Will the 75 Year Old Me Be Happy with the 42 Year Old Me?

I ran a 5K recently. It was my first in a few years.

After the 3.1 miles, while I was grabbing a banana and a bottle of water, I had a short conversation with a guy I ran into there from church.

We both are in our early 40s and lamented the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to force our bodies back into shape after an exercise lay-off.

I said, off-the-cuff, “I figure if I want to be able to do something like this at 75, I better get on it now.”

Photo Credit: MomoFotografi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: MomoFotografi via Compfight cc

There were plenty of guys deep into their 60s and 70s that easily passed me throughout the 3.1 mile race. I want to be one of those guys.

While my initial reaction out on the course when one of these fellows scampered by was sadness and depression, I slowly started finding encouragement, even inspiration.

I want to be running a 5K and lapping some middle-aged dad and encouraging that dad that he needs to bow up and quit being a couch potato.

My mind seldom allows me to stop at my health and fitness. Sure I want to be fit and able to run or play tennis at 75 (don’t get me started on how I’d gotten my butt handed to me quite a few times in the local singles tennis league by men much older than I).

What else do I want to be true of me at 75?

  • How do I envision my marriage at 75?
  • How do I want to relate to my sons and daughter when I’m 75?
  • What do I want to be true of my walk with Jesus at 75?
  • How about my financial situation?
  • And my work… how will I want to look back at my effort and effectiveness at work?

Now, back to present day:

Are the things I’m doing right now leading to the results I want at 75?

Perhaps the more important question is this: Will the things I’m doing now lead to a much better ‘now’? I don’t want to just end up at 75 and be able to be happy with all of my answers.

Sure I want to be a healthy, fit, financially secure, relationally fulfilled old dude. But more importantly, I want to be a healthy, fit, financially responsible, relationally present person right now.

String together enough ‘right nows’ and you’ll end up at 75 pretty pleased with the results.

At least that’s my guess. Let’s see what happens.

 

When The Suburbs Kick Your A**

A slice of North Fulton Suburban Heaven

A slice of North Fulton Suburban Heaven

I realize that most of the problems we have out in the suburbs are first world problems. But problems, as they say, are problems.

And at times the pressure to have it all, crowds out the wisdom of waiting, and in the end, you don’t really have it all. You collect trinkets and debt and borrowed vacations.

I’m a lot like a lot of folks who can’t help but yearn after the ridiculous number of Disney and other vacations that I see fly across my Facebook feed. Seriously. It feels like we’re the only family that, you know, goes to a city park. Everybody else is in Destin or Turks and freaking Caicos. What kind of name is that anyway “Turks and Caicos”?

Of course, when I have had the good fortune to hit a beach, I bombard Instagram too. “See! my family can wear all white and walk along the surf, too! Suck it land-locked losers!” (you can tweet that).

But over time, it starts to weigh me down. First of all, I’m not nearly as materially successful as I was supposed to be at this point. Just ask any of my 3rd level acquaintances on Facebook. I was a smart kid… who chose to be an English major and then go to seminary to change the world. That plan went awry. And my version of smart has been a slow study in the business world.

Now I have that job that all of your kids are dreaming of right now. Right after playing baseball and becoming a ballerina for a living. You guessed it. I sell insurance. And I’m not all that good at it. I’m great at explaining insurance, but I’m not the best salesguy there is.

Consequently, I hover in the middle. We’re just well off enough to live in North Fulton (it’s a nice area), but not quite well off enough to live the North Fulton lifestyle. And what upsets me most is that I actually give a crap about that. The seminary me wouldn’t have cared a whole lot about it, although I did run up some debt back then, too, so apparently I’ve always had a little bit of the consumer in me.

But now with a family, I want to be able to do the soccer thing and get my daughter into dance and post a fun video about surprising the kids when we pick them up at school because we’re going to Disney World. We do some stuff here and there, but Dave Ramsey would probably tell us to watch it. Still, I’m human and I want to do a lot more… for my wife, for my kids (maybe a little more for me too).

Why I call this post ‘When the Suburbs Kick Your Ass’ is this: I’m tired. I’m tired of not feeling like I’m keeping up. Heck. I just want to replace the old railroad tie retaining wall rotting in my backyard and chop a tree or two down so we can play back there. Keeping up isn’t even on the radar. I’m still trying to find my running shoes.  I know they’re around here somewhere.

