There are moments in our lives when we get a glimpse of something bigger than us.
I think these moments are why most irreligious people consider themselves agnostic rather than atheist. It’s hard to wrap their brain around the idea that there may be an all powerful loving God, but they can’t deny that there is some unseen hand at work.
Most of you know where I stand on that. I don’t really don’t want Manlihood to be all about preaching my Christian beliefs to you. I know we have men from all backgrounds. I know I’ll never convince everyone to convert, and that isn’t the goal here today.
I can’t, however, deny that there are moments in life when you see the Hand of God at work.
For many, they’ll call it “the universe” or “fate” or in the biggest act of denial or defiance, chalk it up to “coincidence” or “luck” – but even then, they stack stones to make an altar and sacrifice to it.
In eighth grade I made a friend. The first friend I ever really had. He was the new kid, his mother’s family was greek, so his curly hair and facial shaped sharply contrasted the little whitebread polish and irish catholic kids in our tiny little town. Nobody wanted to be friends with the new kid. I POUNCED. He needs a friend, and so did I.
Actually, he made a great friend. I’d call him on the phone, we’d hang out, and eat lunch together, and if it weren’t for his friendship, I’d probably have offed myself that year.
But at the end of that year, he broke the news – his mom was moving back downstate.
I would have been devastated, but fortunately, eighth grade was the year that I found value in myself. I had made a few friends before the end. I was sad to be losing my buddy, but at least I had a couple other friends.
Fast forward four years and one summer. I’m standing in the registration line at a large Christian college in Virginia. I had planned to go to a different school, but funding fell through, and Liberty offered me a combination of grants and loans that I couldn’t refuse. (Those loans though – yikes. Another topic for another day.) As I’m standing in line, I hear a voice say, “Don’t tell me you don’t remember me after all these years!” “Abe?” Yup. Three people ahead of me in line. And the three people between us were girls. Which meant as we registered and were assigned form rooms – that’s right. Roomies.
It was a great year, and reconnecting with an old friend was a powerful experience that proved to me the hand of the divine.
Fast forward again. This time, it’s 2001. My wife is doubled over with pain. We get her to the ER. Good news. It’s a boy. (His name is Abe.) Bad News. She’s got multiple cysts, they should be removed, but surgery is dangerous for her and the baby.
Prayers from family, and friends as close as family then commence. Dusty old church ladies who pray in King James. Slightly crazy charismatics who like to touch you when they pray and say things like “hedge of protection” and “from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.” Prayers from people who aren’t even sure if they believe it. Prayers from folks who have probably raised the dead.
A day or two later, further testing shows, the cysts are gone.
Over the years, that woman has had more unexplained things disappear than anything I know. Graves Disease, Nodules on her thyroid, you name it.
I’ll attribute it to that Hand of God. I’m not ashamed or afraid to do so.
Just last year, my youngest teenage daughter was diagnosed with significant hearing loss. After a barrage of tests and imaging, it was determined to be permanent nerve damage. “This doesn’t get any better. It only gets worse.” And then my sweet little girl got a hearing aid, which she wore like a badge of honor. I think it was her way of staving off the disappointment- to turn her shame to pride.
She didn’t even ask for healing. Didn’t think it would happen for her. But her crazy bold teenage friends were praying, and refused to stop.
She woke up one morning and the side of her head felt like pins and needles. She yawned. SNAP. And then she could hear. Popped her hearing aid in, and it was WAY too loud.
Snapped her fingers. Yep. Plugged her other ear. Yep.
Months later, a follow up with a very puzzled audiologist confirmed, her hearing was restored. “We’ve never seen anything like this. In fact, the hearing in both of your ears has improved.”
There are too many times that I’ve seen these things for me to deny that there are supernatural forces at work. Too many things, both sacred and wicked for me to deny that there are things beyond my understanding.
“I got a man.” “What’s your man got to do wit’ me?”
Nobody likes to be told what to believe. We take that “I got a man” posture if anyone starts getting “preachy.” While I love the idea that the things I say may be like seeds that get you to consider MY God, I know that for many of you, that’s not going to happen. I’m not judging, I’m not preaching, I’m not shoving anything on anybody. But I will ask you to consider it.
Ultimately, we have to ask these questions, whether they be of black holes, or an unseen God, or even a village witch doctor….
What does it mean for me? How should I live my life in the light of this information? Who is in charge of my life?
The answer to all of these, I can’t say for you. Part of the journey is in finding the answers.
Part of having faith is finding it, and fighting for it.
Sweat, blood, seawater, sand. Caked all over my face. I could HEAR smoke. I could SMELL the cries of my wounded brothers. On mission. Storm the beach. Take the high ground. Push them back. Kill the Nazi’s.
D-Day was a battle like no other.
Lou’s grandfather landed on that beach.
“This operation is not being planned with any alternatives. This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.”
General Dwight D Eisenhower
I don’t have such a direct connection to the real event, as far as I know, but I do know that this date, which will live in infamy, is also the anniversary of my own internal battle.
Life was a whirlwind of chaos. Missed deadlines, jobs not panning out. Spinning the Roulette Wheel of “What Bill Doesn’t Get Paid This Month.” And the fog and stench of my own personal war was ever present.
I didn’t believe in ADHD.
It was just something the pharmaceutical companies made up. I didn’t dare take any medication. I didn’t want to inhibit my creativity. It wasn’t a chemical imbalance anyway.
And there I say, watching yet another ball get dropped. Yet another of my “soldiers” fall on the shore.
I was buried under responsibilities I couldn’t even wrap my head around.
My friend had similar struggles. He sent me a text. “Dude. You up? Can I call you?” He had lost a lot of weight, I knew this was one of “those calls.” I’d had a thousand of them from well-meaning friends who tried to help.
He told me about his ketogenic diet. (I have literally tried it before)
He told me about the ADHD medication he was taking. (I was skeptical)
He told me, “Man. Do this with me. You can do it. I’ll help you.”
Okay, Dennis. I’m game. I’m tired of this. Where do I start?
He told me to go look at myself in the mirror. Do you see that ugly guy? Tell him you hate him. That you don’t want to see him again. Then make a fist, look at that fist. When you see that ugly guy, you punch him down.
I went to the mirror. Even at 430 pounds, I said, “Dang. I’m sexy!”
