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Enter The Dream Realm: Rebirth – Vol. Three: With Arms Wide Open / I Hope You Dance

You are awakened by the feel of cool water against your lips, and you swallow hungrily, trying to quench a thirst you didn’t know you had. You open your eyes, and once again see the man standing over you. You ask who he is, and he smiles, saying you already know. He reaches over for the light an turns it back off, casting the room in darkness. “This is it, we’re almost finished. It’s time for your Rebirth. I’ll see you on the other side.” You start to ask what he means, but find the words won’t come as you feel your grip on lucidity begin to fade. Your eyes flutter in the blackness as you slip from consciousness, and once again begin to…

Rebirth – Vol. Three:

With Arms Wide Open / I Hope You Dance

08/29/2010

The week of January 18, 2010 was the biggest week of my life thus far. On that Monday, I had interviewed for the open professorship position in the Geodynamics Research Center where I was working as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. I figured it was a courtesy interview, as I knew I was up against 27 older candidates with more experience, and I also knew I was hindered by my inability to speak Japanese. I took it all in stride and just gave the best interview I could, figuring at the end of the day it would at least be experience I could use in the future. It’s always good to practice one’s promo skills.

On that Wednesday, my boss called me into his office. He started talking about the job I had applied for, and I figured he was going into “let him down easy” mode, but then he pulled the big swerve by telling me that they had decided to hire me. It took a moment for it to register, and I sat there in stunned silence. After a minute or so, the only words I could muster were, “Are you sure?” He smiled and proceeded to stroke my ego with all the reasons they decided to choose me for the position. It was nice.

“Well I just heard the news today. It seems my life is going to change.
I close my eyes, begin to pray. Then tears of joy stream down my face.”
All yellow lyrics from Creed – With Arms Wide Open

That Friday, my wife wanted to take me out to a celebratory dinner, and I was not one to resist. We went to her favorite restaurant here in Matsuyama, which at the time I remember thinking was somewhat odd, but I rolled with it. We sat down, ordered our food, and got our drinks. She toasted her congratulations to me on getting the new job, and we both took a sip of our fine Japanese water. Then, she asked if I was ready for some more good news, to which I replied in the affirmative. Her ability to contain herself had finally given way and she burst forth with one of the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen from her already radiant face as she told me her news.

“I’m four weeks pregnant!”

Now, anyone who knows me beyond the level of passing acquaintance knows that I am all about having kids. Those who know me better know that I have always said that my kids will be raised on a steady diet of Heavy Metal and Professional Wrestling. As I write this my wife is sitting next to me on the couch with the earbuds from my iPod playing Savatage into her belly. I keep it real.

I’ve wanted to have kids so badly for so long that this whole process has seemed like a dream come true. So many parts seem surreal, like it can’t actually be happening after all this time. I have wanted children for more than half my life now, which may seem strange considering I just turned 31. It was while standing at my sister’s Elementary School Graduation when I was 15 when I knew I wanted to have kids of my own.

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger.
May you never take one single breath for granted.
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed.”
All red lyrics from LeeAnn Womack – I Hope You Dance

I have alluded to a less-than-stellar childhood here, but have said very little else on the matter as it’s not the most comfortable of topics. My father would be broadly characterized as abusive and had an appetite for alcohol and some minor drugs that persist to this day. While there are some incidents of physical abuse, such as the dislocation of all of the fingers on my left hand that leaves me unable to play a bar chord on a guitar to this day, the primary fabric of abuse he weaved was emotional. He was so good at his craft that I spent the first nine years of my public education in psychotherapy. My father left my mother and I on June 1, 1984, just 24 days before my sister was born. Just as any child caught in a similar situation, I felt that I was to blame.

Unlike other children in that situation, though, he cemented those feelings by telling me it was in fact my fault.

About two years before he left, my father started using me as his alibi. He would take me with him when he would go to cheat on my mother, and then he would have me tell her we went to the park to play catch. I would have done anything for my father, as would most two-to-three-year-old boys, so for quite some time this system worked for him. As I was nearing the ripe old age of five, however, my sense of right and wrong was beginning to develop, and I found I couldn’t lie to my mother anymore. When he and I came home on the afternoon of June 1, she asked me how the park was, and I started to cry. She looked at him and knew. He was gone within a couple of hours, telling me on the way out the door that if I’d just kept my mouth shut, we’d still be a family.

“With arms wide open, Under the sunlight.
Welcome to this place, I’ll show you everything.
With arms wide open. With arms wide open.”

What was on one hand one of the most painful times of my young life turned out to be one of the biggest blessings I have ever received, as it allowed me the opportunity to play the part of “daddy” for my little sister. My mother let me choose her middle name, which was the biggest honor this four year old had ever had bestowed upon him. I got to help raise her, complete with feeding and changing the diapers, and I got to help teach her all about the world. While I didn’t have the opportunity to be a kid like the other children my age, I made that choice on my own and wouldn’t give up a minute of it.