Perhaps I just have a case of the Mondays. :-) Go back to watching the NCAA Finals.

 

A Time to Start All Over

Lent

I used to laugh at the observance of Lent, but then one year I actually gave up sweets and alcohol during the season (and lost 10 pounds… but that’s not the most important thing I got from the whole exercise).

Who knows what everybody’s motivations are. The idea of giving up stuff for Lent seems to be viewed a lot like having New Year’s resolutions.

You feel guilty after Fat Tuesday and generally punting on your New Year’s resolutions, so Lent’s a good time to reset by focusing on giving up one culinary pleasure: chocolate, beer, sweets in general, red meat, etc.

Some folks go a different route and decide to hit church every Sunday during Lent. Easter provides a final destination, and it’s only a month and a half of Sundays for a couple hours. Easy peasy.

Since I can’t know others’ motivations and I won’t be able to make a solid ‘pro’ argument to my formerly Catholic, now Protestant, friends who shiver a bit at any high church, liturgical traditions, I’ll share a little from, you know, my heart.

A (Very) Brief History of Lent

Some form of fasting practice prior to Easter was first referenced in the writings of St. Ireneaus some time prior to the year 202. When Christianity was legalized after 313, the tradition became more established.

There are some pretty big differences as to dates and numbers of dates and so forth among various ancient Christian traditions, but they all share the same general theme: preparing the heart for Holy Week and the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I spent two years as a youth pastor in an Episcopal turned Anglican Mission in America Church back at the turn of the century (it’s fun to say that). Outside of very vague memories of my Lutheran childhood, those are the only two years I’ve spent in a traditional Christian denomination.

I attended a Pentecostal church in high school and have mostly settled into nondenominational Baptist-y type churches since then. Consequently, there’s not been a big Lenten push from the preachers in most of the churches I’ve been a part of.

For some reason, though, this season has grabbed me. I don’t sit in sackcloth and ashes or do any major fasts, but the older that I get and the more rapidly the earth seems to move under my feet, Lent provides an opportunity to slow down and deal with distractions.

An Opportunity to Ask Questions

  • What is really important to me emotionally and spiritually?
  • What do I really need materially?
  • What do I need physically? What will encourage health? What will slowly kill me if I don’t bring it under control?
  • Of course, how much have I really been reflecting on my faith? For lack of a better way of putting it, how in love am I with Jesus?

The main thing that my recent observances of Lent (and any season where I commit to stripping a few things away) have revealed is that when I get overwhelmed, I have a few crutches I lean on – not all of them healthy.

It’s amazing how the practice, even doing something simple and motivated slightly by vanity, reveals some ugly bits in my heart. It’s amazing how quickly I reach for a snack when I’m having attitudinal issues. It’s amazing how TV is a welcome distraction when certain projects and cares of the world seem impossible (and I’m not talking about one of my children being horribly sick, but something like a bathroom tile project). And yes, I can shout ‘wine time’ as well as any of those snarky mommy bloggers out there at the end of a tough week.

Lent offers a line in the sand and an excuse to remove one or more of these crutches for a bit. I shouldn’t need the excuse, but I guess I do.

Why Just One Time a Year?

Should I be more reflective and commit to consecration more than one 40 day period a year? Sure I should. There are other times that I do, whether anybody knows it or not.

Is it dumb to go through this exercise just because it gets bad press as being silly to remove chocolate, beer or sitcoms for a few weeks? I don’t think so. Not at all.

We can use the practice, even if a new good habit (or a dropping a bad habit) only lasts for around 40 days. Most of us could use the practice. And the older I get, the more I realize none of us approximate perfection nearly as much as we think we do.

Any quality effort toward developing a deeper relationship with God or becoming a generally better person (whatever that means) should always been encouraged.

So here’s to Lent (I’m raising a glass of water because I’ve given up all other liquids – kidding)!

I’d like to challenge you:

Even if you have no faith-based dog in this fight, consider thinking about your absolute top priorities and values.

Focus, for the next 40 days, on the things that are core to who you are and what is most important to you. Don’t stress about attaching a higher purpose or a spiritual component to it if that’s not where you are. But see if you can remove a few things that don’t help you focus on those top priorities and values.

