John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XLIX: Sabotage

(Photo by Alexandre Lion on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, with a story about feelings of sabotage when trying to compete. 


I was down scolding the city council on Monday for not having a warming shelter, and for keeping six-year-olds in masks. I also urged them to downgrade their pesticide use and replant the butterfly garden they took out of Modi Park.

Afterwards, I went with a buddy to play some pool and have a beer at a nearby downtown bar. Pool is a game I enjoy and might develop some talent in, if I spent more time at it. First game, I scratched on the eight ball. During the second game, I was lining up for a fairly easy shot to win the game.

As I was shooting, I had the thought, You work so very hard, there was a pause in thought as I took my shot. Then the thought finished, at sabotaging your success, entered my mind as my shot went astray and the eight ball refused to find the pocket.

I never consciously sabotage my success, yet it always seems to happen for a variety of subconscious reasons. I imagine lots of people out there are like that?

I ran the 440 in high school. I remember one track meet where I told myself I was going to give it my all and really go for it. I have no idea why I didn’t say that to myself with every race.


I remember one track meet where I told myself I was going to give it my all and really go for it. I have no idea why I didn’t say that to myself with every race. 


I was coming around the back stretch and it was a dead heat between me and this fella from Moscow. It was sunny and I remember people cheering me on. The dead heat continued until our final steps to the finish line. Now, in most races and competitions, I can feel myself giving up a little. But not this time, I was absolutely going for the win. Three steps before the finish line, my right leg gave out from under me. I stumbled and lost by a step.

I was also thinking today about how much I miss running. There was certain peace to it, during training at least. Looking back, I was confident in grade school. I was easily the fastest 600-yard dash guy in Webster during my 6th grade year and I didn’t mind winning at sports. I came in second at the all-city track meet that year to a guy, who it turned out, was a couple of years older than me.

I think going through puberty late in junior high may have stolen some confidence. Those years were a mess for me socially as well. I’m sure they were for most everyone, popular and unpopular alike.

Job and relationship success has always eluded me somehow, but it bothers me much less these days. I am a happy person now, but I would like to let go of this feeling about sabotage.

I know some of it, at least as it relates to competition, has me not at all liking the tension it can create in friendships. Some of it may also have to do with my apprehension at receiving love in the form a good things and success. Or my reluctance to receive love at all. I’m much more comfortable as a giver. I’m sure there is a deserving issue at the core of it.

Here is to healing that core.


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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