I just had my first child at 45.
His birth has brought into stark relief the necessity for getting my body in shape, my finances handled, and setting myself up for long-term success.
I want to be able to keep up with him as he grows, to wrestle with him and play and teach him to swim and surf. And I want to see him do whatever it is he’s going to do in the world after he leaves home.
And I want to know my grandchildren.
For the past 8 months, I’ve found myself scrambling to adopt habits and practices that will produce the kind of long-term results that will allow me to enjoy as much of my son’s – and grandchildren’s – lives as possible.
And when I say scramble, that’s not an exaggeration. My body is in the exact shape one would expect from a lifetime of poor eating habits. My finances, too.
If you’ve ever tried to make radical and permanent shifts in either of these areas, you know that it’s hard.
But actually, is it any harder than building up a strong, healthy body to begin with? Or generating the kind of wealth that makes financial well-being easy as an adult?
I don’t know, because I didn’t do either of those things – but from what I understand, building a strong healthy body – and maintaining it for a lifetime – is difficult. As is building wealth – even when you’re young and have tons of energy to burn and can take more risks.
So why has it taken becoming a father to suddenly become aware of the necessity of long-range planning and to finally have the willingness to do the work required to fulfill those visions?
I think it’s because life is inherently difficult, and yet I grew up as an American in an era of plenty, fooled into thinking life was easy – and when I started to run into life’s difficulties, rather than face them head-on, I ran.
I ran to overindulgence in unhealthy foods to avoid the discomfort of social life and intimacy, preferring the comfort of a stomach full of sugar and baked goodness to the discomfort of engaging with people.
I ran to drugs – cannabis, mostly, but I definitely dabbled in a variety of other substances – to dull the pain of growing up feeling unvalued, disconnected, and generally unwelcome on every level of life, from home on outward.
I ran to work that was as easy as possible – wage-slavery – for survival, not necessarily to avoid the rigor of entrepreneurship, because I didn’t discover that path until my late twenties – but even as an artist-entrepreneur I chose the path of least resistance because countering resistance is hard.
I ran from intimacy, over and over again, shutting down as soon as it was clear that to proceed would require being more vulnerable than I’d ever been and the terror of that washed over me.
And to make all of these matters worse, I have spent my entire adult life judging the hell out of myself for all of these things, calling myself names: weak, undisciplined, impulsive, an addict, loser, a waste of space…
You wouldn’t know it by watching me play music or produce an event, necessarily – enthusiasm and gregariousness cover up a lot of pain; just look at Robin Williams, for example. I have even gone through periods of depression deep enough to consider suicide.
But about three years ago, I decided to stop running and start dealing with the difficulty of life on its own terms.
And guess what? It’s been fucking difficult. It’s been so difficult that it wasn’t until my son was born that I actually got really serious.
And now that I’m really serious, I’m getting clear that it’s even more difficult than I’d imagined or thought it would be.
But I’m not running anymore. I’m not smoking weed to dull the pain. I’m not running from intimacy with my wife and our children.
I still use food as a comfort, even though daily I make progress with the practice of saying No to things that I know will make my body more difficult to master and manage.
So … if you’ve made it this far, and you’re looking for the good news, guess what? It’s already been stated, whether or not you recognize it:
Life is difficult.
If you’re expecting it to be easy, you’re going to suffer.
The moment you accept life as a difficult and infinitely complex set of variables to contend with and master, you will have surmounted one of the primary difficulties that we as modern 2019-era humans face – the illusion that life is a piece of cake and we get to eat it too.
Unfortunately, acceptance of the difficulty of life doesn’t actually make it easier; that would be absurd – but it does remove the obstacle of resistance within to making hard choices to sacrifice costly pleasures and distractions that ultimately make life more difficult than it has to be.
If you’re prone to disagree, then I assert you’re either incredibly privileged, enjoying the hell out of a self-centered pursuit of pleasure and contributing very little to the overall state of human affairs, or you’re still in denial.
If the former, good on you – enjoy the hell out of it; if you make it to a ripe old age that way, you’ll be incredibly lucky. What’s more likely, though, is that you’ll either kill yourself from excess or you’ll wake the fuck up and realize that your privilege comes with an obligation to use your position and resources to make life better for others.
If the latter, I’m so sorry, because you’ll continue to suffer until you realize that you have everything you need to meet the challenges of life and you start making those moves you need to make to get your shit together.
In either case, when you’re ready to face the difficulty of life, let me know and I’ll help however I can – as coach, cheerleader, or fan.