Maybe you’ll get something out of the exercise. I think you will.

By the way, the word “Lent” comes from words that mean spring. That’s when things get to start all over.

In the comments below… If you’d like to share, drop a note if you’re (a) celebrating/observing Lent and (b) what practice you might be taking on or avoiding during the next few weeks. Or (c) if you think it’s all dumb and why.

A Week of Grace

This week is about grace.

I am still working on my most recent commitments:

I’m not adding any more specific to-do type commitments.

Instead, I’m going to focus on being generally more gracious. I need to give myself more grace. I need to push myself, but I also need grace. With any of the habits or goals I’ve set, I need to season it all with a grace that pushes me forward.

More than I realize, I also need to give grace to others.

I don’t harbor a ton of unforgiveness nor am I a hard-driver. You’d be glad to have me at your table if you’re a server. You wouldn’t hate having me for a boss.

Even so, we can always approach life, others, and ourselves with more grace. We can believe the best. We can serve instead of expecting to be served. We can give encouragement when it’s unexpected.

So this week… Grace.

What’s your word for the week? (Leave your response in the comments below)

 

How to Conquer Overwhelm

One of the reasons we struggle with making significant change is this thing called overwhelm. At least, overwhelm is one of my arch-enemies.

Why Overwhelm Is an Enemy

My garage oppresses me (the picture above isn’t mine, though).  Boxes of holiday decorations (from Easter to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas). Out of place tools (because there’s no good place to put them). Toys, old toddler beds, bikes, bags of debris from a bathroom remodeling project.

It’s a big mass of ‘What do I do?’

That’s how we feel about making personal life change. We see where we are and have an idea of where we want to be, but the gap appears ridiculously huge. So we grind to a halt and don’t even start.

  • We have habits that need to be broken or established.
  • We have health, career, or other goals that we’ve been aiming at for years.
  • We have mindsets that need to be updated, changed, or completely rewired.
  • We have lies and false beliefs that we have to identify and replace with truth.
  • We have clutter in our physical surroundings that distracts us.

The combination of these elements plots against our desire for growth.

Consequently, we don’t start, or we do what I do in the garage: I walk around looking at things, picking items up and putting them down, and then just go back into the house and watch TV.

Just Start

The key to battling overwhelm, and to experience greater growth, is to have some sort of a plan. But even a plan can be overwhelming (if you want to walk through a planning process, try my 14 Day Starting Well Challenge).

Obviously, people experience growth without a plan. But many of us struggle because we hang out in the land of wishful thinking.

No amount of wishful thinking will clean my garage, anymore than it will change my health, my success at work, or my ability to be a better dad or husband.

So develop a plan if you can do so without procrastinating. The whole planning thing might be a source of overwhelm, so let’s simplify it further:

Pick the tiniest first step and take it.

That’s it. If it’s a project, what is the tiniest thing you can do to move the ball down the field? Do that one thing. Maybe it’ll give you momentum.

Having a plan is powerful. Being able to break the plan down into tiny, little bite-sized chunks enables action.

Back to my garage: If I look at it as a whole, I’m beaten. If I look at one surface or even one item, then I can win.

If I’m overwhelmed, I just need to create the little wins. One date with my spouse. One Lego construction with my child. One walk to the end of the street and back. One cold call.

Three Suggestions on Taking the First Step

I just have to take the first step and start. Let me leave you with three suggestions on how to take a first step and start, regardless of the type of change you’re going after (a home project, relationship work, personal/health improvement):

  1. Pick one thing: If this is a project, dumb it down to it’s most ridiculously tiny first step and do it. Then, perhaps, do another.
  2. Give yourself a time limit: Set a timer for 5, 10, 25 minutes and go for it.
  3. Schedule a time to eat the frog: This means to do the most difficult, uncomfortable thing to get the ball rolling. If the thing that overwhelms you is relational in nature or otherwise requires one bold step, schedule a time when you will eat the frog – or do it now. Make the call. Send the email. Write the letter.

Questions (Drop a Response in the Comments):

  • How does overwhelm prevent you from making progress?
  • What do you do to battle feeling overwhelmed by a key project or area in life that you want to see major change?