Dennis, it’s not working.
His internal fuel is different from mine, for sure.
Self-hatred might motivate some, but I’m too cocky for that.
We will accept nothing less than full victory! Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, 6 June 1944.
A few days later, June 6, 2018, I sat outside in the warm June air. And started thinking about D-Day.
D-Day wasn’t just about the taking of that beach at Normandy.
V-E Day was the day of victory over Europe. It was 11 months later. V-J Day was the day of victory over Japan. It was 14 months later.
D-Day was called that because it was the DECISION DAY – the day of decisive victory. Because we won that battle, victory for the rest of the war was assured.
There was a lot more war after that. A lot more carnage and cost and casualty.
But at THAT battle at Omaha Beach, our boots on the ground, our transports dumping men off in droves to overwhelm on stronghold, we changed the course of the war.
“God almighty, in a few short hours we will be in battle with the enemy. We do not join battle afraid. We do not ask favors or indulgence but ask that, if You will, use us as Your instrument for the right and an aid in returning peace to the world.”
Lt Col Robert L Wolverton, commanding officer of 3rd battalion, 506th PIR.
As I thought about that battle, and what it meant, I decided, then and there, that it was my D-Day. I was going to make the choice to never go back. I would not be the same.This day would decide the course of the rest of my life.
I talked to my doctor. I decided to give some medication a shot.
I decided to give a ketogenic diet a shot.
I took a new job.I decided that I’ll be a rockstar at it and I WILL excel.
I changed my attitude about everything. I will not say “I can’t” anymore.
I determined to lead my family the way they need to be led. I determined to love my wife the way she needs to be loved. I determined to lead myself the way I need to be led. I determined to stop accepting a poverty mindset. I determined to be who I’m meant to be. It was the day of decisive victory.
And one at a time – my own V-Days keep arriving.
Last D-Day, I set my first goal of losing 100 pounds by June 6. And I’m there. I’ve done it. If that goal has taught me anything – it’s that setting my intention, and saying that I can and will do something is powerful.
I wish I could say that all my problems were fixed, but I can say that they are getting better. Meeting this goal has transformed my way of thinking. It has empowered me. I have no desire to stay the same. I have no desire to remain defeated. I will not.
My little brother had a really awesome toy when we were kids.
My Pet Monster.
It was almost as big as he was, covered in blue fur, with glow in the dark teeth and a big warty nose.
He came with an awesome accessory – a set of rubber shackles with a plastic chain between them. There was a false link in the middle, that would pop loose with a little force.
We would play cops and robbers, and take turns being arrested. Then, we’d “hulk out” and break off the shackles and run away.
You’ll never catch me, Copper!
Mike* was an addict. His wife and kids had died in a crash. He treated that pain with booze. The booze wasn’t enough. So he smoked pot. The pot wasn’t enough, so he started popping pills. It wasn’t long before heroin and cocaine were as essential as his morning coffee.
Dude was hurting. Badly. Unfortunately, self-medicating with toxins has a number of side effects, including an inability to hold down a job, an inability to keep a relationship, and an inability to drive safely.
He wanted to die. Tried to a few times.
He packed up and moved to the opposite coast, in an attempt to escape his chains. They followed him.
Several DWI’s later, he wound up with a prison sentence.
His emotional pain turned into a physical condition where his body depended on poison. His pain made him a slave.
Before MIke went in, he had his “Hand of God” moment – where he actually literally met God – but that’s another story for another day. Mike hit the ground hard, and renounced the mess that he was in.
Something BAD happened to Mike. Mike chose slavery in the hopes that it would make him feel better. It didn’t. He felt worse, and wanted to die. Tried to strangle himself with his chains. Tried to run, but he took his chains with him.
When a slave runs, a slavemaster will try to capture him, and punish him for leaving.
Mike broke the chains off. Got clean. Made a drastic change.
But he still had consequences.
I sent him this message before he went in. “Hey bro. I know you don’t want to go. Nobody wants to go to prison. But you’ve made changes while you’ve been waiting for this sentence to come down. You’ve walked out of the chains you had, and become an entirely different person.
Prison is certainly a consequence – but maybe it’s a privilege too?
You’ve been chosen to go on mission. To walk into that place as a changed man. You aren’t there to be punished – you’re there to be a lighthouse. To shine a beacon for all the others there. To show them that chains can be broken.”
He’s out now. Clean. Sober. Free.
No chains. No shackles. No prison walls. I’m sure he still has hurt. He’s scarred up on the inside. And he goes to AA meetings and churches and tells them that chance is possible. That chains can be broken.
My own story doesn’t feel as dramatic. Sometimes part of me wishes I had a story like that. Prison, Heroin. Freedom.
But I’m also really glad that I don’t.
But I know chains. I know them well. I also know the sound they make when they hit the floor.
Today would have been the day I decided to begin my finality. To just do it. To fade to black. To get it over with, man!
“Today would’ve been the day,” I thought to myself, “If not for the current responsibility I cling to as a relegated part-time father, I WOULD HAVE started the end chapter of my life.”
Still caught in the macabre theatre that insomnia and despondency brutally torture me with daily, the ceaseless anxiety brought on by this affray deploys the extreme urge in me to simply knuck up and do the damned thing.
“I COULD become humane and start the hauntingly peaceful act of killing myself, my way…today.” I ventured upon careful introspection.
… and maybe I should.
After all this wonderfully cursed brain of mine has emphatically decided that I owe ONLY one remaining debt to life after my children grow. To self-terminate. T2 style. For the good of humanity.
The opportunity to become courageous and administer the euthanasia kill shot that I KNOW to be lying in wait, quietly tuggin’ on my thoughts IS wildly exciting and far too vivid to admit.
Whoops. I did just that.
An incessant voice plotting my beautiful demise sings outward to a melody only I hear. An ending proper.
Lucky for you, my suicidal thoughts won’t play out anytime soon, or in some guilt-ridden splay of shot-gunned brains sprayed across porcelain walls. Nor will my bloated corpse EVER be found bound with a thickly knotted rope having choked the life out of myself. Dried, stinking and strangled, vomit-speckled and gagged over my blue face.
NOPE. Not quiet yet.
