There are no limits.
There are only plateaus,
And you must not stay there,
You must go beyond them.
December 3rd, 2015
Ever since speaking a single word to her friends ten months ago Jessica’s development has plateaued.
No new words spoke, no new limb movement, no new development in any part of her body.
Except in her eyes.
Most of the time.
At times I see the vast improvement in clarity in Jessica’s eyes as she looks at me, and a sense of
“Thank you” comes over me. As if she is saying, “Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
And at other times I look into her eyes, and I see a dense fog and a solitude of endless suffering.
Tonight, I see the latter.
As I pass Jess on my way to the kitchen, I notice a tear welling up in her eye as she stares blankly into the air.
The tear is not a public tear which runs down her cheek for all to see, it is a private tear hidden in the corner of her eye meant only for her to know of its existence.
Someone could tie my hands above my head and viciously take swings with a bat on my bare, unprotected chest and I wouldn’t hurt anymore than I do right now.
It is at times like this that I look over my shoulder and want to turn back on this journey.
It is at times like this that I hear in my head the quote from “Where Dreams May Come,” where Robin Williams goes to hell to save his wife and he is greeted with, “So this is the guy who won’t give up. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that too much persistence can look kind of stupid?”
It is ironic, I have encapsulated the last ten months, in one word, plateau, when that one word has all but consumed my life.
I guess that is how I hang on to the control of the situation – to give it just one word.
My way of saying to the plateau that you are not going to beat me.
What bothers me is that I know the truth.
The truth is, I have done all I know how to do,
I have gone as far as humanly possible and I wonder if all of my efforts will ever produce my desired result.
Maybe, this is the peak of Jessie’s recovery.
Maybe, what I am dedicating my life to may not produce the result I want.
I no longer know what to do, or which way to go.
I reach down and attempt to draw on the wise words of Wendell Berry,
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work.
And when we no longer know which way to go,
We have begun our real journey.”
I will do anything to get Jess to recover, except to have her suffer anymore.
I pray long and hard every day on what I should be doing with Jess. What is the right thing to do for her?
And every time I align with the universe, and ask that question, the same answer transfers back to me, “Continue doing what you are doing.”
Tonight, I question if I have heard and translated the answer to my prayers correctly, or not.
So I ask again.
Practice What You Preach
What I believe is not believed by everyone,
And is not practiced by everyone who believes it.
The beginning of wrestling season is a great time of the year.
Hope springs eternal.
It is the time of year when all wrestlers anxiously await the magic of having their hard work transform into success.
Even though my two sons are a few years past high school, I still follow the Long Island high school wrestling scene very closely.
It is great to see the young guns who I witnessed work hard for so many years develop and have success.
It is the night before the start of the 2015-2016 high school season.
I send a text to a father of an up and coming young gun; a wrestler who is about to get rewarded for his years of hard work and effort.
His junior season starts tomorrow.
“Your son ready for the season?” I text.
A text immediately comes back,
“He’s decided not to wrestle this year.”
Obviously, this is a joke meant to stir up the “imagine” gene in me.
“No, really – who is his first match against?” I ask.
“No, really. He says it is not worth it anymore. He says that he has plateaued and hasn’t been able to get to the next level. That all the work he is putting in is not bearing fruit, so he is going to quit,” He responds.
“What is your address?” I ask. “I’m coming over.”
A return text appears with his address and the words, “Are you sure?”
It is then I realize it’s after 10 pm and he lives 45 minutes away.
“I’m sure – see you in 45 minutes,” I send back.
“Thank you,” he replies.
I immediately tell BettyJane there is someplace I have to go. Even though I haven’t left the house in two weeks she asks no questions. She dutifully takes over watching Jess as I grab my keys and run to my truck.
Trust In The Process
The highest reward for a person’s toil
Is not what they get for it,
But what they become by it.
Forty-five minutes later I arrive at his house.
He is waiting for me at the door.
As I enter he disappears to leave me alone with his son, who is sitting at the kitchen table.
“Talk to me,” I start out.
After some time, the young wrestler confides in me that he feels like he has worked all of his life and that he hasn’t seen any reward for his efforts. He has determined that it is not worth it anymore.
