Harold was about 80 and was recounting a truth to me that I have heard about 100 times. It’s the truth I call The Shape of Life and it starts with his story:
Harold fell in love with Agnes and the truth was, she was a piece of work. High strung, high tempered, high maintenance. A human version of a thoroughbred racehorse—a beauty to behold, but hard on the help.
But to tell another truth, that was the kind of girl Harold was drawn to. He liked her flash and style…until the kids were born. Three girls, two like their mother, the other like Harold. When they were little they were colicky, when they were in school they needed tutors, and private lessons and trips to tournaments.
Agnes handled the extra pressure by yelling at the wrong times, pouting at the wrong times and having nervous breakdowns at the wrong times. Each year it got harder and harder and by the time the oldest was a senior in high school, Harold had it. He told Agnes he couldn’t take it anymore and Agnes threw him out in a scene of high drama, one packed suitcase and even some broken dishes (I think I’ve seen that movie!).
So Harold found another wife (remarkably similar to Agnes), who had two troubled high-strung kids of her own. Agnes picked up a flashy cowboy with a drinking problem with two ex-wives, four sketchy kids and a load of baggage. Without Harold to moderate, the three daughters went down a bad path for a while, held him solely responsible and there are still some bad feelings and difficulties echoing 30 years after the dishes were broken. Harold said with a sigh, “Looking back, I should have stuck it out a little longer.”
And that is what I call The Shape of Life.
-In college the pressure of finals week builds and builds and builds and then…poof! It’s over! Blissful freedom!
-When the kids are little, the yowling, shrieking, fussy, crying and then…poof! They’re all asleep and there is total peaceful silence.
-And marriage. The studies show that teenagers are really tough on a marriage. These are the hardest years, but once the last one is out the door…poof! It’s just you two again. Much, much easier.
Deadlines, finals, projects, graduations, ceremonies—all of them have this same mounting pressure that becomes almost unbearable until just when you can no longer bear it…poof! It’s over and gone. Don’t misunderstand; sometimes you have to quit, but quitting at the peak of pressure doesn’t seem to work so well.
Navy SEAL trainers, of all people, know this and use it to weed out recruits. Andrew, a friend of mine told me about it. “It lasts about five weeks and each day gets harder and harder. If they can get you to focus on how long and hard the whole process is, then you get discouraged and quit. But if you focus on short goals (meals are served every six hours and many just focus on getting to the next meal) then you can make it and…poof! They call you out of the pool…and poof! You are a Navy SEAL.”
So wherever you are at, my friend, hang on! I think just one more day, one more sales call, one more test, one more patience-stretching tantrum, one more round of treatment, one more trial and…poof! it will be done! You made it!
And you will savor the moment ☺ Hoo-RAH!