My name is Clint Reese. I’m a Professional Development Trainer, Keynote Speaker, entrepreneur, husband, father, and this is my first blog, The Rubber Band Ball Blog.
Why is this called ‘The Rubber Band Ball Blog’? Let’s find out!
I was 15 once, for about a year. You too? Neat.
I wasn’t any different than most 15- year olds. I went to school, played sports, hung out with friends, had a “girlfriend”, and generally struggled with the hormonal and emotional angst that plagues most adolescents.
That changed very dramatically one morning. I woke up with a pounding headache and terrible stomach pains. My mother, leery of me wanting to play hookie for another day of school was hesitant to believe me, but after some convincing she took me to our family doctor.
Quickly and miraculously he diagnosed me with what he thought could be meningitis and sent me and my now terrified mother off the closest ER. If you aren’t familiar, meningitis can lead to paralysis, coma, and death – definitely not something to mess around with. It’s a strange feeling to be conscious of your own skeleton. I felt like I was being cooked from the inside out. After a few painful hours of testing and needles of varying intimidation levels meningitis was confirmed, but I also had a severe outbreak of shingles covering my shoulders, chest, abdomen, and hips. This was serious.
Without knowing if the meningitis and shingles combo were symptoms of a worse unknown virus I was put on full quarantine protocol, in a very odd place, the geriatric ward. Perhaps the thinking was if I was going to take out an entire wing of the hospital…
The outlook wasn’t good. I couldn’t eat, and if I did I couldn’t keep it down. I couldn’t sleep, and if I did I was awoken by pain or doctors or machines monitoring every vital imaginable. I started to try to make peace with the fact I might not make it. I wondered what the news story would look like, wondered if my name would go in medical journals for the next time this happened to someone, and wondered what dying would feel like. It was a very dark time for this unremarkable 15-year old.
One day, a young Patch Adams type doctor probably fresh out of his residency came in (donned in full quarantine attire mind you) and sat down on the hospital bed next to me. He said, “I know this is a hard time for you. I can’t even imagine what you must be thinking.” Then he handed me a bag of rubber bands, “here, I want you to make a rubber band ball. It’ll help take your mind off of what you’re going through.” And so… I did… and it did.
After a grueling 8-week stay in quarantine I was released from the hospital and put on strict bedrest. I was not out of the woods yet. Having lost 50lbs and still potentially carrying the mystery virus I was given “medicine”. The “medicine” was delivered via pick line that ran up my arm, through my shoulder, and directly into my heart. You see, the “medicine” was so strong that it was technically poison. It had to be delivered directly into my heart for immediate distribution because if it pooled up anywhere it would burn through me like battery acid. Awesome.
My mother was tasked with injecting me with this venom every few hours for about two weeks. During the post Patch Adams days still in quarantine, and the days of laying on the couch waiting for my next
dose, I worked on the rubber band ball. Slowly but surely each rubber band became symbolic, and I began assigning memories to each rubber band ball.
I thought about playing outside when I was a kid and going to the creek by our house to catch tadpoles and craw-dads (crayfish to you non-southerners). I thought about riding my bike to my cousin’s house and playing G.I. Joes in the mud. I thought about when my parents got divorced. Every memory got a rubber band on the ball, good or bad. Same with people – I thought about everyone at my high school, all of my family, and every person I thought about got a dedicated rubber band on the ball.
When I was finally freed of my poisonous medicine, pain, anguish, and fear of death the rubber band ball was the size of a small basketball and weighed about 12 or 13lbs. I donned it my good luck rubber band ball, and it has never left my side (by that I mean shelf in my closet mostly). Throughout my career, if I had any kind of slump, out came the good luck rubber band ball. If it got me through meningitis and shingles, surely a slow sales month would be no match for its power.
What I realized along the way is what the rubber band ball really is; a metaphor for our lives. We are a culmination of our memories, thoughts, interactions, fears, hopes, relationships, joys, sorrows, successes, and failures. I’m a firm believer in letting the past stay there, but it’s undeniable that the accumulation of experiences and lessons is who we are.
Dear reader, you are your thoughts. You are your memories. You are everything you’ve done up to this point.
While I was in the hospital nearly 20 years ago I was plagued with the question of ‘why?’. Why me? Why now? Why did God or kharma or coincidence allow this to happen to me? WHY? It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized the question for times like these in our lives, through physical pain, emotional struggles, financial hardships, or a combination of everything at once…we must not ask why, we must ask ‘HOW?’. How do I get through this? How do I make it to the other side? But then, how do I take this sadness, this failure, this pain…how do I use it to make my life better and make the lives of those around me better as well?
No matter what you’re going through or went through, figuring out the way to turn that time or that event into a motivator to better yourself and others is an emboldening, empowering, and fulfilling skill capable of changing not only your life but the world around you. You have only one ‘rubber band ball’, you have only one life, you have only one heart, you have only one soul. The question is HOW…are you going to use it?
Thank you for reading. I don’t intend for all of my blogs to be this long, but I wanted to tell you this story. The goal is to write a few planned blogs per month as well as just going for it when the moment strikes. My hope is that my stories, opinions, thoughts, and words will help you in some way or give you information you never thought about or at the very least put a smile on your face.
Ask ‘HOW?’ and make today yours!