I admit it . . . I cheated. I rushed to a finish line and cheated myself.
I thought I could complete the course as quickly as possible to move on to the next life event.
But it took me but a moment to realize my mistake.
I had cheated myself of real improvement, real growth and I now know that the true challenge in life lies in the smallest detail.
Unable to get into the pool for my morning swim today, I exercised on Nautilus equipment, killing time until the water aerobics class would end. I punished my legs, arms and torso, pushing amd straining my muscles on various machines. I then came to the exercise equipment to work on the abdomen, that part of my body that resembles a watermelon in a well-watered garden, when I read the instructions for what seemed like the hundredth time, only this time the words sunk in.
Instead of pounding the bar that tightened my stomach muscle and quickly releasing the tension, I realized that I needed to “hold” that tension — that pressure — to gain the most benefit from the exercise. In other words, I had to “slow down” instead of “speed up” as I have done. Not only at the LA Fitness gym in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, PA, the past two years, but my whole life.
I drew a major lesson from this rather mundane exercise. I have rushed through life, always looking toward the end product, the completion date, the finish line. I rarely took time to be aware of my surroundings, my environment, my self as I speeded ahead. Looking back, I see that my life was nothing more than starts and finishes, starting and getting through college, studying to get a masters’ degree, and then that first, the second and then a third job as I rushed to arm myself with a good reputation and a chance for prospering in the future for my social security.
Save money for a future “rainy day,” place weekly deposits in a company-matched 401-K, and then set up an annuity as quickly as possible to ensure an income years down the road.
When had I ever taken time to stop and pause, really be in the moments of my life that truly mattered? Sure, there was a wedding (two for this divorced fellow!), not to mention the birth of my son. Getting out of a war zone called Vietnam makes my all-time list, as well as speaking at a graduation class, and jumping out of an airplane (not recommended for the faint of heart!).
But these are only highlighted moments of a life that I now look at and wonder where it was all leading to . . . what has been the purpose . . . and if I could do it all over again, would I have made the same choices?
I can’t answer any of those questions, except perhaps for the last one. I’m a stubborn Greek, and I don’t think I would have changed anything. (Well, there was that night with Peggy McPeake, when we were all alone . . . in her mother’s living room . . . on the couch . . . well, never mind about that).
Life zipped by without my notice. It was only yesterday, I feel, that Uncle Sam’s letter announced “Greetings …” and the government drafted me, forcing me to live away from my parents for the first time. Law school graduation could not have been 20 years ago, could it? (Actually, 21.) Where has the time gone as I moved from one career to another, one accomplishment after another, one of life’s goals after another, then another . . . and another?
Where has my life gone? And why couldn’t I have stopped myself from this forced rush to complete a project, to finish a task, to get to that “end result.”
Even if I had to cut corners to get there, get to that final result.
We all do it.
We find ways to solve a problem once, and we start to speed up the process the next time, using our experience to push us over the hurdle and to run to the next task. These are all highly commendable achievements we hang on our trophy walls. Many are laudable and admirable when viewed in our halls of fame at home and at our work place.
But what have we given up to get here, to this place where the “there” is hardly any more special than the starting points of most of our endeavors.
If we had only slowed down. If we had but looked at where we were as we ran along our path, we might have seen signs we missed. Signs advising us that life is far more than that next accolade, the next award, the so-called “crowning achievement.”
We would have lived. I mean truly lived in the moment, cherishing it for all its worth, living it to the fullest as we consciously see — perhaps for the first time — how much beauty a single moment has to offer to one who has made themselves aware of that instant moment in time.
That “precious moment.” The moment when you slow down enough to read the print (I wish I could lie, get off the hook, and say I couldn’t read the “fine print,” on the abdomen machine, but hell, I am a trained lawyer. No one would buy it), and realize that you have exercised the wrong way for years. That you . . . I mean, that I . . . have not been getting the true benefit that a pause and a slow down in my life could offer me.
Sounds like an old labor tactic we used to discuss when I worked as a union representative and later, a union organizer. Had I, my self, been a little better organized, I would have learned a true prize would eventually go to the slow and sure-footed man or woman “aware” of and “in” the moment.
Maybe there’s still time for me.