Back from an awesome trip to the Dominican Republic. It is the first vacation that I remember coming back from feeling rested. Usually, it is a “hair on fire” endeavor to cram as much into a trip as possible: more surfing, more Space Mountain, more National Parks, more golf, more 14ers, more, more, more. But this was just me and Karmen (and for the rest of The Canon, John and Denise too). We layed by the pool. We got in the pool. We laid on the beach. We got in the ocean. We walked on the beach and shared a Cuban cigar. We talked with new friends. We watched the lovely Dominican people have fun with their dancing and their shows. We danced some ourselves. We slept. We golfed. It was just awesome. And I will post some pictures for you to enjoy. But today I want to ask some questions that came to me towards the end of our trip.
I have learned something about myself in a new way. For some reason, I, emotionally, am crippled. Somewhere early in my life, I learned to turn off most of my emotions. Why I did this, I have not ever been really certain. I believe one of the things I read from Dr. Phil McGraw one time: “People do what works.” So somehow, eliminating emotion worked for me. I think I am beginning to understand why.
It has to do with the reason why I have done much of what I do. I am trying to earn something. I am trying to earn approval. And the only way I have known that I am OK is when I am told by others that I am doing or have done a good job. And you know what gets in the way of doing that? Emotion. In our culture, no one will compliment me because I am a man who feels. But everyone will compliment me because I am a man who works hard.
I remember the first time I understood this. Seventh grade. Before then, I was a slighty better than mediocre student. But in seventh grade, Mrs. Thompson highly complimented me for my efforts. I learned that if I worked hard and got A’s, all sorts of people approved of me. I liked it. So I got one B from 7th-12th. And I decided to take on one of the hardest tasks out there, becoming a medical doctor.
That same year, I had a basketball coach who really spoke of the value of working hard at basketball. How it made you better. How it made you great. How it was honorable. I quickly found that all sorts of people also approved of me for working as hard as I could at basketball. So I worked and worked. I made the starting five on my ninth grade tryout at an all boys school where 200 boys showed up for the tryout. I remember running a specific extra sprint during the tryout and the coaches telling all the rest of the boys that they wanted that kind of effort out of everyone. So I lettered 3 years in high school and got a scholarship to play in college where I beat out the entire rest of the team, seniors and all, for the Mr. Hustle award during my freshman season.
I remember about this same time riding in the car on the way to church with my family. We were on Reservoir Road in Little Rock, AR. I was a bit of a worrier up to this point in my life about stuff like my appearance, my weight, blah, blah, blah. And I was realizing that worrying was going to get in the way of my new work ethic. So right then, I remember the moment very clearly, I decided that I was not going to worry about anything. I turned it off. And for the most part, I haven’t since that very moment worried about much for very long at all. My parents, if they read this, may be surprised to discover these things about me. I didn’t talk about them. I didn’t talk about much. I kept my feelings to myself. I kept my thoughts to myself. And honestly, sometimes I remember being praised by any number of individuals even for that. I had no problems, or appeared to have none at least.
Those three things had a tremendous impact on shaping who I have become. Who I am is a dude who knows how to work awfully hard, who knows how to put out tremendous effort, who knows how to out-effort the next guy, who knows how to endure (Luckily, by complete chance most likely, I have also learned how to rest and not work myself into the ground. I work hard when I work. But I understand the value of rest. In fact I would even say that I feel like I have to earn rest. If I haven’t worked, I don’t deserve rest. I don’t think I’m a “classic” work-a-holic. I’m an effort-a-holic.). Earning approval through effort was reinforced over and over and over and over and it still is. And emotion gets in the way of effort so I have shut it off. So I find myself as a man who knows how to work hard and even loves to do it at times but who is a bit hollow because there is not much emotion along with it.
Karmen asked me just the other night as we were talking about this what it would be like to do all the things that I do (triathlon, compete, climb, train, surf, golf, martial arts, etc) because I loved to do it rather than because I was trying to earn approval? I burst into tears. Wow. What would that be like? It might be amazing! It seems like it would be peaceful. I want that.
So now some of the questions: How has this thing I have outlined above shaped my view of God? How has this thing I have outlined above affected my relationship with Karmen? How has this thing that I have outlined above affected my relationship with Jack and Jace? How has this thing that I have outlined above affected my relationship with friends? How has this thing above affected the things that I truly love to do like triathlon?
Some of the possible answers: Emotion mostly comes out of me when it does as frustration or anger. I don’t have many friends and maybe just one really good one. I push Jack and Jace too hard. I push Karmen too hard. People often tell me I look mad or that my words and my facial expressions do not match.
I apologize for kind of getting less organized and philosophical and more wandering and personal with this post. But this is what is inside of me right now, and I needed to get it out. Probably a sign that I am moving in the right direction on this thing.