“Fall From Grace”

Fall From Grace live at Ryktor
Call it women’s intuition
Call it anything you want
But self respect and dignity
Were the first things that you lost
I don’t need your point of reason
You don’t have to say a word
Close your lips, bite your tongue 
And save it for the birds

Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall, to fall from grace

You’re no angel, you’re no saint
Come to grips with what you ain't
Say goodbye and let it go

Light a match and watch it burn
Bridges broken, lessons learned 
Tired of living in your world. 

I’m pulling broken arrows 
And daggers from my back
You don’t get to play the victim
When you’re the one out on attack
I don't mean to stir up trouble
Lord knows that you know best
You wear your pain for the world to see
Like a patch sewn on your chest

Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall
To fall from grace. 

You’re no angel, you’re no saint
Come to grips with what you aint
Say goodbye and let it go
Light a match and watch it burn
Bridges broken, lessons learned
I’m tired of living in your world

I don’t meet your expectations
I don’t need that shit at all
I don’t meet your expectations darling
I don’t need that at all! 

You’re no angel, you’re no saint
Come to grips with what you aint
Say goodbye and I'll let you go

Brick Roads

The annoying sound of the digital alarm clock from across the room blared. With blurred vision, I could barely make out the bright red glow. 3:40am. For me, this ungodly Friday morning hour wasn’t an untypical time to see on the clock, however, it was usually on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of waking up at 3:40am, more times than not, I was just closing my eyes. Between the demons I faced in my constant Tyler Durden type state of insomnia and the allure of dancing/partying the night away at the local bar, I hardly ever found sleep in Fuller dormitory.

I crawled out of bed, slipped on my Montevallo Baseball shorts and fumbled down the cold concrete hallway.

I forced open the front door of the dorm and started down the stairs towards an old green Jeep Cherokee. The passenger door creaked as I pulled it closed and nestled into the front seat. No words were exchanged, but his blood shot eyes communicated enough. With the exception of the radio softly murmuring in the background, we rode in complete silence as we headed off campus and onto long, hilly county roads. Sleepily, I gazed out the window admiring how the full moon illuminated the countryside.

We pulled over onto a familiar gravel pullout along Hwy 17. I stepped out of the jeep and closed the door. Coach Goff rolled down the window, “See you back on campus Andrews.”

I watched his taillights disappear into the distance before I took the first steps back to campus. This was my “punishment.” I somehow always managed to find a way to get into some sort of “trouble” throughout the week. We’re not talking “real” trouble… we’re talking your typically baseball shenanigans that gets taken a little too far and disrupts practice kinda “trouble.”

For the past 5 weeks, I had found myself in the early bird rotation. I would wake up at 3:40am, stumble into a semi-warm Jeep Cherokee, ride in silence to a gravel pullout, step out into a dark, cold morning and run the 6 miles back to campus. Sometimes a fellow teammate would do something stupid enough to join me, but mostly I ran alone.

At first, I hated everything about this predawn ritual. I wasn’t worried about anyone driving these desolate roads and swiping me into a ditch… I was more worried about the unleashed dogs that plague rural Alabama. Nevertheless, after a few drop offs, I became comfortable with the route and actually started to enjoy the solitude. I found it invigorating to be out roaming the world at a time when most souls were still fast asleep. Maybe because it was always viewed as a form of punishment, but I hated running. Despite my distaste in running, somewhere along the dark Salem Road, I began to let go of the ”punishment” and shifted my focus on the movement itself. Over time, my breathing became less labored and I became captivated by the sound of my foot steps on the worn asphalt. I found that by the time I would top the hill on King Street, I’d be smiling and happily anticipating the downhill cruise to the finish.

At every finish, Coach Goff and his piercing eyes would roll down his window and say, “Alright Andrews. See you in the gym at 6am.”

I’d just smile and nod before walking back to my dorm to eat a quick snack before our team morning workout.

I owe more to Coach Goff than I could ever formulate into words. When multiple programs told me I was “too small to play college baseball,” Goff took a chance on me and signed me to the University of Montevallo baseball program. He consistently threw me into positions that not only tested my abilities, but helped me learn to become completely comfortable in uncomfortable situations. He also taught me how to win and succeed the right way… humbly with poise.

All former players joke about his jelly bean analogy… “Don’t be like a jelly bean! You can’t just be hard on the outside and soft on the inside! You’ve gotta be hard all the way through!” We laugh, but in all seriousness, he really did help us (or at least me) harden up and learn to push through adversity. From an athletic standpoint, because of Goff, I feel like I can still dig into a deeper level and give a little bit more of myself when I think my tank is empty.

Me and Goff at the D2 World Series ring ceremony

I never thought that 15 years later I’d still be running the same beautiful college town.

