I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees. Asked the Lord above for mercy, save me if you please. ~Eric Clapton
Timewarp: August 8, 1996 . . . End of Obligated Service.
Someone asked me this morning if I liked having been in the Navy. Don’t ask me how, but this question caught me off guard. I mumbled something lame, like, “I guess,” then set myself to thinking about it. This is what I came up with:
The Navy was a very rude way to find out that I wasn’t who I thought I was, but it was a great way to discover who it is I really am.
Not that this eye opening discovery took place within the neat confines of a 4+ year enlistment, but it would set the stage for what would slowly develop over the next . . . gulp . . . 16 years. Sixteen years? Why do I feel so much younger now that I did a young lifetime ago?
1) Habits. 2) Expectations.
Name a bad one, and either I had it or I knew someone who had what you didn’t need. Being young & dumb as a half-beat-drum wasn’t all bad, in fact, most of it was pretty fun, but turning into a bad neighborhood, one you’re not likely to return from is naively exciting when you don’t know or care where you’re going.
Forget them. You don’t need them. You’d be surprised how often things happen anyway, and rarely how you expect . . . aka want.
Besides the friends that I made, many of whom I still have and love, the biggest benefit of Navy service was exercise, fitness, physical development, punishing the body to improve the soul. (Keep in mind the few sentences about expectations before proceeding.)
I was a young, exceptionally unathletic freak who loved the idea of how far I could push my body. Physical Training, (known unaffectionately by the mumbling masses as PT) spoke to me very loudly, but not very clearly. Again, I was remarkably unathletic, so by no means was I good at PT, but I did like it, probably more than what is considered healthy.
There arose the expectations of what I should be able to accomplish by diving head first into any and every PT session, even busting out more than a few of my own. When these expectations did not pan out, I turned to developing habits that would further derail any future expectations. (Does this swirling logic remind you of the hypnotic flush of a toilet? It does me. And there’s probably a very good reason this analogy works so well.)
I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. ~Henry Rollins
Anyway, fast forward sixteen years to a guy who looks and feels much better and younger than he did when failed expectations turned into fun but horribly awry habits. What’s the difference?
I wish I could say that I’ve ditched all my expectations, but they still linger as hopes, and endpoints to work towards. I wish I could say that I’ve ditched all those bad habits, but it has taken this long to recognize them as the unattractive wenches they are, and apparently always have been. (If your mind is lingering towards an image of Beer Goggles, I’ve made two good analogies.)
Opting to push 40, rather than having 40 push me, I wish I could answer the questions, What do I want to do when I grow up? Where do I want to be? Who am I? but I can’t. I like where I’ve gotten so far (even if it has been by the frayed seat of my pants), but I don’t have any expectations of the future. As bad habits roll off me like an ineffective tackle, I get an image of where I’d like to be, of what I’d like to be doing, but as loud as this image is, it isn’t clearly situated in the future, and it could be one of me locked in embrace with the moment, which is the only guarantee that any of us genuinely get. That moment is a picture of fitness, health, clean living, loud thinking and the love I have for my family & friends.
Saw things so much clearer once you were in my rear view mirror. ~Eddie Vedder