Posts Tagged life struggles

The other side of the river

Every once in a while, something insightful crosses my path that I feel compelled to share. In Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, the main character asks a ferryman to carry him across a river. Symbolizing the escape from his previous life, He, like Odysseus returning from the underworld by way of the river, Styx, arrives on the other side at a new beginning; a new chapter in his life. I think we could all shed baggage that has been weighing us down for far too long; I would like to be a better me. I wrote this poem for an exercise in class today.

The river’s edge calls me softly to cross,
I cannot see the other side.
First my toe, cold- then my knees
The icy touch of the water cuts into my body
As I sink deeper.
Now at the waist, I feel the current;
It pulls me toward the middle.
My heart beats with trepidation as the bottom drops;
I am treading water.
I can go forward or retreat to what I know.
I begin to swim.


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Embracing the suck of an intergalactic fracture

Stardate: 58365.1 Sector 001, Atlanta. It was 4 degrees Celsius and I was dressed in shorts, a long sleeve t-shirt, and Mizuno running shoes. It was the Atlanta Marathon and I knew I could run the distance. As I started from Turner Field, I paced myself- not running too quickly with the lead pack. I’d been in that situation before, but 26.2 miles meant careful planning. At mile fifteen, a monkey jumped on my back but I had enough energy to run over and hug daughter, 9.2 to go. When I hit “Cardiac Hill” (for those of you familiar with the Peachtree Road Race) I slowed to a crawl. Then, cramps… I had to make it. As I rounded Capitol Avenue to see the Olympic Rings, I told my running companion, “Let’s make this count…,” and sped across the finish line with family cheering. That’s what a race feels like. That’s why we do it.

With training, setbacks come and go; each one seems like it’ll be the end of the road. You take two steps back for every one forward. Then the next race appears on the horizon and you know it is a goal worth reaching. Whether it is a fun run or an Ironman, each runner takes a challenge to push themselves farther and faster than before to earn the intrinsic reward of achievement. You spend hours in the pool, miles on the road, and days of recovery only to be sidelined by an insidious, barely visible crack that runs through your tibia and the doctor suggests surgery.

This is not my first rodeo, daughter and son barely know the “healthy” me, having seen me undergo surgery after surgery to repair the “blue light special” fracture of the day. Health is not a goal, it is a drive to meet the needs of my family; but I do not train to become healthy. It may be a side-effect, a good one; but, I train to embrace the suck. To prove to myself I can be stronger, faster, smarter.

Wife is the real victim; she works harder to help the kids, care for me, and perform well at work.  She is my Lt. Commander Nella Doran to my Captain Picard. Picard opened his heart up once and it was worth it; my wife is worth every moment we spend together.

Today is Halloween, and I am going to dress as wife’s husband, and son and daughter’s father. You don’t need a costume to make that look good. Sometimes, you just need to show up. The next race is the May 11, 2013 11Global Olympic Triathlon at Lake Oconee. I’ll be there because sometimes you just need to show up.

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Money and the Art of War

This morning I received a check for $180 for doing some part-time work outside my profession. While it felt crisp in my hands, I began to drift off imagining how it could be spent and how happy I would be to possess something “new”. Before I finished texting wife, I was told how I’d be spending it. Normally that isn’t such a bad idea, since I make rash decisions and need reining in from time to time.

Social psychologists say that money is often at the heart of disagreements. The acquisition of wealth and how to use it has led from domination to abomination over the last 10,000 years. Needless to say, I don’t believe many people want less; however, I guess I feel like I should want less. Listening to a podcast about Lord of the Rings, I discovered that Tolkien fifty years ago was disenfranchised with the notion that people often are glamoured by the idea of getting a shiny bauble. As long as it’s new.

How times haven’t really changed. Everyone always complains about the kids today. It is as if the older we get, the greater the disdain for the younger generation becomes. Someone said in a meeting today that kids think cell phones are a God-given right. Perish the thought of silencing them during class! I remember being told that video games were going to ruin our minds; I still hear THAT rhetoric. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

Getting back to money, though; it’s not like I overspend every month and get us in financial straits; I don’t feel like I buy a lot of “things”. It seems that I buy more and more services. For example, Netflix and SiriusXM costs us monthly; do I really need those? Luckily, I just shaved $50 per month off our internet and phone lines. Does that mean we can buy more stuff? No, sadly, I think it means that it dissolves into the greater stash of money we use every month. As our pastor asks when he’s trying to collect tithes, “Is there too much month at the end of your paycheck?”

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Playing through the Pain

Seven years ago this Fall, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to train for and complete a marathon, a road race 98% of people never finish. This was a dream fulfilled that began in 1976 when my father ran the New York Marathon. The reason I feel fortunate resides in the fact that it took my family and friends to sacrifice in order for me to attain my goal; without them, I may not have finished. Throughout the training, there were days I felt sore, fatigued or even injured. It took some consideration to know which one was the answer to why my performance that day suffered. I never, though, played through the pain because that is a recipe for disaster.
Unfortunately, many youth athletic teams have forgotten this. Too frequently, athletic programs desire success so much that the players suffer. Someone recently asked me why we have athletics in high school. The answer is that coaches are building character within their athletes, but that seems to have been lost at some point. When parents try to dictate the way a coach should manage the team, the leadership has become misplaced.
Then I ask, if athletics build character, what should we do about those who are not interested in scoring that next point or racing past the other team? I think someone needs to figure out how to build character in today’s youth. When we play through the pain, we should bear down and finish our goals. We need to teach our kids that finishing and achieving goals won’t be the easy route to success, but it will be more rewarding. If we teach them to dream big, they will achieve.

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Making effort look easy

Today as I struggle with my education goals, I was reminded that a simple pat on the back just sometimes doesn’t work. Since we were little, we were told to stop worrying about the skinned knee, get up, wipe our tears, and move on. I think that it has always been a conspiracy transmitted from one generation to the next that says, “Life is easy.”

It Ain’t.

If I could I would ask my two children to go back to their first steps across the room and ask them if it was easy. I bet they’d say it wasn’t. Yet, we have been conditioned to believe that the next greatest product will alleviate our suffering and make our life easier. Everyone who knows me says I live with my technology so that I am never unplugged. I was told the iPhone and iPad were going to make my life easier. Wow, has it got more complex than ever. Now, when I don’t answer the phone, my wife can GPS me at the track and remind me that we still need bread and milk.

Seriously, though.

When people tell me how I have worked hard, I always took the self-deprecating route and gave an “Aw, shucks…” If we achieve our goals then we should be proud of them. I was recently told that the reason no one worries about other people is that they are too busy with their own crap to care. Sometimes, it is not bragging to let people know you’ve done something. If you helped someone become a better person because of it, then shout it from the rooftops. If you fought with your child over their vegetables, take a bow and welcome to the club. Let’s get busy making it look easy.

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