The lessons and work ethic I received from my time playing baseball at Montevallo has stuck with me over the years and has helped mold me into the human I am today. Though I don’t necessarily miss the game, I do miss the moments and the camaraderie.

Me, Hicks and Blakney doing what we do best… goofing off.

I’d like to think I would’ve still gotten into endurance running (or at least running) at some point in my life but there’s no way to know for sure. Maybe Montevallo is actually where my passion for running truly started. Regardless, each time I run through Montevallo, I can’t help but think back on the wonderful memories. Montevallo is where I met my wife…

We married June 5, 2010 on campus

Montevallo is where I learned to play the guitar and write music…

performing at the Bus Station (now Main Street Tavern)

Montevallo has helped shape my world view and has given me the ability to meet and love people from all walks of life. Though we still have ambitions of moving to the mountains someday, Montevallo feels like home. And for the time being… I’m happy to be home.

The Deep End

Take a second and imagine yourself on a hot summer day. A slight breeze blows through your hair as you set your cold drink down on the table, stroll across the warm concrete and start descending a set of submerged stairs into a nice cool, crystal clear pool. You’re happy and smiling as you slowly wade through the shallow end of the pool. Once you’re done splashing, you exit the pool, pick up that cold refreshing drink and plop back down into the safety of the chaise lounge.

Take another moment to imagine a slightly different scenario. This time, before exiting the pool, you decide to take a little stroll into deeper waters. You start creeping ever so slowly over to the darker colored water. As your lower extremities start to leave the slippery slope, you begin to flutter your feet and swim into the deepest part of the pool. A quick but exhilarating shock flows through your body as your sunburnt shoulders feel the cool water for the first time. The synchronized movement of your feet and arms is allowing you to comfortably stay a float in the center of the deep end. You take a deep breath, close your eyes and submerge your entire body. You gently release small bubbles to help yourself sink further into the depths. You feel a slight rush of excitement or maybe even the softest touch of anxiety as you sink deeper… deeper… deeper. All anxiety and fear disappears when your feet touch the bottom. On the floor below, you find footing and launch yourself back to the surface like a rocket pushing through the earth’s atmosphere. As the sun hits your face, you show your teeth to the sky and casually swim back over to the safety of the shallow end.

Now, take a minute to run through one last scenario. Imagine yourself on the same hot summer day. Same smile. Same cool, crystal clear pool. You again start creeping ever so slowly to the darker colored water of the deep end, but this time when your feet leave the slippery, slanted slope… there’s no foreseeable return to the shallow end. How long do you think you could tread water? 1 minute? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? Your legs begin to tire and your arms become heavy. Your heart rate spikes and panic sets in. You bob your head above the water and suck nervous air into your lungs before the crude nature of gravity grabs your head and submerges it again. You frantically kick your legs and flail your arms in hopes of getting back to the surface, but you don’t seem to be going anywhere. You’re in limbo. Stuck somewhere between the bottom of the pool and the surface. Your vision starts to flutter… dark… light… dark… light… dark… light… the world around you slowly fading. As your body drifts closer to the bottom of the pool, you gaze one last time up at the sparkling surface before everything fades to black.

pic courtesy of Another Hair Brained Idea

Which of the 3 scenarios speak to you the most? Was it the first scenario where you gently played in the shallow end? Was it the second scenario where you safely and thoughtfully explored the deep end? Or was it the third… where you drowned? I feel like it’s safe to assume you didn’t pick scenario 3.

I feel like this metaphor is a great metaphor for relationships. Relationships are truly the essence of existence. We can find relationships in any and everything: spiritual, animal, nature and human. Going through the masters program for counseling at the University of Montevallo has been incredibly insightful and has allowed my to look more objectively at my own personal relationships.

One of the concepts that has stuck out to me the most is depth within the therapy session. I think this same mentality can be applied to personal relationships as well.

What’s one thing you noticed about my crudely drawn chart? Hopefully you noticed the depiction of how much time is spent at the deepest portion. As you can see, the bulk of the time is NOT spent at the deepest level of the session. Why do you think this is? I believe it’s because growth is tough and can be exhausting. If you consistently stay in the deep end, you’re bound to exhaust yourself and drown. That’s why it’s important to have a healthy balance. This not only applies within the therapeutic relationship, but applies to every day relationships and many other areas of life in general.

First and foremost, you should be applauded for simply getting into the water. Many people will spend their whole lives afraid of any sort of relationship or conflict. Sitting on the edge of the pool watching everyone play in the water is extremely safe, but by doing so, you miss out on lots of meaningful moments in life. Much like the first scenario, lots of people will keep things in the shallow end where it’s nice and safe. Perhaps you can view “shallow end” friends as acquaintances, co-workers or school friends. “Shallow” is not used here as a negative term, but instead, a metaphor. Where most of the relationship is spent lighthearted and just above the surface, instances remain where you can still completely submerge yourself and get deep within these relationships. The shallow end simply provides a stationary boundary for the depth that can be reached.

