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The Call from the Tower

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The neatest thing about being cheap, selfish and poor is you don't worry much about Christmas or birthday shopping: just do enough to keep out of serious trouble. I've got it down to one present, something to enjoy, like a new toilet bowl to replace the cracked one. Or installing a hot-water heater...hanging a back door with hinges and a lock...removing the tarp and patching the roof.

Did you ever wonder what the rich do with all their dough? I'm talking about overpaid greedy and sneaky politicians, Hollywood stars, athletic champions, big-time corporate CEOs, old money or rich and stoned drug lords.

The rest of us have a little house and a big mortgage, a little car and big gas tank, little mouths and big food bills. We shop at Wal-Mart once a year for underwear, socks and jeans. I'm not complaining; I'm rich like you're rich. But there's money collecting in off-shore bank accounts like garbage in landfills, and floating in the air like lost energy as good people work and dream, grope and plod, starve and die.

Give us a sturdy bench and some dumbbells, a stack of sets and a heap of reps and we're as happy as pigs in sh -- er -- sheep grazing on a lush and sunny hillside amid wildflowers and songbirds in the early spring. That doesn't make us simple and dumb. I was thinking more like thrilled and thankful…healthy and wise. I'd go on, but I don't want to drive you crazy. You'll grab a big stick and commence swinging, "Stop it, Draper, we don't want to hear another word about discipline and commitment, persistence and self-assurance. Take that, and that...I'll give you patience and satisfaction!" Smack, whack, bam!

All right, already. I get the message. How about huge and ripped?

Speaking of huge and ripped, when was the last time either of those adorable qualities seriously crossed your mind? I know. Gets rough out there sometimes. Staying afloat is enough.

But that shouldn't discourage us from throwing a life raft over the side and paddling around the less choppy waters near the hull. There's a lot to be learned and accomplished when you're loose and adrift. Floating is restful and sufficiently stimulating. You can look and see, observe and feel.

You can lower the anchor, but don't drop the iron.

Short and frisky workouts can be delightful if you'll allow yourself the treat (my workouts are seldom what one would call treats). The all-or-nothing attitude is admirable, but can prevent you from entering the gym until the seas have calmed, and heaven knows when that may be. Sometimes it's late summer before you get the ole' tub afloat and—glub, glub—on its way.

If you dare paddle hard and far, you can view what kind of craft you are. Are you a cruise ship or a battleship, a destroyer or a sport fishing vessel? Maybe you picture a barge. Is that you, a barge carrying garbage down the river to a distant landfill, seagulls flying in squawking rages about your hull? That old self-image needs work. Think tugboat.

Mixing metaphors, I see myself as an aircraft carrier, its decks trimmed with bombers and other stout-winged craft. I don't fly...I float. No more wars for me...more like a monument, though I still do some dive bombing. Beats being a tanker...cargo ships cower. I'm imposing alongside ferryboats. I can take the Queen Mary...not as cute as a yacht, but taller. I miss being a B-29. Where's my hangar?

Let's stop for a moment. (Stop? When are ya gonna start?)

I'm concerned about the barges plodding the waterways. Often a barge is not a barge, but an exaggerated impression of oneself. We all feel like barges after a few days of eating like barbarians. Real or perceived, the only prevention of the disaster is to stop it before it occurs. Willpower and, ironically, guts are the resources we must call upon—now and not tomorrow.

That was quick; my computer quivered and smoked. I no sooner mentioned willpower and everyone but you and me pressed the delete key and commenced surfing YouTube. They'll be back in a few months with weak limbs, long stories and looming shadows. And I was about to save them from the sorrowful blues indulgence and indolence, puffy twins in deed and performance.

What are the forces so strong that compel a person to compromise health and well-being for a shot of pleasure, a slug of enjoyment or a slice of delight? How weak is our constitution? Of what crumbly material are we made? Shame on us, we who are in control of our acts and actions—and we are.

I'll take the tuna, thanks. Skip training? Drop the iron? No way! I refuse to pay the price. I pay too much at the pump, cringe too much before the mirror, lose too much on the bench press, bear too much guilt during the layoff—the lost time—and suffer too much pain after the return.

Remember the Gap.

It's as real and deadly as the devil, the boogie man and that pale, mottled guy with the chainsaw. Don't let it get a foothold; prevent its first breath and beat it down with a kettlebell, a slumpbuster or the surge of your personal challenge.

"It's only time," you say.

No, it's more substantial than that. It's a brick, a building block, as sound as concrete or hardened earth. It's either set with mortar and sweat and design, or it's misplaced, absent integrity, purpose and cohesion. Upon such a foundation no structure will rise, no building will stand, no authentic bomber reside.

You can regroup, repair the damage, regain lost ground, restore abandoned resources, revive stalled energy and replace stolen and mislaid personal remnants. It's not too late, it's never too late. From a distance no one will know the difference. Only you.

In the morning, at the crack of dawn, when the runway is clear and you're still restless from a night of lost sleep, listen to the hum of the engine, the whir of the propeller and the sound of your heart beat.

As soon as you get the signal, the urge, the call from the tower, get that pulsing beast off the ground and in the air.



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