Dark Closets

I’ve always loved sports and sometimes like watching even obscure ones like sailing or rugby, cricket and Aussie football.  But cycling was never something that interested me, that is, until Lance Armstrong came along.  I loved the Lance Armstrong story.  Cancer survivor, ultimate competitor, Tour De France champion…a record seven times!!!  I admired the “LiveStrong” movement that swept across our nation.  I don’t know the details, but I’m sure LiveStrong raised millions of dollars for cancer research and increased cancer awareness across our world.

But then we all know what happened, Lance Armstrong’s “dark closet” was exposed to the world.  Almost overnight, he went from one of the most admired men in America to someone most people despised.  His reputation was shattered and life ruined.

I feel sorry for Lance Armstrong, I really do.  He’s got to be living a daily hell.  I’d imagine guilt, embarrassment, anger, depression…all very negative emotions…are with him every single day.  I think it would be cool if somehow people could forgive Lance Armstrong and that one day he could again be an inspiration and encouragement to others, albeit in a much smaller way, because things will never be the same for him.  But I doubt seriously that will ever happen, from what I’ve read, the man lacks true character and I don’t think most people want to hear or read about Lance Armstrong ever again.

Dark closets.  It’s something we all have, yet no one ever talks about their dark closets.

How do I know you have a dark closet in your life?  Because we all do.  We are human, we’re not perfect, and we all have areas of weakness in our lives that we’re not proud of.  And there’s that little thing called “guilt” that we all have.

Some people’s dark closets aren’t that big of a deal.  A uncontrollable temptation to  dive into that bag of Cheetos, Snickers, or big bowl of ice cream.  Fudging on your taxes each year to keep a few hundred or thousands of dollars of that hard earned money in your own pocket.  Or, sneaking out to smoke a cigarette when everyone praises you for having the strength and determination to quit.

But I think most people’s dark closets are a lot bigger than that and contain some pretty heavy stuff.

So why do I write about dark closets?

Because everyone once in a while I think it is healthy for a person to take some serious inventory of their dark closet and ask “what would the consequences be if the contents of my closet were exposed?”  If what you’re doing could have a profound negative impact on your family, career, business, health, or even put you behind bars, then it might be a good idea to turn the light on and do some serious cleaning in your closet.

Just ask Bill Clinton, Pete Rose, Tiger Woods, or Bernie Madoff what it’s like to have the contents of your dark closet exposed to the public.  It’s not pretty.

Millions of families have been shattered, lives and reputations ruined, and even suicides committed because of dark closets becoming exposed.

This is one of the few benefits of having the big c.  You get that wake up call to make sure your dark closet is as clean as possible.

I’ve had my dark closet with me since the sixth grade.  But in the last two months, God and I have gone in there and done a thorough spring cleaning.  I’ve asked for His forgiveness (several times) and my dark closet looks better than it has in years…probably ever.  It feels good!  Oh, that closet will be with me to the very end, but I don’t think I’ll need to do any more major cleans, at least I hope not.

I’m sure some of you are wondering “so Schmahl what is your dark closet?”  I have lustful eyes.  That’s all I’ll say…the rest is between God and me.  But most guys out there know what I’m talking about.

I don’t think there needs to be any major public discourse on the subject of dark closets.  They are private…your very own.  It’s between you and God…or for the non-religious readers…between you and your conscience.

Medical/Personal Update:

Do I fear death?  No…at least not right now…but in The Last Train I’m going to continue to ask that question periodically and share my answer.  Because the answer might change.

I don’t fear death because I don’t feel like I’m dying.  I feel pretty good.  In writing The Last Train my mind has come alive like never before.  Writing these words has been good for my soul…already!

I fear two things right now.  Strength and Time.

I’ve always had lots of strength and energy.  No problem working 10-12 hour days, nights, weekends.  That’s the world of college athletics.

But I’m not the old Jeff anymore.  When I go into work at Schmackary’s, I usually only put in about four hours and then I’m tired, light-headed, or some other chemo symptom and I’m ready to go home.  In my first day back on the job last week, I was excited to be back and stayed for six hours.  In the 30-minute bus ride home to our New Jersey apartment, I was completely exhausted.

Former A&M and current Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan tells his players at the first fall practice each season, “Men, enjoy how your body feels right now.”  While they’re stretching, he says, “This is the best you’re going to feel for at least the next four months.  Football is a collision sport.  There’s going to be lots of pain and injury, so get ready.  The way you feel is going to change starting right now cuz’ we’re going to work your butts off today at practice!”

I worry that the strength I have right now, about 25 percent of the old Jeff, is the best I’m going to feel while I’m on chemo.  And I worry it’s only going to get worse.

I also want more time.  There are so many friends, old and new, I want to personally see in Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas.

I want to have the time and the strength to make trips back and see family, friends, and play more rounds of golf with my buddies.

Next Stop: Miracles!