Land of a Thousand Distractions
There are great moments in life, moments they say define you, the celebratory highs of accomplishment, the heroic lows of courageous struggle. But this month I have a little different take on what defines our lives.
I say a person is defined by what they do in between such dramatic and emotional moments. When no one is watching. When the stakes are not high. When one day falls quietly into place behind the last.
These are the times that try men’s souls.
The problem is that it’s easy to see the glory in riding off to rescue the damsel in distress or wresting a continent from the hands of a genocidal tyrant. But it’s hard to see the glory in watching John Wayne shampooing carpets when the puppy threw up because she ate a sock.
No one says Winston Churchill’s finest hour was spent at Home Depot searching for a solution to his dog’s sudden urge to tunnel under fences like Steve McQueen.
Did Hemingway have to kneel by his bedside to blog “For Whom The Bell Tolls” because his chocolate Lab thinks she’s still a puppy yet takes up her master’s entire side of the bed?
Did Lincoln have a granddaughter with eyes so big and blue that they seem to hold the sky within? I think not. Otherwise his mind would have turned to mush like mine and the Gettysburg Address would have sounded like:
Four score and
Das’ my sweet sugar wuggar.
Does her wub her
Somewhere along the way toward changing the world I have become ensnared. Pinned to the beach like Gulliver. Immobilized by ten thousand soft threads of distraction.
All of them seem to be necessary. But definitely not heroic.
I cannot, for the life of me, picture Indiana Jones on his day off waiting heroically in line at Comcast, bullwhip furled, fedora in hand, soundtrack on pause.
Dah, dah dah daaaah! Dah, dah da . . . “Please Take A Number And Wait For The Next Available Associate.”
What is an associate anyway?
Some things shouldn’t be seen.
Imagine Lucy Liu at the DMV. Or Johnny Depp at Wal-Mart picking up word search books for his mother. I can’t. Don’t want to.
These are scenes that should be edited out. Or not filmed at all. And yet, my life seems to be made up entirely of scraps from the cutting room floor.
Outtakes. An adventure-free zone. The stuff in between the good stuff.
If that’s all there were to it then life would be pointless. Tedium. But then . . .
Glimpses Of Glory
Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, like a flicker in a passing mirror, I catch a fleeting glimpse of life as it could be. Or could I be seeing life as it really is?
Could it be that what I do is more significant that it appears? Is it possible?
It always catches me by surprise. Something tickling at the back of my brain makes me look up. An instinct. A hair-raising hint.
Suddenly my eyes are assaulted with a sky-filling blaze of color, a sunset so magnificent that it stops me in my tracks.
Or I’m driving to work with plans filling my head to the brim when a sideways glance captures a field of endless green.
There a herd of horses gallop wildly over rolling hills, manes flying, tails swishing, all for the sheer joy of the wind on their faces.
The grace. The colors. The excitement! And then they are gone leaving me and the morning traffic behind.
Were it not for these moments reminding me of the beauty of life, it would be easy to overlook.
The Moments You Fight For
During Suzie’s year and a half of fighting for life I can remember very clearly a few surprising moments that carried me through. They were not at all what I expected.
Once I was standing beside Suzie drying dishes while the kids watched TV in the next room. The afternoon sun was slanting gold through the back yard. We weren’t talking about anything but I found myself filled with an unexplainable joy.
So much so that I had to question where it came from. I had never felt joy washing dishes before. Never imagined it. It was just something that had to be doe before I got on with the good stuff.
It dawned on me that this calm and tedious moment was such a contrast from the constant shocks we’d endured. It was the very thing we were hoping to get back – a moment of peace and quiet. Something not terrifying.
While chasing bad guys, having hair-raising adventures and being the hero is exciting, the entire point is to get things back to normal.
We do not fight wars for the fun of it. We do not set fires for the rush of dragging children from the flames. We do not rob stage coaches for the camaraderie of riding in a good posse.
What we really want is the crisis to be over so we can get back to our lives. To do exciting things like, well, wash dishes and clean up puppy barf.
The Good Life
So, when I understand my life correctly, the good parts are not dodging bullets, saving continents, preventing nuclear holocausts or surviving tsunamis.
Instead, the good life is the part after the novel is finished, after the movie credits roll, after the treaty is signed, after the horses are back in the barn, after the pistols are cleaned, after the family is reunited, after the fire is out, after the town is rebuilt.
The good life begins after the crisis ends.
And while it may seem boring by comparison, the good life is also cleaning carpets, washing dishes and feeding the dogs. It is the freedom to have your life back, to have time to write a world-changing novel, or hold a grandbaby, or share a meal.
The good life is not being the hero, as much as we love them. It’s being there for the people you love. It’s working to pay the bills. It’s sitting in traffic. Or being an associate. Or maybe even taking out the garbage.
Oh no! I forgot to take out the garbage! I can hear the truck in the distance. Can I beat it? Will trash win or will our hero save the day? Refuse or rescue? Be the man or get canned?
Stay tuned next week. Gotta go.
Now, where’s that bull whip?
Dah, dah dah daaaaaaaaah. Dah, dah daaaaah!