Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Excuses Excuses (Part II)

Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich (a good read) is into personal fitness. In his own mind he was born a skinny Indian geek. He wanted muscles. He wanted to “normal” whatever that meant in his mind. He achieved his goal through a serious exercise program complete with personal trainers. Once a woman who wanted to improve her physical condition told him, “I can’t go to a gym three times a week.”

Ramit’s answer shocked her, “Can you go one time a week?”

I am trying to change the way I talk to myself. When I find myself stating what I can’t do or is more common in my case what doesn’t make good sense to try. I try to stop myself by saying, “I don’t care what you can’t do. What can you do?”

You have enough talent, enough friends, and enough resources to do something that will bring you closer to who you want to be; to the life you want to live. I am 62 years old, still overweight (I’m making progress), still have arthritic knees, and a lower back problem that limits what I can do. I am not going to be running in the Iron Man Triathlon any time soon.

I can walk. In fact I can walk 5 miles. That distance is just about it, but it is something I can do. Not every day, but last week I walked 16 miles; not bad for an old man. 25 years ago, road shock from my bicycle to an injured lower back ended that phase of my life. However, I am looking at the trail I currently walk. It is much smoother than a normal road. Could I ride a bike limited distances on a smooth surface? Could strengthening my midsection help protect my back? I am doing sit ups. We shall see. When I feel ready, I can rent a bike from one of the shops along the trail. In my new home swimming is a simple financial decision. Will I use a pool often enough to justify a membership at the local Y or the Furman University Spa? (It is really a lot more than a gym). Right now I am still distracted by the commotion of the move. Once things settle down a bit, maybe I could add swimming or cycling to my repertoire.

For a number of years I really enjoyed watching the Sopranos. That show became my soap opera. I found the character of Carmella Soprano to be particularly interesting. She was a shallow, materialistic, social climber. My wife thought this was forgivable because Carmella knew she was a shallow, materialistic, social climber and she felt guilty about it. However, just about the time you were ready to write her off as a twit, she would redeem herself. When the chips were down she proved herself to be “a stand up guy.” Over the course of the series the viewer comes to realize that even though she is an inexcusably venal hypocrite, she is also the only thing holding her insane family together.

Carmella Soprano, like all us is a complex collection of strengths, weaknesses, and contradictions. She really enjoys the prestige and the perks associated with being the wife of a mob boss. People fall all over each other in a race to provide her with the most beautiful home furnishings; other mob wives (and their husbands) treat her with deference and respect; bishops and college presidents tell her she is a kind and generous human being as she buys their praise with her charity. She seeks absolution for her sins from the Catholic Church and from psychiatry.

Usually people tell her what she wants to hear. They forgive her sins without asking that she change her life. One time she goes to an elderly Jewish psychologist who will not take her money because it is blood money. He looks her straight in the eye and tells her the unvarnished truth. He gives her and her children a clear path to freedom. But the task is too great. She remains a guilt stricken unhappy, rich pampered mob wife wallowing in her excuses.

My excuses change nothing. Taking action changes my life.

Here is the scene from the Sopranos. I hope it speaks to some corner of your heart. I hope it speaks to some corner of my heart.

Carmella Soprano Receives a Second Opinion

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