I simply cannot stomach the image of someone I love finding me all piss-pants and blood-gorged HANGIN’ around stiff as a board. Becoming a deathly-bored rigor-mortis piñata with shit-stained skinny jeans is no way to leave my affairs.
I HAVE at times indulged the euphoric and seedy fantasy of taking the addicts’ way out. Streamlining black tar heroin bought under the bridge, booted from some old spoon and boiled with my favorite Zippo lighter. I imagine the kaleidoscope then fade to black just after directly injecting my withered arms with the hyper-dosed syringe I would steal from my father’s CVS pharmacy. Right. Out. From. Under. His. Nose.
Alas, hard drugs and vomit-caked blue lips have never appealed to me. PLUS the high success rate of sneaky paramedics now adeptly armed with NARCAN turn the thought from my Opium’s Opus to yet ANOTHER embarrassing scenario that I’d have to apologize for and explain away.
Pondering the possible tolerance I have for self-actuating violence, I ask the question to myself silently after yet ANOTHER mass shooting headline comes ticking across the abject news screen.
Who keeps doing this to these poor people I wonder? Does that sort of brutality live deep within me? When would I choose to do something this dastardly? Where could I lay 60 people down finally?
Why would a self-hating coward go down in a hail of gunfire and mass murder for 15 minutes of fame he never gets to bask in?
Seems wasteful and pointless. Not well thought out. Dumb.
You know I’m just wondering aloud the real who/what/when/where/why of the modern mass graveyard creating phenomena that baffles most sane consciousness. Though It IS plausible WHY you would assume that this could potentially be a murderously comfortable choice of mine, I digress to your point.
I fit the bill. Sure.
Large. White. Accused. Angry. Bald. Billy Joel fanatic.
Warning: Stop making an ASS of U and ME. Please stop DEAD in your tracks right now! (Bad choice of words I know)
Unfortunately there seems to be enough batshit people engaging in their own red dead final fantasies these days to NOT joke about such thoughts.
After all, who am I to judge? Who am I to convolute their maniacal message with my own careless meandering?
Because You may be right, I MAY be crazy. But remember.
I just may be the LOU-natic you’re lookin’ for. Turn out the Light.
Fortunately I’m a lover, not blood-letting killer.
I look to pawn only my own life into the void of eternal purgatory actually arguing that I value your soul far above my own. I’m the devilish fiend advocating that you should concede the same evaluation of your existence as I have mine.
Don’t point your dirty boog finger at me. Discontinue reading this madness right now and get to gettin’ with cuttin’ out of life YOUR way I say.
I’ve drawn a precise blueprint below to do JUST that.
Take a gander and you’ll never look back.
This isn’t just hyperbole of man-child drama here people!
No, my will to meaning and overall peace of Fatherdom to the most beautiful boys a man could ask for has effectively staved off the idea to brutally severe my existence from body for the foreseeable future.
Lou’s launch sequence to deactivate has been aborted in its second trimester. Just short of REAL liberal irresponsibility.
Make no mistake the thought lingers eternally etched into my day.
Embossed on the back of my atavistic brow the mission statement reads: “Don’t forget. You are going to kill yourself one day!!!”
Better get planning to become gone. Forever.
If I have my way, this is the exact course of events on how I will die.
This is how I plan to end my life.
The ending for me starts with a well mapped out plan. Most unemotional things I do are diagrammed out to a dizzying degree. Papered walls full of chicken scratch doctor script tacked neatly awaiting their imperial chancellor’s implementation.
I’ve developed the useful ability to type almost as fast as I can think. The accompanying printed pages of notes and regurgitated garble are usually Sharpie scribed with arrows, and errant circles highlighting the fact that only someone virtually demented could unravel these schematics.
True to form.
I neatly deploy my own enigmatic cryptography decoding the rubix cube that my mind has just shat directly into this world.
I’ve realized that to birth this tactic is effective ONLY about 25% of the time.
Survival of the fittest ideas for certain. Natural selection of the wasteful and dangerous. I like it this way.
So, I’ve narrowed down that exactly 1/4 of my ideas actually make it to an implementation stage with a now estimated 20% of those projects actually meeting some grotesquely marked standard of loosely defined success.
Sadly … studying this empirically corrupt data, anything that I take the time to eject from my imagination has an improbable 5% shot at becoming SOMETHING worthwhile.
What can YOU derive from that thought?
To put in perspective: the chances that I actually kill myself in the manner in which I am going to un-vault for you has a 1 and 20 odds of happening. (or about the chance the Pittsburgh Steelers have of winning the Super Bowl going into week 13 of the 2018 season.)
Come to your own conclusions from there.
Now, I can bump those odds with perseverance to task or attention to death’s details. But where would the adventure to the greatest destination of my life be without the true Hand of God interjecting ultimately where it wants me to go? Those variables, we cannot account for you silly agnostic.
There also exists a REAL problem in commanding the Reapers’ sickle to obey. Trust me, even MY hubris is not self-righteous enough to think divine planning will impede death’s omnipotent thrust. So again, who EXACTLY am I to egotistically announce to the world the exact date of purpose of my passing?
I am no one. We are no one. Remember that.
Assuming I have not made any more children to see off into this amazing and wretched life, my age would be roughly pegged at 55 the day that I cease. Giving me a hellish 20 more years of existence. sigh.
(IF I pull this off correctly, which does happen from time to random time as noted above.)
My eventual urn or plaque or headstone’s epitaph should read: The proudest, most privileged Father, Coach and Burrito Connoisseur that has gotten to experience this world.
Louis James Costa March 2, 1983 – June 15th 2038.
That is haunting to write. Sobering to read. Odd shaking shot down my spine taunting the juxtaposition of the day that I WILL die should fate NOT supersede.
There is power in knowing. Control in the pleasantry of it. See, I’ve toyed with the thought of death many times over.
Loneliness, suicide, overdose, depression, sudden death … They plague us all DAILY and I’ve found that NO ONE talks about them.
Sweep, sweep under the rug AND shhhhh. Suffer on your own young man.
The biggest issues of our lives are molding under the carpet until the day your facebook account quits posting food pictures and a widowed go fund me page pops up to support your children in its place.
A year later your dog is living with another man, your boys cute little butts are being wiped by people outside of your control and life turns to some dark foray into the actual abyss because you are now gone, pal. Figuratively or permanently: chance has already interjected.
Sad but true.