After I let him tell me what was really bothering him, I opened my mouth and this came out,
“Let me tell you a little story.
I won’t make believe that I was this great wrestler, I wasn’t.
But I know a little something about dedicating your life to something and feeling unrewarded in return.
When I was your age I gave six years of my life to this sport, and I never stepped one foot on a podium.
I hated the sport for not reciprocating my love for it.
I left the sport feeling that it all just wasn’t worth it.
A total waste of time and effort.
But even though I never accomplished my goals in wrestling, wrestling accomplished its goals on me.
It took me twenty-six years to realize why they call this the greatest sport on earth.
You see, you are on a journey right now.
You think the journey is about winning wrestling matches.
One day, many years from now, you will realize it’s not.
You see, silently this sport is going to build within you everything you will need to be successful in your life.
But only if you allow it to.
You don’t know it now.
Now, you only see losses and defeats and unfulfilled dreams.
But if I can convince you of anything, allow me to convince you of this – you need to trust in the process.
You have to trust that the work you are completely immersing yourself in, is either going to produce your desired result or equip you with the tools needed to conquer a future greater endeavor or objective, that you neither understand or are currently aware of right now.
Trust in the belief that if you don’t succeed at achieving the goal you have worked so hard to achieve, that in return, wrestling will reward you for your dedication and effort with a greater reward than the one you were originally working for.
I believe, if you are one of the lucky ones, what you will get out of this sport will be of far greater importance than standing on top of a podium for a few seconds.
You see, what the lucky ones get out of this sport is a way to live life.
And that lasts your whole life.
Whether you wrestle or not, this year, is up to you.
But understand this, sometime in your life you will be in the fight of your life, facing an opponent much bigger than any opponent you have ever faced before, and you will be called upon to win something much more important than a wrestling match.
You will be much better prepared to win the fight of your life, having wrestled.
Today, you think wrestling is about wins and losses.
It is, but it’s not.
It’s about learning how to fight, to be able to beat what life is going to throw at you.
That’s why you should wrestle.
Forget about plateaus, and getting to the next level, just trust in the process. And you will be rewarded in the end.”
I made it back home after midnight.
And spent the next few hours awake marveling on how the Divine orchestrated a chaotic event to confirm what it has been telling me – to trust in the process.
Jumping Into An Icy River
This is too harmonious,
Grande and overwhelming a universe
To believe it is all an accident.
Tuesday’s with Morrie
When you pray for an answer to a problem that is deeply bothering you, and the answer arrives in another part of your life, it is far too easy to dismiss it as a coincidence.
It is not.
It is a gift.
Have you ever wondered why certain things happen in your life, at the exact time that they happen?
What made me send that text when I did?
What made me jump in the car and travel forty-five minutes at 10 pm at night to stop a young wrestler from quitting right before he would be rewarded for all his hard work?
What made me say, “But if I can convince you of anything, allow me to convince you of this – you need to trust in the process. You have to trust that the work you are completely immersing yourself in, is either going to produce your desired result or equip you with the tools needed to conquer a future greater endeavor or objective, that you neither understand nor are currently aware of right now.”
What made the answer I gave to a young wrestler who was discouraged with his performance plateau be the exact prescription I needed myself?
The answer may be in a quote by Ann Patchett “There are in life a few miraculous moments when the right person is there to tell you what you need to hear and you are still open enough, impressionable enough, to take it in.”
I don’t believe it was a coincidence which made George Bailey jump into an icy river to save a man from drowning just as he was about to give up on life himself.
I believe it was divinely orchestrated chaos.
When we are really tuned in to our lives, we recognize that our lives provide us with divinely orchestrated events, often disguised as problems or chaos, that are designed to provide us with the answers we are seeking, or put us back on the path we should be traveling on.
It is up to us to recognize and cherish these events. To dissect them, to learn from them, to use them. When they happen in our lives we must pay attention and implement their gift.
It will be so easy to dismiss them as coincidence.
Because as Morrie Schwartz so elegantly said,
“This is too harmonious, grand and overwhelming a universe to believe it is all an accident.”
To Be Released December 18th, 2016