Saturday, March 19, 2011

Today Is Practice For Tomorrow

An action becomes a practice. Practice becomes a habit. A habit becomes a life.
Today is practice for tomorrow.

My mother was a chef in AIG's cafeteria for about 20 years. In those years, she brought home leftovers beyond what our family might've afforded otherwise. Mountains of filet mignon, cornucopias of cutlets, pounds of pork chops, and the like. I loved them all. I remember many a time sneaking downstairs for another slice of filet mignon.

The taste wasn't the same but my appetite for burgers, pizza, fries, pies and fried chicken continued to grow like a tumor of the soul. In high school, I was well over 200. In college, 300.

A small action led to a life and quite nearly, the end of a life.

It's not easy to treat a cancer of the soul.

I had to summon up a lot of willpower to decide to spend my money on a salad that was the cost of a Popeye's meal and a Chinese lunch box combined. It's just green rabbit food! Why's it more expensive!? But I did. And I yearned for golden fields of chicken skin, rivers of black bean sauce.

Actions become practices. Practices become habits. Habits become lives.

I ate salad one day. And then another. And now I can't imagine ever going back to a fast food restaurant. If I were driving on a road, I might grab a banana and a bottle of water from a rest stop instead of a burger. Habits become lives but lives change.

I find myself holding onto this truth these days as I'm excising another tumor.

A lot of my blogs draw a lot of questions. "Stan, are you talking about me in that post?" No, I'm far too self-absorbed to think about others. I'm talking about myself, to myself. When I talk about hating a life watching TV, watching American Idol, eating potato chips, I'm trying to apply chemotherapy to myself. I want to change. More than anything else, I want to change.

For decades, I believed a painting on a mirror was my reflection. The oils have dried and chips are falling. I'm beginning to see myself. But it's not someone I recognize. Why should I recognize him? I'm getting to know him for the first time.

I can't go back to watching TV. I can't stay at a job where I have to wait for assignments. I can't ever settle for good enough. Maybe it's enough for someone else to have a safe job at a big company and wait for the weekend, but that's dishonest living for me. I don't want to spend 40 hours a week hiding my values because I'm too scared to step out on a limb. I don't want to spend any more time watching TV or movies or doing things to kill time. I'm dying.

From the moment I was born, I began my journey to death. I can't stop and linger here on the couch with you. If you think this means I believe I'm too good for you, I'm too haughty or I'm just an arrogant asshat, I'm sorry you think so. I don't have enough time for more explanation than what I'm now giving. I know how I want to die. Do I know if I'm going to get it? Not a clue. I do know what it'll take for me to die happy. If you had a choice between stuffing your coffin with regrets or treasured memories, what would you choose?

If I spent my life serving in church ministries up to my ear, chained to a desk job, welded to a couch, or around restaurant tables talking about gadgets... I simply do not love anyone enough to fill the grave with that many sorrows.

Actions become practices. Practices become habits and habits become lives.

Writing this blog post memorializes an action I took nearly 3 years ago. I refuse to live somebody else's life, by somebody else's values. I sought my own and found a remarkable parity with God's values. It has been a slow realization that I'm where God wants me to be. I just do not care if no one else is doing this. (For the record, I think there are a few who do something similar. I think that of all of them, I am the one most sensitive to criticism.) I don't know what the path will look like 2 or 3 steps down the road. It's like running through twilit Peruvian jungles with a flickering headlamp. The future is vague, and the present is just clear enough so stay in the present.

And at the end of all these presents I look forward to the life I will have left behind.

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