Let’s get on with it before I digress into more violin laden death posts.
We have a job to do here.
My suicide: Warning: Explicit Content ahead.
On June 15th, 2038 I will awake determined. The white sand beaches of Aruba will unfold before me on long, soft runways as the intense sprints bathed in echoes of my favorite music serve as a final training ground before an ACTUAL fight to the death occurs.
I will need (1) A life insurance policy with the most vaguely gapped coverage for suicide AFLAC will allow me to sign by then (2) A letter sent out to each bandito boy + a few thoughtful and emotion pierced notes to the Momma’s I have held and still hold dear. (3) One last big ol full throttle dance party to prop me up headed to a final destination.
The nuclear fission drive that I lock away will be spilled out into some small hidden tourist community the last few months of this life as I work my ass off in hot sun that bakes my skin into a cancerous glowing hew.
Finally, there will be zero need for me to worry about the long term effects from the over exposure of my carefully guarded translucent pate so I may obtain the tan I deserve.
As promised, I’m going to give away everyone of my possessions previous to my passing. I already have given the literal shirts off my back to this point and it has felt amazing. By the time this hell bent prophecy presents itself I will have inevitably accrued more personal garbage to give to those in need.
Bartending at night will have grown monotonous and proven lonely even on my hide, though openly courting every single local feline fills my precious spare time full. I WILL have stashed away a modest fortune of dollar bill tips over polite banter and enough free drink tabs fueling the weddings’ of my grown lads, given to them legally through an iron will.
There is one thing that is for certain. The last night of my life will be hand crafted my way. Vintage. Slowly. Carefully.
Engaging not in the depravity lush experience that defined my college years but in the act of enjoying every evenings taste: I will richly enjoy the beating drums and senses rich dance a few wild last Meringue moments can offer.
Hips touching hips. Gliding my hand up the back of glittering sequin blouses and then after a few stiff shots of Rose Tequila back down sweat stained silk dresses ending in lips touching lips.
Climax Shiver as I feel the warm breeze touch my skin as she whispers what I want to hear.
Laughing, we will part ways with the festively lit local tavern leaving the rest of the cash in our pockets for the jovial ‘tender with these words scribbled on a drink napkin in familiar wild doctors’ esque chicken scratch,
“Live Free. RISE X UP”.
We will walk barefoot arm in arm, hand in hand entwined in the excitement of what our final lude acts of love will feel like repeated until morning.
Over a tented cabana floating above a shallow bright ocean I grow hard thinking of the exotic moonlit curves my hands will be granted access to caress and am driven crazy by the audible fantasy of those midnight moans as they penetrate these final thoughts.
We will be lucky.
Because tonight she will be receiving ALL of my love … And I will be grateful because this fantasy reciprocates an energy so intense that our tiny hut will not be able to contain the pleasure yelps, grabs, smacks, sucks and mutual release that accompany this last carnal session.
This seems too polite to the reality of my intense charms yet still exciting and real enough to pull off.
The day I die, I anticipate the rich tequila head burn from the evening ‘fore.
My morning ritual of preparing strong coffee while we smile devilishly at each other cooking eggs and smelling the lightly toasted bread smattered with seedy jam feels worth the price of death at this point.
My favorite IRONMILL T-shirt drapes barely past her long tan thighs and the sweet sense of passion clings to my skin as we engage in the time tested bonded practices that lovers ought to do.
I’m going to grab her up, hold on for as long as I can stand and finally let go of the THING that has always lived inside of me concerning romance.
I’ve been carrying around this grudgingly dying bushel of rose matter and now seems like a good time to just let it ALL go.
All the failure, joy, shame of love tied with discontentedness and WANT will leave my body to finally rest.
Assuredly, she will let her weight ease into mine and from my capable embrace I will quietly whisper to the soft nape hiding behind her long hair, “Thank You.”
Saying “Goodbye” to the suffering that has haunted my soul. I will then leave as I always do with no return.
Happily un showered and looking to speed directly across the coral reef barrier into the darkest depths of ocean I can find, I slyly chuckle at the front desk clerk as he instructs that it is his company’s policy to hold onto a drivers license during the rental period of this 40$ an hour Jet Ski adventure boat.
I of course, oblige knowing that the Identification Card and missing person’s interview will be the last recorded interaction that I have on earth while he OF COURSE, has no idea that in 1 hour this jet ski will NOT be returned and police report NEEDED to be filed immediately.
Nodding intently, I load my scant belongings onto the high speed sea vessel and ignore ALL the emergency action, sound advice and grave warnings being given at once. POOF. Gone out of my thought forever.
Already thinking about these last moments alive and the block rocking’ beats turned up to a volume that only my half deaf ears can tolerate, I open up the throttle to head straight for the horizon.
Contemplating my funeral arrangements and having made sure to exit stage left long before I let cancer erode my body and the instinctual need to live one more day overtake my quality of existence THIS choice seems pragmatic to me. To shove off before EVERY human stops interacting with each other or man destroys our magnificent oceans fully as we all decide to hastily plug into an AI virtual reality … permanently hiding our true flesh and living out fantasy as a handsome avatars controlled by robots, I will battle my ferocious final fear.
It was imperative that I leave no 10,000 dollar death toll or wonder as to the “where” Lou went. I planned this course meticulously and am proud of my last days here.
“Dad was cursed by the genes that inhabit us” my boys would say. “He loved us. He was the RIGHT man for the job.”
“He did it HIS way” someone would eulogize over my friends and family.
Half of the somber crowd would sigh unapproving. Half would sadly understand.
Over this course to my ending with the salty oceans’ spray kicking across my face and whine of the small engine maxed out with unrelenting demand for more speed on its propellers, I imagine to run the gamut of emotion preparing this unquiet mind for rest and my body for the unmitigated shock it will soon encounter.
“The right man for the job DID die today.” I thought, BUT I politely ask that you feel no sorrow, pity or pain for I have lived my dreams, became the strongest person YOU know, wrote my life the way I wanted to share it and learned from my mistakes. I have studied long into the wonder of this life of ours and came to my own proud conclusions.
Being “negative buoyant” I DO have a valid concern with staying alive in any water, bath tub, crick walking, river floating, lake boating, carnival ocean steamer vacationing or at this juncture, Shark infested waters dangling helplessly around on a rented Ski Doo with a wish to test my survival ability.
