Being Your Own Hero

OK, I admit it. I was disappointed. I was disappointed when Tiger Woods, just a few short months after the "SUV incident" outside his home in Florida, staged a press conference, stood behind a podium, and recited a canned apology written in corporate-speak by the damage-control PR spin doctors at Nike. Like a dutiful boy, he was dressed in a suit, clean-shaven, looking humble and respectful to the corporate sponsors who made his public career that much more lucrative. But beneath the surface was a whole story waiting to be uncovered, spoken, and shared. I secretly (and not so secretly) cheered Tiger on when he hit the apparent depths of his personal crisis - the extent of his adultery revealed, the intensity of the pain he has kept hidden beneath the socially acceptable, corporate endorsement-worthy veneer of relentless competitiveness and focus. I saw this as an opportunity for Tiger to deliver his real "medicine" to the world, and to show us how a hero falls, journeys through the abyss of his own self-discovery, and emerges whole in a different way. With a different message about heroicism, with a more solid foundation on which to stand, with a deeper message than can be conveyed merely by counting wins and trophies. I secretly thought, "Wow, now THIS is Tiger's real moment." I thought he would go into seclusion and embark on a healing journey, away from the limelight, away from golf, away from his lifelong drugs of choice - winning and getting public recognition. I'm reminded of the David Whyte poem, "The Well of Grief":
"Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,
...will never know the source from which we drink,
...nor find in the darkness glimmering,
the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else."
I secretly thought, "This is Tiger's 'well of grief' moment. I can't wait to see what emerges from the bottom of this." Just weeks later, I walked by a television tuned into ESPN and saw Tiger back on the golf course, competing in the Masters. There were casual remarks from the commentators about this "comeback", but for the most part it was "business as usual". He had the emotionless expression of competition on his face, as always. There was no evidence of anything that had transpired in the news just weeks earlier. He was back to "doing his job". And what message are we, the public, supposed to take away from this "heroic" return to the "job" of business as usual? Has Tiger put the incident behind him now? Should we simply leave his private life alone, and just focus on being entertained by his golf skills? Is this the model of courage that we're expecting from our public heroes, sports or otherwise? All of it disappointed me. I have felt for the past several weeks that there is something inside me that wants to find expression. There are words that want to find their way into the world, to give life and breath to the truth in my heart. They get caught somewhere in my chest, my shoulders, my throat. And I've been feeling into the reasons why. This week I realized it's because I was hoping someone like Tiger would make it OK to be a public figure, someone who has attained legendary status through hard work, competitiveness, and discipline to develop his talents, someone who has achieved beyond anyone's wildest expectations - to acknowledge his own humanness. To show that even a legend shares the tenderness of the human condition. To demonstrate that no matter how high you fall from, you can get up, and you can emerge whole, with an equally powerful message from your moments of weakness as from your moments of strength. Instead, he took the corporate political entertainment route. He dusted himself off, put on a fresh shirt, and stepped right back out there on the stage. "The show must go on," as the old adage says. But what I feel we are so hungry for - the show we wish we could see, in all honesty and transparency and without any regard for entertainment value - is the show of even one person's truth, undramatized. Yes, the pain. Yes, the journey of living through the pain. Yes, the fear. And the journey of moving through fear. Yes, the joy and peace and freedom that emerge in the only way that nature works - by going through it. I am aware that maybe I'm so disappointed in Tiger's choices because I have a deep longing for permission to do what I know I need to do. I've been waiting for some signal that I'll be OK, that it'll be OK, if I start to talk about what I've really learned about myself, and how I've really discovered my own sources of joy and peace. How everything I once thought to be absolutely true has come into question, and how I have been slowly, day by day, setting myself free. How I have had to look at every painful belief I've held so tightly, how I have trained myself to become more familiar with these beliefs, so that I might gently let them go, and love myself for doing so. How I've managed to cycle through this work with curiosity, openness, and willingness to endure whatever I've needed to in order to reveal the next layer of peace. But there are parts of it that I'm afraid will look ugly, that will brand me as a "bad" person, that will confirm to the world how I failed in some way, that will concede my own defeat. And yet I know there is freedom on the other side of telling the truth, being able to name not only what brings me alive, but what breaks my heart. I learned this myself last year at a weekend called "Real Speaking", where I stood among 6 important strangers and practiced publicly speaking my heart's truth. Most of my words got caught in my throat, when I got to the really juicy stuff. It was caught there by fear. I couldn't even name the fear at that time, but now I am closer. I am more prepared, strengthened by my daily practice of comparatively new muscles called trust, peace, and allowing. I feel that something is about to be hatched, to be born, from my finding a voice for these words. There is such fear attached to not knowing what will come out, not knowing how I'll steel myself for the response of letting it out for the world to see. And so I sit with my disappointment in Tiger. Since he didn't become the model I wanted him to be, I am left with finding the inspiration within myself - the knowledge that what my heart has to say is of value in the world. With or without corporate sponsors. Here I go...

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