Hard Work

One of my buddies from the gym wants to lose 20 pounds. He does significant cardio six days each week. Andy is becoming a beast on the stair master. He lifts weights too. Chest and triceps one day, back and biceps the next. And abdominal exercises? Don't ask. A hundred sit-ups AND a hundred leg lifts. He never misses a day. No physical therapy Ph.D. could invent a more sophisticated work out. But just in case, Andy has hired not one but two PT's to help him lose the 20 pounds. They design increasingly sophisticated stomach exercises which Andy does with dedication and zeal.
Andy and I have been chatting--"Howsa family?" "How 'bout them Dolphins?"--for a year now. He has been religiously consistent in his attendance at the gym. But to this point, he has not lost an ounce. His stomach still sags over his belt. He does not have the body that he wants. He is not attractive in his own eyes.
How can this be? How can he work out so assiduously and not lose any weight? Because he drinks two liters of soda each and every day.
"Hey," he says. "I'm stressed at the office. It takes a ton of money to live in this town. I have to defend my company from spurious lawsuits. Soda calms me down, lets me get my work done."
Andy also complains about his children: "I am a good provider. I paid for private school and private college. No tuition discount, no financial aid. I have paid their mother, that psychotic wrench of an ex-wife, a king's ransom in alimony and child support. I paid for therapists, tutors, educational consultants, summer camps, and travel for my children. It is completely beyond me how my kids and I are not close. After all I have done for them. How dare they not return my calls?"
And who am I to disagree? Am I any better than Andy? Have I cut sugar completely out of my life? Have I thrown away my television in favor of reading classics? Have I been productive and positive in all my relationships today? Have I done the hard work required to be the best person and the best parent I can?
How simple and straightforward it is to notice the staggering near misses of families. Other than my own, mind you.
It is as plain as the nose on my face what Andy needs to do: if he is serious about losing the 20 pounds, he has to cut out the two liters of soda every day. If he means what he says about reestablishing a relationship with his children, he has to cut down on hours in the office and spend some time connecting with his kids.
Perhaps not just sarcasm but also insight is a mirror in which we see everyone's face except our own.
"Spend time with your kids" is not my simplistic message this week. More cogent is, "what am I missing?" Is there something obvious to a naïve impartial observer? What could I be doing better?
It's one thing to get to the gym. It's another to change diet. It's one thing to provide economically for our kids. It's harder to determine and support their emotional needs. Or as a buddy of mine put it after her second divorce, "the only person at the scene of both accidents was me." Let's all commit to doing the hard work. Let's agree to take a long, deep look in the mirror. Let's do what's right for our beloved children.

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