First Things First

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Make It Good

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When's the last time you sat down and counted your blessings? I figure a person who doesn't count his blessings is a person who never learned how to add. I mean, I don't get from the bedroom to the bathroom without counting my blessings, especially since we installed indoor plumbing.

Counting blessings, however, can be a complicated matter requiring the satisfaction of multiple conditions: the thought -- I should count my blessings -- must first occur. Of course you must stop what you're doing, which might include worrying and complaining, to ponder, discover, recollect and establish those blessings. This takes time. Things need to be assessed and processed, and finally, allowed to flood over you in all their goodness. More time, to say nothing of patience.

The blessings can really add up. I skip the old battered truck and the house that needs repairs, leaving them to last. I start with stuff like my eyesight, though blurring, and heartbeat, though irregular, and Laree, though rebellious, and move on.
There's another partially sunny day, gas prices dropped three cents a gallon, sale on tube socks at Kmart... the list goes on.
Why the summons to counting our blessings? Because despite our cuddliness, we are, most of us, ungrateful rascals: spoiled, self-centered, unaware, blind to our precious bestowments and thoughtless of life's real hardships suffered by our neighbors. We should all -- big and strong or not so, young or old, timid or daring, wise or wise enough to know we are not -- make the math a practice, a habit, as we do calculating and multiplying our worries and woes. We would do well not to focus on the latter.

If you don't pray, counting your blessings is a reasonable substitute.

Today I listened to someone complain about the slow progress he's making after three years in the gym. He's in his early 20s, average height and average weight, all his fingers and all his toes. He's struggling to reach 200 solid pounds, and every workout seems to be another step away from reaching it. He's so frustrated, envious of others, sick and tired of his routine and depressed about those ever-retreating goals that he's willing, almost, to sell his soul.

I wanted to say, "Get a life, Smiley," but recalled only too vividly feeling the same countless times over the years. The thing is I had absolutely no one to talk with, to share my disappointment or seek encouragement. The "me" of "me, myself and I" became the sole recipient of the silent conversations. I bore the slowness of my progress as something quite natural, which it was. I didn't look to the magazines and wish I looked like the virile, handsome gorilla on the cover by the month's end. Common sense had not been brutally squeezed out of me and replaced with selfish and absurd dreams of more, better and sooner. Of another generation, I was spared the illusion.

I was delighted with young boy-young man dreams of striving and struggling toward better things and enjoying the fight along the way.

And you have no idea how thankful I am that no one was there to listen to my whiney lamentations. For starters, I would feel to this day an embarrassment and guilt difficult to assimilate. Additionally, I would not have resolved the problems directly, clearly, memorably and by myself (with a little help from God and some wall charts). Where there is no fight, there is no might; no hill, no thrill.

Seeking counsel is wise, and good advice is a gift, but excessive reliance on those around you can lead to dependence and diluted information.

The young man in question asked for my help. I love to help. He asked with an urgency and desperation that suggested the world was about to collide with the planet next door. I have trouble with hopeless helplessness. He wanted the big answer, not just a biceps-peaking routine or a good source of protein. The whole answer and at once was his single request. I got the impression he was seeking placement in an Advanced Bodybuilding Care Unit (ABCU). This was serious, unlike the plight others encounter. Life was running out. All the methodologies had been applied, practiced and failed.

He looked at himself. I looked at the wall.

We must not allow ourselves to slip into this state of mind, call it bodybuilding depression. It's icy cold, breathless, too dark for maneuvering and filled with woe. It's easy to enter and hard to exit and serves no purpose whatsoever. It's self-centered, narrow and spoiled. And, sorry dog, it's as common as fleas.

The ironic thing is that weight training is a perfect antidote to depression. It grabs your attention, diverts your negative longings, satisfies a multitude of positive purposes, develops discipline and character and restores your inner chemistry and mental balance.

Depressed? Work out!

Thanks, Doc. I needed that.

It's the ‘bodybuilding thing' that can be hard to control. As a bodybuilder, especially the competitive type, some is never really enough. More muscle, more definition, another vein and, oh, to drop the bodyfat another percentage point. One more set, another 10 minutes on the bike and 50 fewer calories. Got it now, except for some length in the lats... some depth in the intercostals... thickness in the lumbar region... a tad taller...

These bum thoughts and feelings hit us occasionally like a sack of ripe garbage flung from life's waste-management vehicle as it speeds furiously to the nearby dumpsite. Before we can wipe the muck from our kisser, we start grumbling to ourselves and anyone in earshot.

Once started, grumbling is hard to control.

I withheld my disappointment in his failure to note his privileged position in the world. A quick look in the mirror -- humility is a glance away -- straightened me right out. Instead, I adjusted the mic, mounted my soap box, looked him in the eye and said...

This stuff can drive a sane man crazy or make him stronger and stronger day by day. Muscles and might do not come easy, but the amazing, wonderful thing is there are no secrets and there's nothing you cannot do to resolve your small mess now and tomorrow by your own commitment, dedication and hard work. Courage, perseverance and discipline are the ingredients we need to gain the goals we seek, and these qualities grow as the muscle and might grow, side by side.

I'll tell you this: You are not alone. Most every bodybuilder feels as you do at one time or another. Get out of the funk by continuing to train hard and with redefined confidence. Your training works, but not when you stare at it or doubt it.
With that, I leaped from the box, threw my black stealth cape over my shoulders and dashed from the gym floor.

Life is what you make it, bombers. Make it good.



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