This edition of My Monday Morning Cup is bound to be a little late due to some plumbing issues here at the hacienda and an unexpected email conversation between old friends about the late Leon Russell. A bunch of us who have known each other a long time, at least since the 1980s, got caught up reflecting on Leon Russell and his contribution to music as well as his being from Tulsa. Apparently, Leon went to school with David Gates, who some of you musicologists and audiophiles might remember from the band Bread and their hit songs like “Make It with You,” “Let Your Love Go,” and “If.” Gates and Leon Russell knew each other, having made the rounds playing at bars in the local Tulsa area.
Up on the Tightrope
Leon, who began performing at age 14 around Tulsa, and he and the likes of J.J. Cale, Elvin Bishop, Jesse Ed Davis, Gus Hardin, David Teegarden, and Roy Clark were instrumental in shaping the Tulsa Sound, a mix of rockabilly, country, rock-n-roll, swamp music, and blues. In the late 1950s, Leon moved out to California where he became a sought-after session musician, primarily on piano and as a member of the loosely organized Wrecking Crew. From there, Leon began to write more songs, collaborating with numerous artists, including Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, and Elton John. Leon had a long, illustrative career, never bending to the status quo, and throughout remaining an independent spirit.
For me, the song that most often comes to mind when I think of Leon Russell is “This Masquerade.” It was the B-side to his huge 1972 hit, “Tightrope.”
“Are we really happy here/With this lonely game we play? /Looking for words to say/Searching but not finding understanding anywhere/We’re lost in a masquerade…”
The song reflects on the masks we where in our daily lives, putting up facades and living out under pretenses. Too often, we want people to be what we want them to be, rather than letting them be who they are. Which brings me to Dak Prescott, the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
Willing to Let Go of the Masquerade
Dak caught a lot of flack recently, in particular from the opinionated, oft-obnoxious, sports commentator Skip Bayless, for speaking openly about his bouts with anxiety and depression, in light of his older brother Jace, who took his own life earlier this year. Bayless claims he doesn’t want to see his leaders and heroes display any chink in their armor, fearing that somehow this will undermine their success, and thus the success of the people they lead.
A mental illness affecting nearly 20% of the population at any given moment, depression significantly impacts someone’s ability to function. It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, worthlessness, and hopelessness. Depression comes in many forms and sizes. Depression can lead to job loss, dropping out of school, distancing from friends and family, and changes in sleep and appetite.
Left untreated, the consequences of depression can be devasting and fatal.
Common Symptoms of Depression
- Feeling sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, or generally pessimistic.
- Feeling more irritable than normal.
- Not doing the things you used to enjoy because you have no interest and/or motivation.
- Feeling easily fatigued or generally lacking energy.
- Experiencing changes in your sleep and/or appetite.
- Having difficulty thinking, making decisions, concentrating, or remembering things.
- Having an increase in physical ailments with no medical reason or evidence as to why.
- Thinking of death or suicide.
The good news about depression is that it is treatable if people are willing to address it and if they have an avenue to get the help the need.
To his credit, Prescott stuck to his guns and bravely continued to share about his struggles with anxiety and depression, two ailments I have seen rise dramatically in my chaplain work since COVID-19 attacked the world. Prescott shared his recent battles with the public, recognizing that people needed to hear his story and that by sharing is journey openly, he might make a positive impact on our continued growing understanding of mental health issues. Perhaps, by being vulnerable, Dak might even save a life.
In leading the men’s ministry group at my home church and through ministering to men in the workplace, I know firsthand how hard it is for men to be vulnerable and risk letting down their mask. We like to think of ourselves as heroes, ten-foot-tall and bullet proof. We want those we love to feel secure and safe in our arms, knowing that whatever comes our way, we got this. Unfortunately, below the surface lurks an enemy called depression, that often starts with loneliness and discouragement.
Continued stretches on the roads of discouragement and loneliness lead nowhere good. Nothing good ever happens when a man is alone. God knew that in the beginning when He saw Adam in the Garden and fashioned a helpmate for him named Eve. “It’s not good for man to be alone,” the Lord said.
Answering the Call for Authentic Leadership
Prescott is right. We need to be willing to have these honest conversations. Mental health is a growing and significant issue at home, in the workplace, and elsewhere. Those in leadership, like Dak, need to let down the façade and be real with those they lead and those who adore them. That’s what authentic leadership looks like in the 21st century. Kudos to Dak for finding the courage to speak openly and in a way that gets us all talking.
Resources for Help
Know that YOU are LOVED. You don’t have to face life’s difficulties alone. There are people who are ready and willing to help you. Call one of the numbers above or reach out to a trustworthy friend or family member. Reach out to your local church.
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