The second scenario speaks to those deeper, more intimate connections in your life. Perhaps this grouping would include your closest friends, life partner or even your own self. Where most of the relationship is spent somewhere between the surface and middle, there is a need and desire to dive deep every now and again. However, before diving in headfirst and cultivating depth, there needs to be a mutual understanding and healthy respect for one another. In therapy, this is where building good rapport with a client is absolutely crucial for the therapeutic process to be successful. Presenting yourself in an authentic and genuine way is one way to build the trust needed to deep dive in any relationship.

Another great way to build trust and depth in a relationship is self disclosure. Self disclosure can play a crucial role in bonding, however, I feel that it’s vital to understand that just because you disclose an intimate or personal life moment with a friend, doesn’t mean you should expect them to do the same. Everyone is on their own journey and it’s important to respect that individual’s journey and boundaries. Healthy and balanced relationships are built on communications, not ultimatums and control. I think sometimes people get the wrong impression of boundaries. Boundaries are often set not to hurt or offend anyone, but as an attempt to continue the relationship in a healthier, more self-preserving way.

Meaningful experiences aren’t something that can be forced. When you set out intentionally to have a meaningful experience, oftentimes it turns into the opposite. I’m not saying that forced meaningful experiences isn’t in the realm of possibility, I simply believe that meaningful experiences mostly occur naturally. I can think of numerous experiences in my own life where the latter has happened. One moment that comes to mind was when I decided to run the 71 miles of Appalachian Trail that crosses the Smoky Mountains for my 31sts birthday. My intentions for the run were simply to cover the distance safely and do it under 24hrs, but somewhere along the way the adventure started to become meaningful. As I climbed up the ridge through the early morning light, my favorite forest was illuminated in a magical way.

Appalachian Trail near Mollies Ridge shelter

As I pushed further, the hoarfrost near one of my favorite peaks (Rocky Top) clung to the trees in a way that made it feel like I was in an enchanted fairy land.

Appalachian Trail near Rocky Top

But the moment when this adventure really became meaningful to me was around 2am somewhere between Mount Sequoyah and Mount Guyot. After a 40 mile solo stretch, I had picked up my buddies for the final 30 miles. We had been chatty throughout the night, but there were sections of comfortable silence. I’ve found there’s a certain beauty in the way a group can silently move through the mountains together. Though the temps were in the low 20s and the wind gusts were +25mph, the sky was clear and the moon was full. We popped out to an exposed section of the ridge and the entire valley below was illuminated in the soft moonlight glow. It was in this instant, that the reality of moment set in. Here I was in my favorite place on earth with some of my favorite people doing one of my favorite things. No words needed to be exchanged for me or them to understand our relationship and how appreciative I was to have them there with me.

post SCAR breakfast

Another running moment that comes to mind was last summer. I can’t count the number of times I have run up and down Mount LeConte. It’s safe to say that Mount LeConte is probably my favorite mountain. For whatever reason, when I’m on that mountain I feel like I’m part of something mystical and ancient.

Like most Mountain Girl Weekend trips, we would make at least one trip up LeConte. The trip up varies slightly each time, but in a way, LeConte was a staple and welcomed routine part of MAW. On this summer trip, when me and Ash set out for the summit via Alum Cave, the weather was grim. We spent most of the ascent wondering through the classic drizzly Smoky Mtn fog…

Ash on Alum Cave

However, when we crossed over the summit, the weather started to give and we got to experience a beauty at Myrtle Point that was unmatched by any other trip.

Myrtle Point

I’ve been moved by mountains before, but was almost in tears at the sheer beauty of this awesome creation.

Myrtle Point

As we bounded down the Boulevard, the color of the flowers were radiant, the sky started to clear and the sun was out in full force by the time we arrived to the trailhead. It’s still one of the most meaningful mountain days of my life.

Descending Boulevard

I encourage everyone to take a little deeper look at yourself and your own relationships. Every single relationship looks and feels different. There’s not a right or wrong answer to the construct. Be open, be mindful and protect yourself in these relationships. Don’t be afraid to get in the pool. Have fun! Splash around a bit in the shallow end. Venture out into the deep end but be mindful of how much time you spend below the surface. Remember that we all need air to survive. Someone famous and noteworthy once said, “It is not length of life, but depth of life.” We’re promised nothing more than the breath we’re currently breathing, so with your breath, make sure your living your fullest and most enriching life.