I fear the water, legitimately.
As a kid I was scared of sharks so badly that I was terrified to even open my eyes in above ground swimming pools.
Keepin’ it 100.
I once held up an entire waterpark for 20 minutes after jamming my outstretched limbs into the molded plastic halfway down the whooshing slide effectively blocking anyone else from enjoying its descent.
Panicking. I realized I could NOT swim and had no understanding the wade pool that caught us was only 18 inches deep making drowning near impossible.
So, I stuck there, like a deer in the spotlight not knowing its fate, screaming bloody screeches like a wounded sacrifice while the crowd rolled their eyes and yelled at me to “JUST LET GO!”
In full disclosure, my pops HAD drowned two boats in his lifetime of captaining on family camping trips so the thought persisted strongly in my lack of trust around water with each other.
The loud speaker called for my father and I watched him forced to politely climb up the long wooden staircase past an angry line of vacationing white people slathered in sweaty sunblock to the main tower. I simply refused to finish the slide until he crashed into me full speed sending us both flailing to the pool waiting for us below.
It is with this same innate terror on my heart that I’m slowing down my ski as the fuel gauge reads at exactly E. NO gas in the tank remaining. No return from this expansive final graveyard.
A quick click of the batteries off button won’t be needed as the juice to power my tunes has to stay flowin’ and only a left turn of the key to shut down my motorized life boat is necessary to effectively strand me I decide.
Reaching down to flip open the chum mess that I’ve prepared in a sealed bucket I pull out THEIR lunch, gagging on the intense waft of decaying fish. I fling about the pail of grotesque sea guts to skim across the water then wash off the blood, reaching my arms frighteningly deep into the sea, then fully unrobe.
I thought, maybe IT would be quicker if I didn’t wipe off the blood?
I will not cling to life any longer while my brain continues to disintegrate as my flesh is now ready to INTEGRATE with this killing machine and my self sacrifice READY for the honor of nature to take its course.
“It won’t be long now”
Fully prepared to be drug under water into the pitch black, I envision the show my brain will light off a few seconds before I perish as a wonderful display of old memories, little mermaid fireworks, and long sharp jagged teeth smeared with chunky flesh covered in my old faded tattoos.
It is so peaceful and calm sitting here.
Exactly the moment I watched the sun reach high noon in the blazing summer sky the first shark surfaces and glides across the water effortless. As quick as I spot him, He disappears under the glass surface of the rolling ocean.
Helplessly bobbing up and down the larger than expected waves brought on horrible sea sickness. I began to get nauseous as my legs shook and confidence broke. Realizing in my instinct THIS was a bad idea the thought sunk in that I just made a massive mistake here. I was out of my depth and this was going to be nothing more than a merciless killing of an old drunk man, not the spiritual release I romanticized it to be.
No sooner than I frantically started grabbing at the ignition key did I see the other 3 fins swimming quickly at the broad side of my un sputtering jet ski.
Panic sets in now. A rare feeling in my world. I pray to god for help but we all know that I put myself here and my pride was going to be the fatal sin that I report to my maker.
Quickly circling, the largest of the sharks bumps the worn Ski-doo testing out the defenses of its’ floating meal. My heart is racing, pounding out of my chest and into my throat.
Flailing at the ignition, the speakers that kept me humming all afternoon had drained enough battery to disallow the starting mechanism in the engine to turn over.
The irony that I have killed myself listening to JAY Z’s 4:44 is not lost on me.
The water breaking right beside me splashes and 2 more hard bumps hit the front of the ski. BAP BAP. I almost fall off straining my shoulder so badly holding on to the seat that pain rips through my body. Grabbing at the ore fastened to the side of the boat stowed in case of emergency I realize it is dishearteningly small and useless for even the task of rowing, let alone the defense of nature’s most efficient predators.
I wanted this fight. I had bragged about it all night over pillow talk and sweet desserts. Now, WAS my moment and it was an aching feeling to know that it entailed 4 Mako sharks darting around the bloody meal I provided for them toying for something more.
The moment the engine came alive and I felt the propeller start to chug, a jarring SMASH launched me into the water.
Frantically I lurched upward with stinging salt choking out my lungs. I refused to open my eyes, for I knew what was waiting.
The first bite felt almost fake and cut through my flesh easily. Like slicing premium steak with a very sharp knife serrated for your pleasure. The wounds opened and my body became warm. Then I felt pressure on my chest so intense for a split second that I almost passed out from pure shock. I lost feeling in my left side and before my eyes could open in a basic fight or flight response my right arm was rammed so forcefully it broke 3 ribs immediately.
My eyes shot open but all I managed to see were oxygenated bubbles escaping to the surface and my own blood diluting the scene unfolding in front of me. I screamed under water as the largest, MOST dead and dark eyes you can imagine attached to an amphitheater of razors’ edged teeth swam directly at me.
These great beasts were GOING to tear me apart and drag me to oblivion. I AM going to die facing this final fear after all.
As the lead shark approached with increasing velocity I became calm and everything slowed down to the cinematic degree in which they tell you the last moments in your life tend to reel off.
This WAS it. My moment. Bleeding out. Suffocating under water. No mercy. No escape. I relinquished life then and there.
“What an odd feeling and strange ending this all is,” was the last thought I had before peace came over me….
Then. I woke.
Not from a dream.
But to a blinding flash of light. I felt my body whisking across water and I could not understand what was going on around me.
I was strapped down. Securely. Unable to move and completely numb.
The last sound I heard was the blaring of sirens and horns. Exhausted. Confused. I relinquished control a final time and faded to black once more.
It took a few weeks for me to wake up from the induced coma and even longer before I was allowed to eat solid food. The bag hanging off my side was now functioning as makeshift lower intestines and the necrotic seep that spilled out of my thoracic cavity made the nurses wince upon its’ cleaning.
The first time I had smiled in nearly two months since that exotic night in Aruba was looking at my Grandson, Lou a 10th generation Costa. He was brought in by his Dad and laid with his Pap snuggled in joy.
I felt his love.
The boys explained to me that when they received my letters they collectively panicked and searched out my location from the scant details I divulged to each of them seperately.
The police report filed by the front desk attendant at the boat rental company triggered an international coast guard alert and the hidden GPS on the Jet Ski stayed alive JUST long enough to alert the authorities to my whereabouts.
