The fine line: Living a good story vs. Telling a good story

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I had lunch with one of my best friends a few days ago. He’s been in the Army since graduating from the Citadel in 1997. He’s been to the desert 3 times already to defend our freedom. 3 years in the desert with people shooting at him. Before that he lived in Italy.

He was home for a few days so I took him to lunch at a local BBQ place, while he waited on his family to get home.

We used to spend alot of time together. He had a Jeep and we ruled our town for a few summers, driving the back roads, stopping in at parties, cruising the lake. Once he drove me half way across the country and back with stops in Memphis, New Orleans, Austin, and Dallas to help me loosen my grip on the past. He forced me to live at a time when I wanted to reflect. He’s the one who helped me get into a kayak for the first time…and then shoved me off downstream into rapids with no instruction. He’s the one who introduced me to one of my true loves…Charleston, SC. He was the Dean Moriarty to my Sal Paradise and somewhere along the road there was a pearl to be found. We used to talk about what that meant while smoking cigars, drinking Guiness, and drifting on top of a pontoon boat on the lake late at night. He’s a good friend.

A few days ago though I sat across from him eating my brisket tacos and talked. I talked alot. I didn’t listen much. He’s had unique life experiences in the last 10 years. He’s been living alot, and I suppose I have too, but it occurred to me as I droned on about how hard it is raising three kids and wondering about the value of life in the suburbs, that I couldn’t stop myself from talking about me. I wanted to shut up. I really did, but I couldn’t.

I wanted to know his stories. In fact, I think I needed his stories about adventure. And looking back, I think more importantly he needed to share them. We’re all lonely in some way and sharing our stories gives us connectivity. Somehow if he knew about my kids, my job, my training schedule it would make my story more exciting. But that’s bullcrap. I just wanted to talk about myself. To hear my story…as an affirmation that I’m still alive. He listened patiently and even asked alot of questions.

That same night I was reading Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” and came across a section where Donald is discussing serving others with a friend. Donald is blown away by his friends willingness to serve others, almost always without thanks. I’m paraphrasing, but this friend tells him something like this:

“If I don’t wake up every morning ready to die to myself to help others, maybe I’m not following Jesus at all.”

That’s what Jesus did, right? That was a tough pill to swallow for me. Over the course of my life mommy and I have done things to help others with our time and money, but it’s not everyday. The ugly truth is that I spend most days trying to avoid it. I’ve got stuff to do. And  that day in the BBQ restaurant with my friend who needed my ear and not more of my triathlon stories, it was about me. I wasn’t there for him and I regretted it as soon as I dropped him off at his house.

I don’t think you have to go to Africa to serve others, although its great that some do. It’s simple really; We’re meant to love each other. Day to day. Sometimes that means listening instead of talking. Sometimes it means showing through our actions, but I’m convinced it never means viewing myself as the star of the story. It sounds good when I say it, but it’s hard to live that way.

There’s a fine line between “living a good story” and telling a good story. So, I’m trying to follow along with the plot here. I’m trying to keep my mouth shut more often while I live my life. I wonder what life would be like if we went to Charleston or what it might be like if we lived on a ranch in Austin. Life’s full of wonder that’s better explored than left alone.

We live a good life, kids. I hope you hear that in my letters. But I’m always looking to make it more interesting.

Max and Kate, Izzy, mommy and I got a big kick out of these pictures you two drew at Mother’s Day Out.

They’re titled: “Some of my Favorite Things That God Made”. Kate here’s yours:

You listed some interesting stuff: Ms. Kim (your teacher), a butterfly, an alligator, a catepillar, a sea turtle, and …a ladder….and a rope. Interesting. You’re thankful for a lot.

Now, Max, here’s your list:

One thing: “My daddy’s tractor”. That says it all. Ain’t nothing wrong with being a simple man, Max.

Je t’aime mon bebes,

– Daddy

Training:

Monday: REST

Tuesday: Swam 2000 yards at 5:00am / Scheduled for a competitive group ride tonight of a little over 20 miles