During what would become my final season as a professional football player, I felt broken.
Not my body – I had played through all kinds of shit: broken thumbs, high ankle sprains, torn MCL (which I tore on a Sunday afternoon and then proceeded to play on in the Thursday Night game. Fucking stupid.) I’ve played with broken pinkies, broken ribs (another dumbass idea), cracked shoulders (that was stupid), torn rotator cuffs – the list of bad decisions goes on. I’ve always known how to play through an injury, how to get my body good enough to compete. That was easy. (Also, the one time I decided to do the smart thing and shut it down, I found myself quickly cut from the team.) I played hurt my entire career. It was part of the culture.
I’ve played through it all, but the one thing that I never had to play through was a broken spirit. With a broken spirit, I couldn’t call any of my personal medical staff or the trainers on the team. I couldn’t will my way through this one. I had to take time to heal.
Stem machines, cold tubs, massages (which helped a little actually), lasers, stretching – nothing worked. Anti-inflammatory, Advil, Tylenol, Cortisone shots, etc. didn’t either.
Medicine wasn’t the answer.
I needed something different to heal my broken spirit, so I turned to ART.
Art is a powerful medicine; it can do wonders. I saw this in action for myself. Throughout my NFL career, I’ve had the opportunity to visit several hospitals to do art projects with kids who were dealing with much worse diagnoses than my current broken spirit. I watched as art lifted their spirits dramatically. I was desperate for my cure.
I dove into my craft as a creative: painting, writing, filming, music, designing furniture and clothes, taking classes, reading books, watching documentaries and cartoons. One day while looking for an old computer that had hundreds of songs I had previously created on it, I stumbled upon an old box. Inside was a collection of Hayao Miyazaki films that I hadn’t watched in a very long time. The beauty in Studio Ghibli films is unreal.
That same day I told my wife I felt like I needed to go to Japan. It was calling me, I could hear it. What it was saying I honestly had no idea because, obviously, it was calling me in Japanese. All I could make out was Marty-san. A few days later my family and I went to see Takashi Murakami’s exhibit. I am a huge fan of his. I love bright colors, and he’s one of the best at using them. Every time I see his work I leave inspired.
Japan was whispering, “Marty-san something-something-something.” I still didn’t understand Japanese at this point.
A few weeks later I was stepping off a plane on foreign soil. The wife had booked me a solo trip.