Gary (not his actual name....and no, he isn't on this e-list :-) is a friend of mine. I'm presently angry at him, though he doesn't know it and he'd likely be surprised to learn of it. I'm mad at him, in large part, because he isn't taking care of himself which is another way of saying, 'Im mad at him, for him.'
I often invite Gary to join me and others in one capacity or another. He hardly ever comes even though he'd benefit greatly from it. There's always a ‘good reason’ like family or work or travel obligations. He says he is ‘interested’ and wants me to keep inviting him, though I suspect it's because he's being more polite than honest. Gary is 'interested' in the same way I am interested in say, classic cars. Nice to see if I happen by one, but won’t go out of my way to do so.
Gary's rpm's run hot. Hitting the brakes seems to make him anxious . He gets antsy, wants to 'get going' to his 'next appointment.' I'm not sure why he's so addicted to speed...maybe something in his past? Maybe an unspoken mandate from his family that a high velocity life is a successful life. Maybe to be 'busier than thou' is to be 'better than thou?' Maybe he doesn’t like himself and speed prevents him from having to spend time with himself? Who knows?
I spend a couple of hours a week with Gary. Well, not this Gary, but men like Gary, whose rpm's run hot... and they have the trophies (or wife or house or travel resume') to prove it. Now, however, perhaps for the first time in their lives, they've been forced to downshift. I visit with them at the Cancer Center of Phoenixville Hospital as they receive treatment for a variety of cancer related maladies. The more they talk, the more it becomes clear that, to at least many of them, their high velocity life has caused them to miss the point of life.
I say that because when I ask them how their bout with cancer has changed them, they’ll essentially reply, ‘The things that used to be big, are now small and the things that used to be small, are now big.’ When I ask, ‘What do you mean by that?’ They invariably reply, in so many words, that life is about relationships. Many will say, ‘with God.’ Virtually all will say, ‘with others.’
Sadly, sometimes one of the Garys will succumb to his illness and I will have the opportunity to officiate at his funeral. When the memorial service is over and family and friends make their way from grave side to curbside, I often take note of the tragic irony of it all, which is this: It seems that it's often at the end of life that we are most prone to get the point of life.
I say that because on virtually every tombstone I pass, I read nothing about careers, academic, professional or athletic accomplishments. I've yet to see anything about their financial holdings or vacation destinations. Instead I read, ‘beloved father’ or ‘faithful husband’ or ‘loved God and others’ or ‘loved by all.’ What I read about is nothing but relationships, both vertical and horizontal.
Ok, I'm officially issuing a trigger warning (I'm about to get on my self righteous soap box, though I'm preaching to myself as much as others.) Ready? Here goes:
Men, please, please, please make time for relationships. Put time with God and time with others on your calendar and guard it jealously. Your job won't allow it? Then find another one. Whatever it takes. I remember some guy named Prochnow (sp?) who, years ago, wrote something like this and it's always stayed with me:
'We spend our lives trying to make the right grades so we can get into the right school, so we can land the right job, so we can make the right salary so we can buy the right house and move into the right neighborhood and vacation at all the right places.' I'd add this addendum: 'and get buried in the right cemetery under the right granite tombstone which should read,
'He got all the right things but he got life wrong.'