Unbeknownst to me, there are strong contingency plans in place for things of this recourse.
The rescue team that saved my life said I had been found floating, helplessly bleeding to death tangled in the safety line that was dragging underneath my vessel.
Apparently I had surfaced after some struggle and clung to life the few precious moments they needed to clear the massive sharks via high sonar pings and caustic ink blotters shocking their senses, a new technique devised by innovative artificial intelligence oceanic research divers.
The authorities could only surmise that the blood concentration of tequila and vinegar from the boozed up 2 bags of binged kettle cooked chips I had eaten the night before dissuaded the sharks interest from actually devouring my body.
I looked at my dominant hand spliced back together and felt the large masses of muscle missing from across my body. Gaping holes of flesh torn from bone GONE and I took a disenchanted look at an organism freshly back from field surgery.
“It’s going to take a while for you to regain the ability to walk. To write again. You will never be able to lift heavy weights due to the extensive wounds you’ve sustained by your … attempt at … whatever you were trying to accomplish.” The stoic doctor carefully spoke.
I sobbed, deeply at the thought of my family losing me and was ashamed at the mess I had caused once more from such a stupid idea.
I sputtered out, “Doc, what am I SUPPOSED to do now?”
The surgeon looked at me. Long. Intensely. Sternly.
She looked at my boys. Each one in a row. Directly staring at them one by one as their tears fell off blushed cheeks. Then, forcefully stared back into my gaze.
“You have one choice as far as I see it.”
“You heal yourself. You heal these wounds. You heal with your children and your family.”
“Then you Rise X UP … and you survive stronger than you were yesterday.”
“You keep swimming for your life. And you never give up”
“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier; a man grows what he can and tends it.”
Jud Crandall – Stephen King’s Pet Sematary
Growing up like most kids in the 80s and 90s, I had an obsession with Stephen King. He would write these great stories. A group of average kids, or a family living a normal life in a small town would have an encounter with darkness or have to do battle with evil.
Those ragtag groups of kids, those small New England towns remind me very much of of adolescence in Roulette, PA, and the adventures and stories we saw.
Growing up in a small town like mine you knew about the dark secrets. The guy who murdered his mom and dad with an axe. The guy who hung himself in our barn. The prominent men in town who had been rumored to have gang-raped a teenage girl sixty years ago. (she later killed herself.They are all dead now)
Once, a “snowbird” was at his summer cabin, and a man named “Snake” had killed him with an axe in his garage. Before they had a suspect, just a week after the murder, my buddies and I camped in the woods behind the cabin. You could see it through the trees.
I recently watched the original Pet Sematary movie. (I haven’t seen the new one yet.)
Over your course of #RiseXUp We’ve been encouraging you to RISE UP and COME ALIVE to take back your life, and to start over.
But you know full well that there are some things that should stay dead. Things that men should not do. Things that you should not embrace. Things you should never go back to.
It’s a BAD IDEA to put that cat in the Micmac cemetery because it’s going to come back. And it’s going to be a mess.
Sometimes dead is better.
It’s not a good idea for you to send your ex girlfriend a text message or a snap asking her how she’s doing, while your wife is sleeping in bed next to you.
Sometimes dead is better.
It’s not a good idea to go hang out at the bar when you’re striving for sober. Chances are that alcohol is going to have a siren’s call, and you’re gonna hear it loud and clear.
Sometimes dead is better.
It’s not a good idea to dig up the past and hold it against someone you love – because resentment not only kills a relationship, it eats you from the inside out.
Sometimes dead is better.
If you’ve got trauma that you’ve worked hard to overcome, but you keep reopening the wounds as you turn once again to your old coping mechanisms that you’ve used for years, drugs, food, porn, rage… you’ve got to be vigilant because…
Sometimes dead is better.
If you come from an abusive past where your parents didn’t show you the kind of love a kid should be shown, you’ve got to cut ties with that, so that your kids never know it. You’ve got to make a solemn vow, and break the curses, so that they never have to endure what you did.
Sometimes dead is better.
And even when you make that vow, but you find yourself repeating the mistakes of your fathers and grandfathers, you’ve got to break the chains again, and stop the cycle, because…
Lou Costa Shares his take on Motivation and Mindset
I’m Bleeding Me.
I’m sprinting, full bore down a local sidewalk on this fog cloaked Saturday morning while thick steam pushes off my head and out from under my drawn hood. The potent mix of this chilly day break and sweat soaked knit cap is causing blinding condensation on my coke bottle thick prescription Persol sunglasses.
The streaked lenses are rendering me damn near as useless with them, as without.
One stem of my jet black shades is held together with a caked glob of “Krazy” branded super glue. I imagine the factory adhesive that used to hold this frame together has slowly been worn away from the constant bombardment of my own workout “shmelting.” Toxically eroding the once finely crafted plastic, the lubricated slickness of my skin is now causing me to relentlessly adjust these damned scratched spectacles on my wind beaten face.
Granted It is I, who has insisted completion of this torture, but that doesn’t make this last speed interval any less maddening as I claw at these damned glasses.
The Cold Gear sweatshirt I am wearing was bought from an UnderArmour Factory outlet for 29.99 – 7 years ago. Smeared snot from my sick 3 year old’s very curious and wipe-y hands sticks off the Camo Logo. I look down and notice a large crusty, rock hard boog swath across my chest. I am oddly proud and slightly disgusted at the same time.
The pungent smelling neck of this battle tested garment has long been stretched and cut appropriately to allow the trapped heat of my un-showered body to rise directly into my flared nostrils.
I cannot say I am opposed to my own personal brand of executive man musk.
This, my favorite hoodie comes adorned with sodium stained watermarks that have successfully tracked the output from my previous week’s training sessions simultaneously outing my lacking laundry habit as well. The faded and stained white analysis of these left over effort rings are as telling as any FitBit or popular workout device could possibly report back post workout.
ALWAYS … WORK HARDER!
is the message I take from the ripe sweat rings clinging to this stank and mucus stained garb. That same analysis is what ALL the hi-tech algorithm of today’s fitness trackers’ SHOULD have suggested to you in the first place.
Sadly, they haven’t.