Our father was still a part of my life somewhat through the obligatory weekend visitation rights. I still wanted more than anything to have my father’s love, but no matter what I did, it never came. I tried baseball, soccer, bowling; the things he was interested in seemed to lose their luster for him when I would try them. No matter what I did, my contact with him lasted from 9-3 on Saturdays. He’d pick me up in the morning to take me to his house, where he’d put me in the side room with his Nintendo while he watched baseball. Then, he’d go and get us McDonald’s and fall asleep on the couch until he had to wake up to take me home. It was our weekly ritual for the better part of five years. It was during one of his naps that I was flipping through the channels and found something that would go on to become a huge part of my life: WWF Superstars.

“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens.
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance. I hope you dance.”

In the days before Monday Night RAW, this syndicated WWF programming was the only form of professional wrestling available in New York. I was immediately drawn in and hooked upon seeing my first episode. I fell in love with the show, and I was fascinated by the larger-than-life figures I was seeing on my screen. These Titans I was watching battle for glory every week became the balance for my dysfunctional relationship with my father, making me look forward to being ignored on our visits. The men I saw on the television became the heroes that I needed at that time in my life.

Junkyard Dog and Andre the Giant were the first two guys that I really looked to as hero figures. Macho Man and The Dragon were also always high on my list of people by whom I was enthralled. However, while all of my friends were riding the Hulkamania bandwagon, I couldn’t stand the man, and I found as time wore on that I liked him less and less. I liked Roddy Piper and Ted DiBiase a lot more than I liked Hogan and his friends, and I had a special place in my heart for Jake The Snake Roberts. Something about these men who could use words to cut like a knife endeared them to me. Perhaps I saw in them idealized versions of myself, or even my father, or perhaps it was because the jaded cynic I was becoming even before I turned double digits knew that the good guys didn’t always get the upper hand. Well, except for Hogan, which was probably part of the reason I hated him so much.

It’s not like I was ever one of those people who only boos the face and cheers the heel. I suppose I had discerning tastes even as I was growing up. I hated Hogan and loved Piper. I loved when Ultimate Warrior finally vanquished Hogan, but then quickly grew to hate Warrior just as much. I loved the British Bulldog and Mr. Perfect, but I couldn’t stand Bret Hart and Ric Flair. My idolization of two of my all-time favorite wrestlers began in the very early 90′s, while The Undertaker was a babyface, and while Shawn Michaels was as heel as they come. I was very specific about what I liked, and if a particular wrestler brought that to the table, I didn’t care what side of the fence they were on. If they spoke to me, I was a fan. In many ways, I’m still the same today.

“Well I don’t know if I’m ready, To be the man I have to be.
I’ll take a breath, I’ll take her by my side. We stand in awe, we’ve created life.”

Wrestling played a huge part in my young life, and without it I am honestly not sure who I would have become. It’s strange to think about something so casual and distant having such a profound effect on someone, but it fed a need that I had in my life at that time, and in many times thereafter. Even as a child, wrestling served as my escape from reality, and it has served me well in the years since. Though I hope the circumstances for the enjoyment are different, wrestling is something I am strongly looking forward to passing down to my own children.

I am hoping that in at least some ways I will be able to fill the hero role for my offspring, but I’m not so naïve as to think that I would be the be-all and end-all of their universe. As far as heroes and role models are concerned, it seems that every form of sport or entertainment has had people who step into those shoes. For me, and for many other children over the years, the baseball players and movie stars never appealed to me, but the wrestlers captured my imagination like no others could. I hope to be able to introduce wrestling to my kid, and if fate smiles upon me, to see the same awe and wonder in their eyes as they watch the spectacle unfold before them.

“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance.
Never settle for the path of least resistance.
Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking.
Loving might be a mistake but it’s worth making.”

My children won’t need wrestling for the same reasons that I did, but there are some important lessons that can be learned through watching it. There is a strongly developed sense of right and wrong that pervades the product that we see, and it is very easy for children to pick up on that. It teaches the lesson that life can be a struggle, and the good guys don’t always win, but that it’s important to do the best you can. It proves that the impossible can be possible, and that dreams can come true. It provides heroes and role models in their eternal struggle against the villains trying their best to defeat them. In many ways, wrestling presents the same sort of moralistic storytelling that is presented in comic books, only live and in Technicolor.

This is one of the main reasons I am so strongly in favor of the PG product that the WWE is focusing on presenting right now. The lines between good and evil are more clearly drawn again, and it provides a strong undercurrent in basic morality that children can latch onto and follow. The edgier product of years gone by was great in its own way, but it’s not something that I would want to have my child grow up on. While Stone Cold may have been one of the best of all time, the idea that he was the good guy while spouting profanity and breaking all the rules is not the best example for a small child to follow.

This may sound strange coming from me, considering I am a huge fan of profanity and all its myriad uses, but even I know I’ll have to curb my tongue around the child. I think that wrestling in its PG form is more family-friendly, and it harkens back to the larger-than-life characters I grew up watching and idolizing. I love dick jokes, but I don’t need them in my wrestling; I have Kevin Smith movies for that. I love scantily clad women, but I don’t need them in my wrestling; I have the internet for that. Slapstick comedy and family-friendly entertainment combined with jaw-dropping feats of athleticism is the wrestling product that I want to be able to share with my kids.

