Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pep Talk: "Muddied Waters"

“What happened to the Stairmaster?”

The tone of my voice said it all to the new trainers at Kinetics Fitness Studio. The beloved gym where I try to live the “Sweat a day keeps the doctor away” philosophy.

“It’s gone to make room for some new equipment,” was the somber response. It seemed the guys were concerned this simple dude from Missouri might start weeping. Luckily, there’s still one Stairmaster machine left. All is not lost, but access has been cut in half.

Unexpected and unwanted change. It ain’t easy.

As I climbed aboard for 30 minutes with my exercise mistress and the sweat began to pour from the pores, thoughts began to wander to a time a while back when precious princess - daughter - was quite a bit younger. We were flying into Kansas City, Missouri to visit family. Upon descent into the city’s airport, when arriving from the west, air travelers fly over the Missouri River.

It’s winding path easy to detail from above. “What river is that Daddy?” the now 17-year-old asked long ago. “That’s the Missouri River, honey. Some folks call it the ‘Big Muddy.’’’

That’s how life can seem sometimes, ain’t it? A bit muddy? Things don’t go exactly as planned? Where’s my Stairmaster? What happened to my marriage? Job? Health? Friend? The list of “What the heck is going on around here?” situations is endless, but usually unique for each of us within the categories of physical, emotional and/or financial challenges.

The waters get muddied. They certainly seem that way right now with this beautiful young woman – God, she looks just like her momma - and our relationship. I can’t seem to connect with her, at least the way I’d like to connect with her. Admittedly, I find myself envious of fellow fathers who speak glowingly of close relationships with their teenage daughters. I try to remember the wise words of the guys from my Friday morning Platoon group who challenge me to “Keep loving her and don’t screw it up. She’s a teenager. Get over yourself!” I’m trying.

I guess that’s what faith is all about, right? The wise words of friend and former University of Colorado basketball coach Ricardo Patton, when talking about the issues with his basketball team, pop into my mind: “This too shall pass.”

The waters get muddied. My mind wanders to the firestorm surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs. How in the world has America gotten so far off track that we don’t effectively care for those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom? Really? It’s tragic, wrong and a subject for another day.

Back to the topic: Waters do get muddied, usually when we least expect it, can least afford it, or least deserve it. The million-dollar question becomes, “How will we react?”

The workout is nearing completion when the mind wanders to one of my heroes, professor, author and consultant William Bridges, who passed in 2013. His book The Way of Transitions is one of my all-time favorites.

In the book, the acclaimed expert on effectively dealing with change speaks in raw terms of his personal struggle. He had lost his wife of 35 years. It was devastating. But he was THE transition guru. Educated at many Ivy League schools, the man, the human, was beating himself up badly for not dealing more effectively with losing his soul mate to cancer.

The waters were muddied.

But aboard an airplane flying across America one bright sunny day, Bridges had an epiphany. With a window seat, a cloudless sky and a long flight from east to west, the one-time literature professor began to notice the great rivers that dominate America’s heartland: The Ohio, Mississippi and previously mentioned Missouri.

They meander. They take unexpected twists and turns. They replicate life. And then it hit Bridges like a ton of bricks. Metaphorically, those great rivers represent our personal journeys. Often, there’s seems to be no rhyme or reason to their paths. But in conjunction with those rivers’ twists and turns, along their banks, something pretty cool transpires.

Rich sediment is dropped, creating the fertile soil necessary to grow our nation’s food supply. Bridges wondered, could it be the same for our lives? Could the twists and turns offer opportunity for sediment to be dropped that could provide rich soil for future growth?

Who moved my cheese? What’s up with the Stairmaster? Why does my daughter recoil at my presence? Why does life - physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially - seem so damn tough sometimes?

 Workout complete, I headed into the beautiful Colorado morning sunshine with a great reminder (albeit silly considering it was triggered by the absence of an exercise machine) of one of the critical components to successful living: Despite how difficult it can be sometimes, we must face the day with hope that once the sediment drops and the waters clear, soil for future growth has been deposited into our hearts, minds and souls.

Easy to write about, far more difficult to execute. Good luck this week!

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