A couple walking their medium sized wiener dog just casually switched to the other side of the track. After watching me barrel around the corner they must have deduced that my laboring frame beating down this frozen course rather asthmatically gasping for each stinging breath is NOT something they REALLY wanted to deal with this early in the morning.
I get their point.
Metallica’s “Bleeding Me” is blaring into my slightly deaf left ear while barely buzzing out of the the recently broken right ear piece. Some sort of blue, itchy plastic is now exposed where the sleek contoured covering used to sit comfortably inside of my inner ear canal. The constant irritating scraping from this strange material is annoying but the broken bud still succeeds in muting the outside world from James Hetfield’s soulful growls.
So how can I REALLY complain?
I won’t replace the broken product because I am a serial DESTROYER of all listening devices. The now yellowish apple cord of this particular pair caught on the corner of my beaten red Cardillo belt last week while I was deadlifting in my damp water soaked basement. The right bud ripped harshly to the floor as I felt the accumulation of blood start to pool inside, muddying the sound of my smooth streaming #LouLife Spotify playlist and bothering me for the rest of the training session.
These things happen from time to time.
So, I suspect a new perfectly white pair of headphones would befall a similar fate as the last 3 have anyway. F— it, until they are completely destroyed I ORDER them to soldier on dutifully.
I am bent over, hands on knees and body laboring post sprint work. Waiting for my temples to stop pounding and my equilibrium to recalibrate, I sometimes wonder if this will be the time I actually just slump over in a large taco-loving mass and things simply fade to black. Could this be the day?
Sometimes I wonder If that permanent scenario would actually be worse than the feeling of this physical pain.
Shuddering. Dripping. Freezing. Blinded. I stand and start to slowly walk forward. Eh, I guess we shall live on today, I think. Too bad 🙂
My heartbeat POUNDS out of my chest but I am controlling its slowed rate recovery by a few deeply forced breaths of January air. Inside my body, these breaths pierce every piece of tissue they come into contact with. The expended CO2 I bellow out deep from my lungs heaves clouds of warmed exhale back into the frigid atmosphere.
The natural sinew emitting from my mouth resembles a locomotive’s timed puff-clouds fading back into the morning’s moisture. These almost embarrassingly but beautifully plumed smoke signals reveal the actual effort it has taken to move this large vessel of mine at such mediocre speeds.
My heart stops wrenching in my chest after a few seconds of paced walking and the metronome control I’ve mastered over it through years of strength training kicks in.
The realization that my feet are becoming numb from the snow and ice mixture that have accumulated from nature’s obstacles along this route has crept into my conscious from the break in action. I think for a second I should’ve worn thicker socks but decide quickly that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
I pull my 2009 iPod out of my pocket with cracked and dried hands, thickened from the continued abuse I insist they suffer through. Today it is the elements I wish for them to endure. Tomorrow it will be repeatedly picking up a moldy soaked 200lb sandbag and flinging it over a pre-set bar until my back screams to stop. The day after tomorrow they will be made to grip a freezing steel 2-inch-handled sledgehammer as I smash it into a beaten old tractor tire until I am satisfied.
For now, these achy digits simply hit repeat on Metallica’s 8 minute and 18 second masterpiece that will drive me forward to a warm kitchen on the final trip home to cook Dad’s special “cheese egg” breakfast for my family. After a few failed attempts from the slightly outdated water-laden touch screen I manage to succeed JUST as the symphony’s chords hit and RIGHT before anger engulfs my thought process.Pausing for a moment I take one last huge gasp of air and sneer at the last amount of suffering that I am about to inflict on my system.
Then… I simply take off running at full speed with no second thought. Spraying slush off the ends of my muddied Nikes I disappear into the dark fog. My legs have started shaking uncontrollably on the journey home to the point I CANNOT sprint the incline of my neighborhood’s sidewalks any longer. Forced to finish in low 4wheel drive, I gear down to smash the last 40 yards of pavement with a fast and deliberate march.
If you want to, listen closely and you will understand through the buzzing music emitting from blue torn plastic into my scabbed over ear.
Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.
The word “toxic” has taken on many new meanings these days.
It’s funny what happens when we play games of word association. Now the word toxic is almost always associated with masculinity, and masculinity is almost always associated with toxic. This is shameful. I know that people aren’t saying all masculinity is toxic, but no one seems to be able to wrap their heads around the unintended consequences of a media feeding frenzy around a newfangled cultural trope.
Toxic people have always existed. All people are toxic.
What did he say? Yes. We all have the capability of being a poison or a remedy in the lives of other people. We all have the capability in our own minds of being a poison or a remedy to ourselves.
When I was little, my parents would correct things that I said. It irritated me, because I was a cocky little intelligent kid who knew exactly what words I was using. How dare they correct me!
Dad: Son, where is your homework? Me: I forgot it. Dad: Why did you forget it? You were supposed to bring it home. Me: Gosh, Dad, I just forgot, I’m forgetful. Dad: No. You don’t “just forget.” Stop making excuses.
Me: I just can’t—Mom: Don’t say that. Me: say what? Mom: Whatever it was you were about to say you can’t do. Me: but I can’t! Mom: Can’t never could. Remember that book I used to read you? Me: Stop, Mom. Mom: With the little train engine? “I think I can! I think I can!” Me: C’mon, Mom! Mom: “I think I can! I think I can!” Me: …
I didn’t get it. I was a kid. Kids never get anything. They just think they do.
The entire universe in my brain was bottlenecked though by a few very toxic thoughts.
What you believe is very powerful. If you have toxic emotions of fear, guilt and depression, it is because you have wrong thinking, and you have wrong thinking because of wrong believing.
I believed that if I forgot something, it somehow absolved me of responsibility. How could I be held accountable for something that I didn’t think about?
I believed the “I CAN’T” that always swirled in my head. Why push myself? Why strive and struggle when I just CAN’T?
These are probably the simplest examples – but there were multitudes of other poisonous thoughts like this that influenced my decision making.
“SSSSSSSST” I can hear it. I can still hear it. I remember the sound more than the pain. I was 5 years old. A wide-eyed kindergartner that could already read.
They were teenagers. Brothers. Hellions.
And they had a book of matches.
And a warped sense of humor. They had already stolen my hat, and tossed it on top of the soda machine at the bus stop. I got in trouble for losing it, but I didn’t tell mom and dad that they took it. It was my problem to deal with. I didn’t need help.
