Saturday, January 26, 2013

Resolution Checkup

At the beginning of this year I wrote about my plan for 2013. Primarily, it was about striving to live in the moment, neither obsessing over yesterday’s mistakes or worrying about tomorrow’s problems, but simply living all in, in the moment. As January winds down, its time to access my progress. Unfortunately, to do so would require me to obsess over yesterday’s failures so,…just kidding.

The first book I read this year was an autobiography of the quirky knuckleball pitcher from the New York Mets, R.A. Dickey. I’ve been fascinated with his story, a journeyman career minor leaguer who finally makes it to the show in his mid thirties then becomes an unhittable 20-6 as a thirty eight year old, practically unheard of in Major League baseball. Well, it turns out this this book wasn’t about baseball at all, rather it was about the amazing story of a guy who overcame the most horrible childhood imaginable, and with the help of an intense faith and otherworldly commitment to excellence manages to become a great pitcher. Along the way he climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro, for the fun and thrill of it. Ironically, one of the keys to his success is his learned talent for living “all in the present”. For Dickey that meant blocking out the two minute old memory of watching a hitter launch one of his pitches 400 feet into the left field stands for a three run homer quickly enough to be totally committed to his next pitch. No small feat. It’s the same with all great athletes. To be great requires an extremely short memory. The golfer who hooks his drive into the water, the quarterback who throws an interception, the point guard who misses a free throw, all have to quickly regain their composure because the game doesn’t end with one mistake, the next opportunity is coming up and they better be clear-headed and focused, not beating themselves up over what happened two minutes ago. Thankfully for the rest of us, life isn’t that dramatic.

The second book I read was Jon Meacham’s amazing biography of Thomas Jefferson, “The Art of Power”. This is the third biography of Jefferson I have read so I’m familiar with the subject, but in the expert hands of this Pulitzer Prize winning writer, he comes alive in new and fascinating ways. What has stuck me in this reading is the sheer intensity of the life Jefferson lived. It’s as if he determined at birth that he was going to wring every last drop of vitality out of his time on earth. He was going to see all that he could possibly see, learn all there was to learn, build all he could build, grow, plant, cultivate, imagine, discover, all while the day was called day. Thomas Jefferson was an architect, a planter, a writer, a philosopher, a musician, a scientist, a botanist, spoke five languages, and managed to serve his country as a Governor, an ambassador, Secretary of State, Vice-President and President. Reading about Jefferson always produces in me a sense of shame at my comparatively meager ambitions. The mere existence of a guy like Jefferson makes it difficult for me to lay on the sofa eating beef jerky, watching ESPN, without debilitating guilt. Thanks, Tom.

The point of all of this is, if one could combine the commitment to the moment of R.A. Dickey with the zest for life of Thomas Jefferson, one could do a lot worse in life. The good news is, so far this year, it’s working for me. I have been largely successful in living in the moment. My problem in the past hasn’t been beating myself up over failures as much as worrying too much about the future. So far, I’ve been able to let go of tomorrow for the most part. Tomorrow will come regardless of the amount of time I devote to it’s planning. For me, it’s not one day at a time, it’s more like one minute at a time.

I have been given much in this life. For reasons unknown to me, God has blessed me with success. Living in the moment with gratitude and wonder seems an appropriate response.