John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XXVI

(Image: Touchstone Pictures)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, with a new story about family, community, and carpe diem.


Back in junior high and high school, I got a reputation for being lazy. I slept late; I was rarely out of bed before noon on the weekends. I remember showing up for my morning high school classes fifteen minutes late, unshowered, hair sticking out in strange bushiness, in a fog, and full of self-disgust.

Looking back, I was not lazy; during that time, I had a buried molestation I wasn’t dealing with and had a divorced, depressed momma I was doing the best I could to care for. The truth was, I secretly did not believe I was up to the task of life.

At that age, you don’t know, or think that, you are depressed or have too much anxiety, you are just being yourself as best you can. If your parents have their own emotional chaos and busy lives to deal with, well, the emotional lives of kids of my generation were neglected at best.

Back in the day, I am not sure how far back that day was or if I only imagined it happened. But at some point, in some cultures, I hope there were strong communities that were able to rally around a family or people in crisis. Back in my day, looking from this side of time, very few families were not in some kind of crisis most of the time.

There is still a little bit of that “lazy” in me still, or was even a few months ago. I woke up a while back and looked at my dog Totes and just felt sad and fell back to sleep for an hour or so, just like back in junior high when the lawn needed mowing and I was afraid I could not get the mower started, or the thing mowed and messed up in some major way. Without a dad around at that age to guide me through it, I just felt there was nowhere to turn for help.

Totes obviously needed groomed, his toes clipped, and a trip to the vet would not have hurt a bit. I did not have the money for it, was too proud to ask for money, still not sure I wanted money after spending all that time on the streets. I still had my mom to care for in her old age which I was resenting probably more than I should and was wanting to be more organized in how I help my homeless friends. On top of that, wondering how to take my writing seriously.


Looking back, I was not lazy …. The truth was, I secretly did not believe I was up to the task of life.


With the spiritual and emotional work I have been doing, I feel what you might call a natural confidence moving in and more humility which makes it far more easy for me to ask for help.

Totes always has enough food and water. He also gets a ton of affection and love, probably more than he wants since my last breakup. I was fussing and worrying over him last night and finally gave myself a break and allowed myself some forgiveness for his neglect.

I am a little sad, still, that he has not received the care he so richly deserves. You, too, richly deserve the best of care. It is something you can and must do for yourself. I also have developed some nurturing friendships that I turn to when in need of affection and care.

A big thank you to Hayley Calvert. I reached out to her to get Totes nails cut again. She has a ton of experience with animals and was very tender with Totes.

Like many of you, I was a parentified child trying to care as best I could to care for parents in emotional crisis with no real community around them to help them through it. Am I a natural caregiver? I am not sure anymore.

As I like and care for myself more, I understand I have just a ton of interests and things I enjoy doing. I feel like I have been ignoring the adventure side of myself. But I am also establishing a belief in myself, a person who can handle with some gusto, actually, whatever the world cares to throw my way.

My family? I guess you could use the word “dysfunctional,” but I have been reestablishing myself within its structure in a more healthy, loving, and kind way. Eventually, I would love to help build a community that can support people and families in crisis.

Carpe Diem: “seize the day,” I believe, is the translation of that Latin phrase I learned from watching Dead Poets Society. I always loved it, what a blessing to be living it just a little.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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