I remember their pubescent cracking laughter, with a touch of bass, now a lilt of falsetto. I don’t remember any words. I just remember the laughter.
Now, a book of matches. One at a time. Lit, then put out on my neck. “SSSSSSSST” Laughter. Scratch. Fizzle. “SSSSSST” Laughter.
I didn’t know what to do. So I didn’t do anything.
It was my problem to deal with. I didn’t need help.
Eventually, one of the neighbor girls told my parents, who immediately took care of the situation. They had the school move a bus stop closer to the house, and made sure those boys took a different bus.
I remember reading about a woman who made lime jello for her husband everyday for lunch. She would add a few drops of antifreeze to it. Antifreeze tastes sweet, and could easily be camouflaged by lime jello. A few drops at a time wouldn’t kill him right away, but the antifreeze would get into his bloodstream and then crystalize in his brain. Those crystals would continue to grow as more antifreeze as introduced. Eventually, slowly, he would die.
So many of my experiences, those matches, bullying, and a myriad of other trauma crystallized in my brain. Those toxic thoughts would crystalize and grow, and left unchecked, they’ll kill me.
We often find ourselves wallowing in a circumstance. We don’t know how we got in to that place. Poverty / Overweight / Divorce / Addiction / Infidelity / Debt / Out of work / Stressed / Depressed / Lonely And it’s easy to look at those circumstances as external factors pressing in. (There are certainly times when external forces beyond our control can affect many of those situations.) In most cases though, we are where we are because of the choices that we make. Our behavior creates our circumstance.
Behavior comes from Feelings. We feel a certain way, want to feel a certain way, and we carry out an action to either make the feeling go away, or for a new feeling to come.
Feelings come from Thoughts. We think and we believe certain things, and those thoughts are formed and shaped by our memories, and the way we think affects our mood and our attitude.
If I do not like my circumstance, I must change my actions. If I do not like my actions, I must change my feelings. If I do not like my feelings, I must change my thoughts.
But how do I change my thoughts?
Our thoughts are plastic, and they can be shaped and formed. Even bad memories of trauma can be reframed to yield better results.
For me, it started by telling myself the truth. Looking myself in the eye in the rearview mirror while driving, screaming at the fool looking back at me.
YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU AREN’T WORTHLESS. YOU ARE VALUABLE. IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP. YOU ARE SMART. SMART IS GOOD.
And a long list of truth that I needed to hear.
If we don’t take ownership of our own brains, we will surely find that they are owned.
You don’t have to keep distilling the poison. You can clean it out.
Death comes for everyone. And on this side of the soil, it seems permanent. When someone dies, we lose them. We don’t see them anymore. They are gone. Dead is dead.
Some of us* subscribe to belief system that hang on the idea of an afterlife. Some of us believe in Resurrection… that at different times the dead have come back, or that one day the faithful will breath life again.
*I definitely believe in resurrection and afterlife. But this article isn’t entirely about my christian beliefs.
I wonder how many men that I know are dead.
How many men feel the echoes of their existence bouncing through their life, but have never had a visible glimpse of their purpose. Thoreau described men “leading lives of quiet desperation.”
I have been there. Going through the motions, struggling to keep my head above mounds of my own backlogged work. Neglecting the duties that I had promised to fulfill, and barely able to provide for my family’s needs. I blamed everyone else for my problems. I had no discipline. My creativity was spent… and in my business, I depend on that creativity. In that place, I made a series of bad business and career decisions. I could easily have lost everything. If my wife was smarter, she’d have upgraded to a better husband. Fortunately, she was wiser than smarter, and willing to be patient with my messes.
I know that feeling, to feel dead inside, to question if there is even a reason to exist, to give up hope that things will ever get better.
Addicted. Divorced. Lonely. Fat. Depressed. Angry. Empty. Hopeless. Hurting. Careless. Stupid. Sick. Distracted. Stuck. You are either there, or have been there, or at least know someone who is there.
Men, you don’t have to be ok with death.
You don’t have to embrace the tomb.
You don’t have to stay six feet under.
My friend Matt was a heroin addict. His liver was toast. He had Hepatitis-C. The doctor gave him six months to live. He thought he was dead. (Today his liver is functioning perfectly and his Hepatitis-C is gone.)
Before I was born, my dad was a drunken divorced brawler. When he met my mom, his friends warned her that he was trouble. After breaking his femur in a motorcycle wreck, a fat embolism stopped his heart. My mom sat by his bedside and prayed for him every day, until his heart changed. That dude wasn’t my dad. I grew up with a sober, kind, and loving father. Fiercer than fire when he needed to be to protect and provide for his family. My dad was alive. Not the dead dude in that hospital bed.
I was there in another hospital room, praying by his bedside with my mom a few months ago.
It’s ok, Dad. Stop fighting. You can go now.
But he didn’t go. His eyes were open, they hadn’t been for weeks. They had locked on each of the three of us for a moment or two, and then they were fixed in the distance. Strong. Determined. Like a soldier reporting for duty.
The nurses were shocked, because usually turning off the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines only takes 5 minutes. Dad fought for 2 hours. His lungs were shot. But up to his last raggedy breath, he was a fighter.
I knew that my dad wasn’t going to RISE UP and walk that day. Not because of a lack of faith. But because it was time. He’d told us he didn’t want to be kept alive by machines. We gave him every shot we could give him. But it was dishonor to disobey his very clear wishes.
Here we are, men. We’re being kept alive by our machines. If it weren’t for our cell phones and social media servers, we wouldn’t be able to connect with people. If it weren’t for our big ol’ trucks, we wouldn’t be able to arrive anywhere. If it weren’t for our bowflex and treadmill, how could we even be super ripped and shredded? Blenders, laptops, microwaves, GoPros, dishwashers. How can we even survive? We want too much. We give too little. We have to “work out” because we stopped “working.” We have to get LinkedIn because we stopped connecting.
I picture myself laid out in a mausoleum. Cold on the slab. Surrounded by flowers. What good to flowers do? Maybe the cut back the smell, but it’s not long before they are dead too.
I’m done with that. It’s time to suck air in my lungs. It’s time to rip the stitches and open my eyes. It’s time to put my feet on the floor and walk out of the grave.