As we age, our bodies changes. We watch our friends and acquaintances succumb to age, weight gain, bad luck and bad decisions….interestingly, it takes most of us way too long time to conclude that most of these outcomes are really bad decisions, not bad luck. There is a temptation to play the denial card. “this is just part of life…everyone goes through it a some point,” bounces through our mind like a game of pong. The truth is, we KNOW that there is a chance that we are wrong….dead wrong. Seeing that your most production years are either in progress or behind you creates a flood of emotion that we don’t know how to express…especially as men. The regrets show up, along side the guilt. They look like this.
You see a wealthy businessman and mumble, “dang,I wish I had made the sacrifices he did. My family’s world would be a lot differently if I had money now for…..”
You watch a documentary on someone’s life and you yearn for their courage to dump what was their equivalent of the status quo and go out on a crazy limb to do what ended up making their way into the space between your ears. And, even if you never tell anyone, you are jealous. I am jealous of John Muir.
Our early years prepare us for adulthood. Adulthood prepares us for the more rigorous work of getting our soul in order. These folks who trigger feelings in us have learned how to live life and get their souls in order.
During my latest workout on Saturday am, I turned off the music and rode my bike on a relatively deserted road for 2 hours. Questions put on their Sunday best and showed up in my mind, like uninvited guests. “Is your soul in order, or do you have moments of unadultered envy?” Sure, getting my body ready to race like there is no tomorrow is what all this training is all about, but why do it if my soul isn’t in order? If our soul is in order, envy and jealousy don’t exist.
Hours later, I watched my oldest son display “earnings envy,” during a car ride to a football game a few hours after my long bike ride. He heard how much money one of his peers was making, and he was jealous. Pretty normal behavior for a 20 something. I tried to encourage him, but he wasn’t up for it. Reminders to him that he has no debt, college paid for, in full, a girl who is ready to marry him and more money in his savings account and brokerage accounts than he knows what to do with. He was a decorated and adored athlete in college, and graduated with honors and distinction. Oh, most certainly, he has a great world that others envy, but he doesn’t see that. He only sees what he doesn’t have. I decided to be honest with him.
“Why don’t you quit your job, move to NYC with Lauren. She can be a dancer and you can get a job in sales up there,” I said. The next sentence was the one that was more important, and it was the heart of my message.
“Michael, you will never regret it quitting your job and moving to New York City, nor will you forget it.” He knows that I did it when I was his age, and I talk fondly of what I learned from dumping all that I knew and jumping into the melting pot called NYC.
No comment. He said nothing at all. Nada.
I wanted to share more, give him reasons to go. But they were my reasons, not his. Game over. I hate parenting 20 somethings…
It takes risk to get your soul in order. You have to take risks that are non-incidental. In his case, it would mean moving to a place where he knew no one and spending a lot of money before he gets his first paycheck. It is too much for him. When he rejects my ideas, I can’t help but look into a mirror and wonder why he won’t “listen” to my wisdom. Why won’t he follow my lead? Did I fail somewhere as a parent?
“Why don’t you want to go off with Lauren to NYC?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he says, without emotion of any sort. He just doesn’t think about that as a choice.
“Jeff!” my wife says, in a way only she can. When she says it that way, it means, “You are now ordered to cease and desist this line of questioning!” Every woman has a way of saying this. Hers is a single word that just so happens to double as my name. It is also the same sound she uses when she needs me to kill a spider in the bathtub and the sound she whispers when I bring home flowers, unannounced, preferably when I am trying to get lucky.
I give up on this one, for now. I cannot get his soul in order. Instead, I lean back and try to take a nap. Over the next hour, He asks my wife question after question about getting his first mortgage, and before the day is done, we are comparing amortization schedules on mortgage products. She was a banking hot shot for many years, so asking her does make sense.
He isn’t ready for the sort of thinking that asks questions that eventually connect back to getting your soul in order.
Mine came from an email telling me I was ready for the National Championship. OK, it didn’t say that, but it is what I heard.
When I got the notification that I had qualified for this race, magic occurred. I got motivated and began doing things with earnest that I used to do only half ass. I got a coach…a real person that costs money, and I abandoned trying to do things myself. I began scheduling my exercise publicly, right in the middle of my work calendar for all my employees and business partners to see. I have even shared with a customer that I couldn’t meet at that time, as I have a scheduled Pilates appointment with Heather…..all the while hoping that they didn’t know what Pilates was. Of course, the customer didn’t was clueless and perhaps just thought I as going to see a therapist or something. I now have a recurring appointment for Power Yoga on my calendar, in addition to running, cycling and Pilates. I feel like I am doing ballerina stuff while trying to smoke cigars.
Magic doesn’t always take the form it is expected to take, either. I went pants shopping with my wife, based on her claims that mine don’t fit anymore. She made me try on 10,546 different pair of pants before we got what she wanted me to wear….I am a weenie, right? The magic was that they were 2 sizes smaller in the waist than any of my other pants, and they were still loose. My son gave me back a belt he borrowed a few months ago, and I needed to use the last hole in it to hold up my new pants. How many 47 year old men find a 32 inch waist to be “loose fitting?” I always knew that I could be this lean, but I didn’t have a reason to proceed to that level. My soul wasn’t in order.
My thoughts drifted back to the bike ride earlier today, when I took off head phones and heard my spirit speak. When I was done with the ride, I got off and did a practice transition….I started counting the second after I hopped off my bike. I counted out loud. I put my bike in the back of my pickup truck, took off my helmet, put on my running shoes and dropped my gloves. I ran left out of my driveway and looked at my watch.
18 seconds. Last year’s national champion did it in 20 seconds.
I pushed my new Garmin 910 watch’s button to switch from Bike road to run mode, and I took off down our country road. I ran for a quarter mile then turned around to come back. I decided to kick it the entire way back to the truck. When I hit the Garmin’s stop button, I had achieved a flat 6:00 minute per mile rate….this is after cycling for 40 miles. Last year’s national champion average 6:20 after a 22 mile bike ride.
I teared up. I did it. Competitive events, back to back, in a classy fashion. Faulty medial rotation, lack of flexibility and too much fat around my midsection distracted me. I may not win, but I am now a winner.
It was confidence that was missing. I could have done this last year, or in the last decade. It took an email from the USAT telling me that I qualified for the National Championship before I took myself seriously, deserving of a priority. My soul wasn’t in order.
I daydream. I think about taking a group of men through this spiritual and emotional process….some of it is even physical. I am thinking about doing an Iron-man. No, no, no. I am thinking about taking a group of men through this process that I am not done with, and ending it with an iron-man. Call us “Legacy.” I want to attract men who want to leave a legacy to their family that doesn’t include the status quo….
My wife has always wanted to go to Hawaii…maybe she will say, “Jeff!” in a nicer way when I suggest coming with me to Kona Hawaii for an Iron-man.