The problem with always being “on” is that every so often you find yourself stuck in the doldrums of not wanting to interact, do, think, go or even be for that matter. Most people that associate with me through bbq know that I don't sleep very much, I work near constantly and in between, I attempt to be a husband and father. Some days and weeks I can juggle it all, do it all and still come up with great ideas and solve everyone's problems. Most of the time though I am doing good to keep all the balls I’m juggling in the air. I’m sure it looks better from the outside than from the inside. I suppose that’s the point of living life in general, frantically work in a manner that makes it look easy and enjoyable.
This piece is as much a confessional as it is a look behind the curtain. Yes, I’ve been blessed with some great opportunities and I’ve done my best with them for all involved. It’s come at a price though. The last two years of my life has been a dizzy mix of long hours in my truck listening to podcasts and music while driving to various bbq related events. I get out of my truck and go to work. When they tell me I’m done I often get right back in my truck and drive home, in an attempt to maximize family time. The drives are always a minimum of 3 hours, sometimes they are 10 hours. If I’m lucky I’ll get a hotel for a nap on a Friday night, get back up at 6am and go back to working again and then drive home. When I get home I try to have some family time if they are still talking to me at that point and get ready for the day job on Monday. That isn't to throw shade at them in any way, heck I’m gone a lot and they have learned to have their own lives. If you’ve ever heard Chris Stapleton’s “Devil Named Music” he does a pretty job of laying out what this feels like.
Now at this point, you are reading this and likely falling into one of two camps. Camp one thinks, “dude just knock off all of that and stop whining, you’ve gotten all that you’ve worked towards”. Camp two will only see this from the perspective of the family. That I am basically trading precious time with them to chase the lie that is bbq. I frankly think both camps are right to a degree. Then there camp three that lives right in the center of my chest. I’ve done my best to ignore this ache before and try to be happy with just doing a 9-5 and nothing else. The reality is I’ve come to realize something is broken in me. I am an obsessive and addictive personality. I fall somewhere between a little intense and hellbent. I joke sometimes that the only reason I’m not a drunk is that I have too much stuff to do. I have 1000 ideas in my head that are a gift and a curse. The gift is the idea, the curse is that they are like ghosts begging to be let out of my head. Then I fight daily with the idea of knowing how good I am and then worrying that I’m not good enough at the same time.
So I sit here trying to balance all of this. I do all I do for my family. I get out of bed for them. I work so hard for them. I go the extra 12hrs because I want them to be proud and I am hellbent on building the house and life that they deserve. That fuels me day in and day out. I have no doubt it doesn't feel that way for them and this is why it sucks to be around someone like me. What I put them through isn't lost on me, but I don’t know how to be any other way.
Then it gets worse. About once every 6-8 months the camera and filming, the talking to people to solve their problems constantly, even the praise for what I’m doing get’s to be too much. My battery isn't low, it's just dead. I seriously can barely imagine getting out of bed when those times hit. I don't want to talk. I don't want to interact. I definitely don't want to fight. I don't want to cook. I don't want to create. I don’t want to be hot and sweaty. I just want to seriously sit in a quiet room alone for days on end. I listen to music or watch tv and just do my best to shut down as much as possible. Still, today if I film for several days straight or do a big event like Memphis in May, it can take a couple of weeks before I feel “normal” again.
How can all of this be? I’m on camera all of the time any more. I’m constantly “on” with various interviews. I respond to hundreds of emails, chats, etc a day. The big secret is that I am actually a huge introvert. I’ve had to learn to be an extrovert to get the things I want out of life. I was painfully shy as a kid. It wasn't until I got to the military that I started to push that part of myself aside. Let’s be honest pilots don't want to hear a briefing from a shy kid from Kentucky and trust their lives to it. I had to invent a new me. I had to fake it until I made it so to speak. This Dr. Jekyl vs Mr. Hyde fight is always just below the surface. Hell, it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I learned that it was ok for me to win. It wasn’t that I thought I lacked the talent, just that I never once had an expectation to win and got so used to not winning.
This ebb and flow of energy and emotion is my norm. I have no idea if this is the norm for everyone. Honestly, this is probably the most open and honest I’ve ever been about it since I always just roger up for the next event or the next challenge no matter how I’m feeling. Sometimes though, I just want to sit in a dimly lit room and nap on and off for a few days. I can always tell when I’m coming back around out of the funk because my hands start to itch for the feel of a guitar again. That is usually the first signal that I am starting to be “me” again and with any luck, the creative fires will ignite again. I’d be lying if I said in the midst of the funk there isn't a part of me that worries that the creativity might be gone forever. This is secretly one of my biggest fears next to losing my wife or kids. It’s kind of like a musician fearing going deaf or a guitarist suffering a hand injury that keeps them from playing.
I guess I write all of this to say, no matter how great it looks from the outside, there are always struggles you don't see. Every hero has a weakness. There is kryptonite for everyone. So don't forget that. Even superheroes are allowed to have some off days and they just can’t be everything to everyone all the time. The reality is that all of us are trying to a little intense while still staying on the right side of hellbent.