Her name is Judy, and she works out at our local gym. She is impressive or maddening, it all depends on how you view her.
Judy is by one standard highly successful. She is a lawyer and partner in a busy practice. She is married to a well-known cardiologist, and she has two young children, drives a luxury SUV and is only 39 years old. As I mentioned, she works out at the gym, and her workouts are on a different level than us “mere humans.” Whether alone or with one of several training partners (both men and women), Judy pushes herself through rigorous cardio routines, weights, stretching, long runs and yoga. She has a nutritionist, massage therapist and physical therapist. I know these things all too well because she incessantly brags about all of them.
Judy is by another standard disliked. In the gym, she tends to believe it is her right to jump from one piece of equipment to the next (claiming all of them simultaneously), to talk and boast above everyone else about her physical exploits, to “borrow” several dumbbells all at once, and to spread out her personal belongings as though she is the only one present.
You Never Regret Your Silence
I learned many years ago that it is usually better to observe and listen than to react. I realize that it is often tricky and maddening to do so. I watch and recognize how others in the health club negatively respond to her. She is self-centered, full of herself and a bit too pretentious. I can also appreciate how others might be jealous of her. By every outward sign, she is a woman who seems to have everything: position, education, wealth, family and health.
However, I have been walking on this earth for a while, and I understand that life is not always what it appears to be or how it seems. Instead of allowing myself to react to Judy’s over-loud voice and ambitious workout routines, I began to observe and listen.
The first observation came by complete accident. It was an early morning workout. I was lumbering along on the treadmill before getting to ready to leave for the airport and to fly out west when I observed Judy talking with one of her ultra-marathoner friends. Judy was trying to make a point as to how heavy she was. She pinched her side with a disgusted look on her face. She is skinny, and I doubt her body fat is much more than five percent.
Then, about a week later, she was racing along on a treadmill, side by side with a runner friend on another treadmill. She was complaining of having hip pain, and how her physical therapist was telling her that her “mechanics” would lead her to have greater problems in the future. Still, she kept up the pace of a sprinter and said, “I’ll never slow down.”
Finally, one of her male training buddies was talking to another friend about Judy in the club lobby.
“She’s unbelievable,” he said. “One Saturday not long ago, she did a tough training run with some friends. A few of us were supposed to go on an early morning Sunday run the next day, and I told her it was OK if she didn’t show up so she could rest and spend time with her family. You know what? That Sunday she showed up at 5:00 a.m. and did a two-hour run with us! She’s never home!”
Appreciate What’s Important
Over time, I have softened toward Judy, though we never have so much as said hello to one another. I realized that she is not running toward anything, but being chased. Time is chasing her, and it will catch up. She will turn 40, right on schedule, then 50 and more. Her hip discomfort will probably get worse, and her body fat will slowly creep up.
I imagine she and her husband are of means. Perhaps they have live-in help. I wondered about her young children. What were they doing when Mom went to work out in the morning and evening seven days a week? How will Judy get back all the time she lost?
I am all for physical fitness, and I want to see people succeed, but I am always curious about the price of success and the cost that losing balance takes on our lives. Judy, by every outward marker, is satisfied. Inwardly, I wonder. How much is she is paying attention to the passage of time and special moments with her family and friends she will never experience or get back? I wonder if the cost she is paying for success, physical fitness and a lifestyle that keeps her away from home is worth the price?
With the passing of my mother-in-law and stepfather, this year has been a reminder of how time is so finite and precious. Our society is presently preoccupied with feigning goals. However, goals of love, contentment and genuine happiness are far more elusive but ultimately more rewarding.
For the past twenty years, I have been challenging people never to lose their passion or focus regarding what’s important. Just like Judy, real people in real situations have a way of reminding me of my deficiencies. Writing this blog is therapeutic for me, and hopefully helpful to you. It goads me to say that it is never an issue of wants vs. needs; it is an issue of wants vs. priorities. I remember when I was 39, heading in ten different directions and self-satisfied with my busy schedule to meet my excessive goals. Eleven years later I turned 50. I began to fathom that maturity was not talking about big things, or even acquiring them, but appreciating small things. It was understanding that success was about appreciation, not accumulation. As my inner circle of family and friends will testify, my life changed when I stopped glorifying busy.