Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There Is No Such Thing as a Crane Kick

Finish Him!

I love routine.

That's not exactly true. The true lovers of routine have an apostolic devotion to it, a scary single mindedness that makes them, not robotic exactly, but surely more than human. Routine makes them champions. Ted Williams -- The Kid, the Splendid Splinter, The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, Teddy Ballgame -- raised routine to high art: every swing of his bat was the product of hours of repetitive practice. Wayne Gretzky was the same way, once telling reporters that nothing he ever saw in a game surprised him, because he'd "already seen it a thousand times in practice." Even the sons of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon devoted themselves to disciplined study and "much prayer and fasting," so that they could teach with the "power of God."

It's the "Wax on, Wax off" strategy: Move your left arm in a sweeping counterclockwise motion, and move your right arm in a sweeping clockwise motion, and after about ten thousand repetitions, you're ready to head down to the All-Valley Karate Tournament, and give the ol' what for to those smug pretty boys from Cobra Kai dojo.

That's not me. I'm no Sultan of Sameness, no Rajah of Routine.  I'm not disciplined enough for that.  I'm just a guy who doesn't like surprises. I take the same way to work, every day. I like vanilla ice cream, not French vanilla, not Mexican vanilla, just plain vanilla. Subway? Ham on white, please, with a mini bag of regular Lay's. Last month, I bought a new pair of New Balance sneakers, and throwing care to the wind, chose a style that featured red and blue trim, instead of my normal navy on white. I've worn them once. The red unnerves me.

I was looking for something yesterday, scrolling through a photo file, and found a bunch of images of our kids, many of them photos taken when they were just babies. I felt this enormous, almost disorienting pang of remorse, and sat and wished that they were still small and sheltered and safely tucked away with Mom and Dad. I wanted everything to be like it used to be, everything safe and certain in a nice, unsurprising, ham on white sameness. My grandmother, that tiny terror, Five Feet of Fury, used to berate my cousins Chris and Greg and me, because we'd had the temerity to grow taller than she was. She was kidding, I think -- Grandma's sense of humor tended toward the Don Rickles, "I hate you; God bless you" end of the spectrum, which is tough sledding for a twelve year old -- but I also think that our growing up was a source of sadness for her, a reminder that everything was changing.

This is no way to live.  Change is inevitable, and it is essential, and if you don't embrace it, it steamrolls you anyway. I miss the old days -- nostalgia is an essential component of the human condition -- but all of the really wonderful and joyous and exciting things that have ever happened to me, have happened because of change.  Coming to Texas was an enormous change.  Leaving for college, serving a mission, getting married, starting a family: all risky, all overwhelming, all great, shining blessings in my life.

As much as those baby pictures tugged at my heart, I'm glad we're not stuck in toddler days.  Our daughter, our only daughter, is months away from being a college student, of being "on her own" in that independent, yet bankrolled by a generous grant from the Mom and Dad Foundation way that college students are on their own. She is smart and confident and beautiful, a fully realized young woman, and only a fool would wish it any other way. Our sons, one already a man, one just stepping out of boyhood, are fully realized in their own right, filled with talents and opinions and aspirations and the thrill of discovering for themselves the paths they ought to walk.  Babies?  Babies I'll be glad for when I'm a grandfather (does that sound like Tevye?  Maybe it does.  It's raining and I'm 46 and my back is sore and I've been in such a mood for the last two days and if you can't sound a little like Tevye under those circumstances, then phooey.) 

You can't stop time. You can't go backwards; what you're looking for back there doesn't exist anymore. You can only remember the lessons you've learned, avoid the pitfalls you're experienced enough to recognize, and keep moving forward.

I've decided that I need to be better about embracing change. It's time for lunch. I'm thinking turkey on white, with barbecue chips.

Small steps.

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