I’ve started doing a little reformatting of the blog. The changes won’t be too noticeable, but I’ll be adding my series posts to the upper Pages Bar for easier perusing. Getting on 630 posts, it’s time to weed the keepers out from the fodder.
The year is 1993, barely, and I’m sitting in a church basement in the midst of a lot of guys that had been sober a whole lot longer than I had. I maybe had three or four months… I’m whining about how tough it is to keep from drinking, how tough it is back in my parents house, how it’s not fair that I hadn’t gotten my license back, and a bunch of other whiny stuff.
An old guy, probably mid 60’s (he died long ago unfortunately), hands me a napkin with K.I.S.S. scratched on it in black ink. I had no idea what the hell that meant, at first I thought he was gay or something, hitting on the fresh meat. I looked over at him with a puzzled “WTF” look on my face (this is obviously way before WTF, but you get the idea).
He looks me right in the eyes and says, “Keep it simple, stupid”. Well, let’s just suffice it to say the look on my face changed from “WTF” to “STFU” in a hurry. He picked up the KISS note and wrote in descending order from each letter, K.eep I.t S.imple S.tupid and handed it back. Then he explained what that meant specifically. My life, at three months sober, was still, obviously, a train wreck. I had a lot of mess to clean up. Keep it simple stupid meant one thing at a time there, whippersnapper. Then he said, “Look, if you really want to get drunk, go do it. Just make sure you come back when you’re good and done”. That may sound harsh, but that’s the way the grown-ups do it where I grew up. I explained that I didn’t want to actually get loaded, I was just having a tough time obsessing about it. He laughed and said, “Well we can work with that, it’s a good place to start. Next time why don’t you explain yourself a little better”. That very well could have been the last time I really whined about something right there because once I sat through that lesson, it changed the way I look at life’s problems forever. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m a lot more open to solutions rather than staying stuck in the problem.
That old guy gave me my 6 months sober coin shortly thereafter and when he did, he looked me right in the eye, the same exact way and said, “Keep coming back. If you do, before you know it you’ll be standing there wondering how it could possibly get any better… Keep coming back after that, and it will”.
That was more than 19 years ago and that has happened, many, many times over.
P.S. He said “better”, not “easier”. There is a very big difference.
Life is funny. We’ve all got some kind of hurdle to jump, some defect in our character that isn’t quite what it should be, some reason to hang our head in shame, some limitation that must be dealt with – hell, that’s normal. Where it gets tricky is when we sabotage an otherwise simple situation and end up with a mess on our hands.
I read a post early this morning about a runner who prepared meticulously for a race. He had his clothes picked out and packed two days ahead of time, had all of his Gu’s and energy bars packed with care, had the weather figured out days in advance. Then, day before, he asked a friend to pick up his number because he didn’t want to stay the night in the town where the race was and they didn’t have a “day of” pick-up. On the day of the race he overslept his alarm because he had the alarm set on vibrate (on his phone obviously). Then, he chose to meet his buddy (who he’d only met twice prior) at the starting line where there would be thousands of people milling about, all dressed the same – expecting to pick this fella out of the crowd. If that wasn’t crazy enough, once they had the place to meet figured out via a couple of text messages, he moved to get a better view of the crowd after his buddy included in the text that he was leaving his phone in the car.
Hilarity insued, he never found his buddy who had his number with his timing chip on it, he had to run about a quarter of a mile to get to a courtesy booth to find a race official who kindly enough gave him a temporary number with no timing chip on it – then run back to the starting line to run his marathon only to find that he stood alone – every single starter had gone through the starting gate and was completely out of sight. He had to struggle with finding the proper route before he finally started catching up to the slower folks… In the end, he caught up to his buddy just before they hit the wall, got his real number and then left that buddy in the dust. His timing chip (that started with his buddy 10 minutes earlier) showed a finising time 8 minutes above what his race watch showed, and he was actually bummed that the officials wouldn’t change his time.
Then, to top all of that off, he went into the beer tent and used the beer tag on his original number and the temporary number that was given him by the race official to get a free beer out of the deal – Karma believers are all shaking their heads right now… He’s going to pay for that one.
Now, here’s the lesson I learned many moons ago about stuff like this, and it just happens to be BgddyJim’s Self Evident Truth #12: Life is hard enough as it is. Don’t make it more difficult by setting yourself up to fail.
There are a lot of moving parts to life. The more complex the mechanism and the more moving parts it has, the likelier it is to break down. Many people who have been reading this blog for a while think that I have a pretty hard-core work ethic – I approach life like I mean it, sure, but there’s more to it than just discipline. I hate it when things go wrong. I hate having to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, relying on other people who could barely care less if I get to where I want to go. The marathoner that I’m referring to had everything set up perfectly until the day of the race – and then he made decisions that would make certain that he would encounter trouble getting to where he wanted to be. Every choice he made that morning added another moving part that had to come off perfectly for him to get to the starting line on time. Every single choice. Folks, you put that many moving parts into an already chaotic scene and there’s no way you can hope for it to turn out well. He set himself up to fail.
Let’s look at the moving parts:
1. Who the hell sets their alarm to vibrate (except maybe a deaf person – my sister-in-law is, so don’t go there)? That is the single dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.
2. You don’t meet someone you barely know at the starting line, expecting to pick out a runner you barely know in a sea of runners is ridiculous.
3. If you are silly enough to meet someone at a landmark at the starting line, for the love of God, DON”T MOVE!!!
4. If you must rely on someone else to pick up your number for you, meet them away from the starting area, or pick your buddy up at his hotel room and ride in together.
There were a couple of other no-brainers in there, but you get the idea. If I make things too difficult to come off without a hitch – and that guy surely did – there are going to be hitches.