John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XXXVII: This Kind of Jujitsu

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, writes about “jujitsu” with family and friends and mask mandates.


I was talking to my mom through the window at Royal Plaza and she expressed a desire for a caramel sundae. (Side note: first, I couldn’t spell “caramel” and instead typed “carmel” and then I typed in “sunday” and knew that wasn’t right but could not figure out “sundae,” to give you an idea of how my mind works).

Anyway, I told her that McDonald’s was just up the hill and that it would take two minutes to get her a caramel sundae. Well, there was a long line at McDonald’s and the night staff took five minutes answering the door. So, “two minutes” turned into ten which turned into fifteen.

Mom said something about, “That was a long two minutes.” Then she got upset that I didn’t find her comment funny.

My mind has been well trained in this kind of jujitsu. I instantly and automatically have a clever retort for anything anybody says. This is, of course, a kind of defense mechanism. But I am starting to wonder who and what it is that I am defending against?


My mind has been well trained in this kind of jujitsu. I instantly and automatically have a clever retort for anything anybody says.


I felt the old familiar anger at my mom as I approached the facility this evening, but it was less. And as I recognized I was feeling the emotion, it began to disappear. I think the anger is tied to the jujitsu some, but also maybe a perceived lack of appreciation. “Thanks for the sundae, it hit the spot,” would have been nice. But, other times, she will be so overly appreciative and gushy and I just want her to shut up.

Some of you may know that my uncle is on the city council and I was trying to talk him out of voting for a mask mandate. I had my scientific data and arguments all in a row. He was not having it, however, as many of you are not having it.

After I left his company, I thought, I am tired of defending myself. I still firmly believe that masks and social distancing are dehumanizing and of the devil, and I have discovered that I can defend that belief without it being about myself at all. So, I don’t get so emotionally wound up thinking people should be seeing things my way and pouting when they don’t.

My family and friends are free to see me as they see me, good and bad, and despite how I see myself, without it being about me, so to speak. The way to win at jujitsu is to stay off the mat, I guess is what I am saying.

Anyways, I love my mom and family very much. Mom is doing much better now, and I think will be out of there within a month. Oh, I love all of you too, despite what you may think of me and all the jujitsu we have been through over the years.


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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