the Nashville Predators that told the story of his battle with alcohol and drug addiction. Most importantly, the story spoke of redemption, recovery, and dream chasing. It seems like he needed to face his own demon/demons, and slay his greatest adversary before he could accomplish his goal of playing in the NHL. It seems that he had to slay this nefarious shadow that had haunted him for so many years before he could become the true version of himself, the one that had been in there all along.
A long, long time ago in the middle of Montana, I played Junior hockey for a team called the Great Falls Americans in the now defunct America West Hockey League. I was eighteen years old, just a boy, and this is where I learned how to fight. The gap between an eighteen year old and a twenty year old was so vast and canyonesque during that eventful year out west, and so I learned to fight and compete against men. It was here in the middle of mountains that I found my courage, strength, and belief in myself as a person and as a hockey player. It was here where I became a man.
I am wearing my lucky black suit today with my lucky black tie that has different sized circles on it. I hope it brings me luck today. I think for a moment about last game; yes, I played pretty damn good that game, and yes, I was wearing this same lucky outfit. And then everything slows. That's all it takes to stop worrying and fussing about “what if's” and “what have you's”. I take a deep breath as I hang my jacket in my locker, and I know it and embrace it: today is going to be a good day, a good game, a safe game, a lucky game, a fun game, my game. I keep pumping positive affirmations into my brain. I'm going to be an impact player today. I will fight today. I will score today. I will be my very best today. I will be excellent.
My alarm clock has a hissy fit, beeping and vibrating—shrieking; as soft rays of sunlight pour through tiny slits in the blinds that cover the window. My own tiny slits softly open. I look around the room, and see my cat, left paw twitching rhythmically, as he dreams of great mice hunts and pastoral adventures. Everything feels pretty good. The body isn't too sore. My head is clear. I feel good. I feel positive. I feel happy.
As my feet hit the floor, I say aloud, “Thank you.” And I mean it too. And then I say, “I'm going to be excellent today.” And I mean that too. I read The Secret once and it told me that I can manifest my own reality through my thoughts and actions. I suppose that is true, and so I try to think positive thoughts, and do the right things that put me on the right path to accomplishing my goals. Then I repeat this. Do this every day, and maybe somewhere along the line the manifestation will take place. I see it more as a slow and methodical chipping away at resistance that holds you back from your true potential. Chip away every single day. Dig deeper and deeper, and pick up momentum. And at some point it will happen. You sculpt your own destiny. You will reach your destination, and you will achieve your goal. At least that's what we all hope for. And you have to believe it with all your heart for it to happen. You can't tiptoe along the fence in matters of destiny and dream chasing. You must dive head first into that lush green pasture of dreams just on the other side of the fence, and though you can't see it, you have to believe it is there, and your landing will be soft, and just, and perfect.
I was dreaming of a frog. It was green and plump and lived under a patch of moss, deep inside the stump of an old birch tree in some ancient forest. Somehow I was inside of the stump and I spoke to the frog in deep gurgled groans and burps. The frog nodded as the sounds came out of my mouth and when it was his turn to reply, he slowly morphed into a vibrant green neon grasshopper with saw-toothed legs that twitched and vibrated and made the strangest high-pitched sound. I leaned my ear close to the massive insect to try and understand, but couldn't. It's leg twitched again and made the noise. The grasshopper's hinged leg now morphed into a golden water pump at a campground that I had been to once before, perhaps as a child. As the hinge pumped faster, so too, that sound became more and more intense, emanating as a screeching wail from mysterious depths of soil and shale.
Opening night, first game of the season.
Tension was high in the locker room. I sat in my stall, calmer than usual. I felt the nerves, I felt the fear, but I wasn’t consumed by it, I wouldn’t let it devour me anymore. I wasn’t engulfed like I used to be. I accepted the fact that in about thirty minutes, I would be fighting another human being, trying to vaporize his face and cause a short-circuit, a momentary confusion of crossing wires, constellations, and crashing craniums; hoping that he drops to the ice before I do.
I said my blessings, thanked my spirits, and asked for strength, courage, protection, and safety. I said the last line of my prayers as I buckled up my helmet and put in my mouth guard, “I offer a karma kiss to the sky to keep me safe and protected.” And then it was grunts and growls and ceremonial taps of the hockey stick on strategic door frames and walls, the same compulsive gestures and twitches that follow me on every walk from the locker room to the ice before the pre-game warm up.