“With arms wide open, Now everything has changed.
I’ll show you love, I’ll show you everything.
With arms wide open. With arms wide open.”

I have always been a big fan of the WWF wrestling characters of the early 90′s; the period referred to as The New Generation. I am not suggesting that wrestling go back to using such over-the-top and cartoony characters as Mantaur or Adam Bomb, but taking the product back in a more kid-oriented direction is a smart move. The fact is that many of the people who grew up loving that period in wrestling history are now having children of their own, and they want to share the experience they had with their own young ones. A PG product allows parents to share wrestling with their children without having their parenting skills so easily called into question.

Even for older fans, and those not presently worrying about what their children are watching on television, the PG product is not all bad. If you look at the product from the 80′s and early 90′s, and look at the product today, you can clearly see that while both are classified as PG programming, there is a lot more pushing of the envelope today than there was a couple of decades past. This reflects the natural progression of society to a more edgy one, and is to be expected. I don’t find myself enjoying the product any less now that the TV rating has changed, and in many ways find it more appealing because of the return to the basics.

I still find myself cheering for whoever I like without regard for which side of the Good Guy vs. Bad Guy line they inhabit, but I think I’ll be a little more careful about that around my kids. I may still love CM Punk and despise John Cena with the fire of a thousand suns, for most of the same reasons I loved Roddy Piper and hated Hulk Hogan, but I’ll keep those feelings to myself when watching with the youngins. I am looking forward to crying tears of sadness mixed with joy at seeing my kid mark out for John Cena for the first time. Though a part of me will want to scream, nothing will make me happier than to see my little Lowercase M acting out the “you can’t see me” motions along with his or her hero on the screen the way I used to mimic Shawn’s muscle pose as he entered the ring. These are the moments that I am looking forward to the most.

“Time is a wheel in constant motion
Always rolling us along.
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder
Where those years have gone.”

Today, Lady M and I went through the Parents’ Class offered at the local hospital here for expecting couples. It went over a lot of the typical information about labor, some short practice in breathing exercises, and how to bathe the new baby. Perhaps it was the fact that the course was given in Japanese, and our translator spent more time nodding in agreement than interpreting what was said, but as the class went on I found myself feeling very overwhelmed. Then, at the end of the class, they asked the big question.

Are you ready?

Once the opening bars of the DX theme finished playing through my head, the first answer that popped into my head is, “I’ve got less than a month to go. I’d better be.” We’ve got the clothes, the crib, the bottles, pacifiers, and blankets. We’ve got the names picked out, so whether we have a boy or a girl, we’re ready for it. We’ve got most of the 736 different pieces of paperwork that are required to have a foreign baby in Japan prepared and ready. This is only a slight exaggeration, by the way. If we don’t have our child registered with the federal government here within 14 days of birth, they will deport the baby. Not the parents, just the baby. Forget Tommy Dreamer; that’s Hardcore.

Honestly, I think we are just about as prepared as we can possibly be. The problem is that’s not the question they asked. Being prepared and being ready is not the same thing. The fact that I have wanted kids since I was 15 years old does not even remotely equate to being ready to be a father. There is no doubt in my mind that no one is truly ready to take that first step into parenthood, because no matter how well-prepared you may be, there is a certain readiness that only experience can bring.

“If I had just one wish, Only one demand
I hope he’s not like me, I hope he understands
That he can take this life, And hold it by the hand
And he can greet the world, With arms wide open…”

There is one thing that I am sure of, however, and that is for the first time in my life, I feel I am finally in a place in life where I can properly provide for a child. No more living below the poverty line on a sickly graduate student stipend, and finally in a steady position that is stable and offers me enough flexibility to start a family. In this very real and very important sense, I would have to say yes. I am ready to be a father.

The question of readiness, however, isn’t nearly as important to me as the other questions left running through my head. Will I be a good father? Will my kid turn out ok? Will they like the same things I like? Will they have similar outlooks on life that I do? Will they love me as much as I love them? Will they grow up into someone I can be proud of? When they look back, will they see me as a good father?

I’ve been asking myself these questions in the abstract for years, and only now are they becoming real to me. I want more than anything to be the kind of father to them that I’ve always wished I had. I’ve prayed to powers I haven’t quite come to terms with, nor am I sure whether or not they exist. I have made promises to myself that I will give everything I have to make sure that my children have everything they could need, and all the love I can provide. When prayers become promises, that’s when miracles are born.

Will I be a good father? I’m ready to find out.

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Sunday, August 29th, 2010 at 11:45 am • ETDR, WrestlingRSS 2.0 feed Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Enter The Dream Realm: Rebirth – Vol. Three: With Arms Wide Open / I Hope You Dance”

  1. [...] Enter The Dream Realm: Rebirth – Vol. Three: With Arms Wide Open / I Hope You Dance [...]

  2. Nice informartions. Read from my mobile phone lol. Thanks