• Mike Matson

Free-wheeling

This column was published July 9, 2022 in the Manhattan Mercury.


 

As I was working up the invoice to send to the publisher of The Mercury for services rendered, it occurred to me I have been writing this column for five years.


Before this column, I wrote a blog and posted them on my website. The publisher of this newspaper read them, liked them, and asked if I’d be interested in writing a column for the paper.


Delighted, came the response. Boundaries? “Free-wheeling.” His exact words.


I have tried to live up to that. I have written about family, about my professional experience in Kansas journalism, politics/government, and advocacy. How I think about the world, how it’s changing, how we struggle with that change. All from the heart. The definition of free-wheeling.


I’ve not been shy about sharing my experience in recovery from addiction. Couple reasons. One altruistic, the other, not so much. Maybe my experience will resonate with someone enduring a similar struggle. Plus, I wrote a couple of books about it – one of them in the last five years – and I’ve tried to be subtle about promoting them in this space. If you’re interested, visit my website. The domain is listed in the post-script of this column (or click here.) How’s that for subtle?


Much has happened in five years. My son and daughter-in-law finished their medical residencies in Denver and are now saving lives in Kansas City. Along the way, they started their own family. The oldest is three and the baby just celebrated his first birthday. “I’m too young to be a grandparent” quickly faded and “the boys” are pure joys.

Other tangible changes in five years. During the 90 days we were homebound in the spring of the pandemic, I lost forty pounds. The formula for losing weight is not rocket science. Eat less and exercise more. Gained back thirty within months. I am back on the horse and in the process of losing the post-pandemic thirty, plus the ten that stayed with me.


I experienced some whiplash in the last five years. It was life or death scary when my pulmonary physician son was on the pre-vax front lines. He described it as “standing on a cliff with a shovel, watching an approaching tsunami.” Today, the fear has been replaced with the knowledge that we were all flying blind.


Also experienced some organizational cultural whiplash in my day jobs. I went from working for one of the most politically conservative, hidebound, tradition-driven organizations in Kansas to one of the most progressive, woke, left-leaning systems. There’s a column there, but I haven’t figured out how to write it without alienating one of them.


Yet.


My deadline is every other Thursday at 5 p.m. I am always purposeful about calendaring a specific block of time, in order to meet it. Deadlines are good reminders of commitments I have made to other people and the boundaries established to meet them.


There have been times when I have bumped right up against the deadline, and I can remember only two or three times asking the Merc for a few more hours.


Not free-wheeling.


For five years I’ve told myself I would set aside some time and work up a half-dozen evergreen columns, so I would have one to turn in, on deadline, in especially hectic weeks. Hasn’t happened yet.


I do not know the specific minute-by-minute logistics involved in getting this column published, but since it appears in the Saturday paper and my deadline is 5 p.m. Thursday, logic and common sense tells me the heavy lifting gets done on Friday.


I cannot count the number of times people have shared with me that they enjoy reading my column, and for that I am enormously grateful. To have the ability to arrange seven hundred words in a fashion that impacts people sufficiently that they buttonhole me in the supermarket and tell me about it is humbling.

I suspect I will keep writing it until one of two things happen. Either the publisher or I will have grown weary of all the free-wheeling.


This column is a side hustle. I do not get rich. I earn the same modest sum per column that I agreed to five years ago. I write it because it brings happiness, the pursuit of which has never seemed more important.


Mike Matson’s column appears every other weekend in The Mercury. Follow his writings at mikematson.com

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