There is one moment in my childhood that I return to as often as possible—and I bring anyone who will come with me.
Squaring Up to the Moment In a mid ’70s locker room, I stand with my father—nearly 300 pounds of man wrapped in wrestling spandex from the waist down. His broad bare torso topped by the head of a gentle yeti. He reaches down, puts his big hand around mine, and squares our shoulders up to the moment. Hand in hand we walk toward two closed doors. Light and noise pour through the cracks, carrying the energy of a sold-out stadium to my little heart. We take our unevenly matched steps until we are standing just a few feet away from the thin, movable barriers.
“The Ballad of Moondog Mayne” rushes out of the loudspeakers. That’s my dad’s cue. He squeezes my hand, let’s it go, tells me to stay with the two men standing at our side. He shakes out his muscles and nerves—even his dispensable ties to reality—in one powerful motion. Then he flips the switch, becoming the larger-than-life alter ego he’s paid to pilot, just before the doors open. Out he steps into a glorious, riotous, magical, real-life fiction—while I am guided briskly down another hallway.
Sides On the other side of those doors, men and women hang over railings, holding signs, shouting words, shaking fists, smiling, gesturing, and, most of all, believing. They believe the man who was holding my hand a minute earlier is Moondog Mayne: a heel, a loose cannon, a wildman, a professional wrestler.
In reality, he is a family man, an entertainer, a kind heart, a hero.
That moment, shared firsthand with my father, is not without my mother’s unforgettable influence as well. Even now, I can feel her concern and love and pure motherly interest penetrating the sweaty, macho, powder keg of an atmosphere that brewed beyond those doors.
In that moment I have the love of two parents—and a view into a world that most only see the half of. Energy and emotion hit me from all sides. I want to remain by my dad’s side as he steps through those doors and the adrenaline spikes. I want to feel the intense support of a stadium’s worth of people. I want to be involved in an event with an outcome everyone is hopelessly interested in.
I want to feel my own little actions directing the flow of a city’s emotions, the same way my father’s entry, his ringside manner, and his very words could burst clouds and send cheers and howls raining into the ring.
Stepping Out My entire life I have been trying to walk through those doors—to emerge from the place of preparation and put my energy into actions that can steer the hearts of people. Since that moment, I have envisioned taking my place in the ring to create an experience worth such a generous investment of emotional capital.
Physically, I will never see those doors again, but, symbolically, they’re hanging on my door frame at home. Thinly, they separate me and my family from the wild arena we simply call “our day.” Its glow, its sounds, and its believing crowds of people await us outside. Every morning we wake up and prepare for it. We fill our minds and hearts with as much readiness as we can muster before “The Ballad of Moondog Mayne” plays—and it’s time to step out.
The patterns we keep, the commutes we drive, the responsibilities we oversee, and the people we work with so consistently (especially them) provide the audience, the counterparts, the “faces,” the “heels,” the storylines, the props, and every opportunity we need to create an experience worth believing in.
This is where we envy no one. Even the rock stars, poets, entertainers, and athletes—who spend their days swimming in emotions, publicity, and glory—have nothing we don’t.