08

It’s the second week of January. Have you failed yet? Has your will relented to the gentle, persistent persuasion of your silver-tongued mind? Have you allowed yourself a puff, a drink, a bite, an extra day away from the gym? Can you feel the excitement and novelty of your annual resolve fading to reveal failure that is all too familiar?

Don’t worry. Justification rides shotgun by default. It will be there to stroke your bruised ego and relieve you of guilt with its standard mechanical responses, just as it has in the past.

It’s not the right time…I’m too stressed…I’m not ready

And my personal favorite, it just wasn’t meant to be.

This “meant to be” shit has got to stop.  Along with its contemporary cousin, it is what it is…at least in reference to anything more meaningful than the weather.

I digress.

I say “mechanical” because these responses are beyond predictable...they’re automated. As complex as the mind is in so many ways, overall there is a simplicity to most psychological processes. So when after several months of prepping yourself for a change of habit...after convincing yourself that on such-and-such a date you are finally going to begin creating a person you will like more than the person you currently are, you fail and the realization sets in that you must accept being no better than you were when you hated yourself, your mind gets to work defending your inaction. 

It is a necessary defense mechanism, really. After all, life goes on and there will be another benchmark date to effect the change you seek.

The right time…when you’re not so stressed…when you’re ready…when it’s meant to be 

Right? Fucking hippy?

A friend and I often laugh about our personal afflictions with money. We earn about the same amount and neither of us is an extremist in any particular direction, but he is more “penny saved is a penny earned” by default and I am definitely more “you can’t take it with you”.

One day he explained his fundamental fear that he not have it when he needs it, to which I jokingly replied that mine is I would die before I spend it.

While banks benefiting from interest earned on our dime would have us believe thinking long-term is always most prudent, I’m not convinced. Sure, a degree of preparation is essential, especially when others are counting on you. But acknowledging that another moment on this earth is hardly guaranteed is something most people refuse to do.

That pesky ego...it yearns for immortality. It dismisses any evidence of our impermanence with a vengeance. This is a fear-based motivation that religion has fed upon since dirt was on fire, and it is the voice you hear when you fall short and feel guilty about it. It is the internal whisper, vindicating procrastination, assuring you that there is plenty of time before you get cancer…a heart attack…gain another 30 pounds of pure, delicious fat. It reasons with you that none of that stuff will probably happen to you anyway. It is the reason I have not written my first book and struggle with more than an occasional Black N’ Mild.

They’re not even good cigars for shit’s sake.  

Indeed, your ego is one arrogant, clever son of a bitch. But I have something important to share with you that, with all its savvy and good intent your ego does not want you to believe. If you will be so brave as to take a few deep breaths, push it aside and find that elusive quiet, calm state of mind that is so fleeting in our busy lives, it is a message that will change the way you live your life for better and for good:

You are going to die.

You are all going to die. I am going to die, too. Some of us might even be dying sooner than we think, sooner than is fair to our ambitions and loved ones. But, sooner or later, we die.

Before you call me out for stating the obvious, ask yourselves: have you accepted this simple truth? How many people do you know who clearly, truly believe and understand this?

It’s scary shit, no doubt. Though your faith (or lack of ideology for that matter) may bring you a degree of comfort, death is the ultimate unknown, and therefore the ultimate fear and a terrifying threat to the ego's need for permanence.

But you must soak it in, in order to appreciate the evanescent nature of life. Every truly great and truly despised person in human history…religious, agnostics and atheists alike…brave men and women and heroes who served others with their last breath…weaker, more pathetic souls who panicked and shook…at the end of the day they all died just the same. And in a manner that at least at this moment is still to be determined, so will you.

This is not about what you believe does or does not happen on the other side. This is about life, right here and right now being all that we have. Acknowledging that when death does pull your card, which it will without the shadow of a doubt, the opportunity to procrastinate goes with it. 


That’s the thing. You have no time. None of us do. Time is an illusion. It is a measurement system we concocted using planetary patterns in an attempt to wrap our brains around day-to-day activities. Activities many of us have become so disenchanted with that we find ourselves adopting lesser ones out of boredom and self-loathing.

Habitually.

The single act is not the problem. The habit is the problem.

And so you designate a day to begin anew. A “special” day. A new era in your brief existence. A New Year. But the even more temporary period of discomfort that accompanies that change is simply too much right now. Which boils down to a false lack of a sense of urgency, provided by your well-meaning but severely mistaken ego; your inner dialogue, whose sole purpose is to alleviate pain and discomfort, emotionally and physically. Which, ironically, founds its logic in the present at the expense of a future it believes goes on into forever.

But then one day you die. Your loved ones aren’t likely to dwell upon your selfishness or weakness, for we all dwell in this glass house together.  Flawed, sinful, blemished…however you choose to identify our human condition. But we die, nonetheless. Guilt-ridden at best; painfully, sickly or tragically at worst. Our legacy, well, is what it is.

Or we change.

We do everything in our power to alleviate the guilt that resides at the heart of our desire to transform our will and we feel fucking fantastic as a result. We smile in the face of the reaper, in the face of the unknown, and live rich, healthy lives because having found lasting peace in life, death isn’t so disturbing.

Happy New Year. 

--
J. Adams is a certified personal trainer and the columnist responsible for this here Man Hole, and one day he is going to die. But for now you can follow him on the Twitter via @Intangiball or love and hate him in the comments section below

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DJ Gelner
# DJ Gelner
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 8:06 PM
Great column, Justin. I try to remind myself almost pathologically that this is the case. It's the reason we all should lead the lives we want to, and not allow others to impose their wills upon us; it's the very essence of being a man.

On a related note, if you haven't seen Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, take a look--apparently great minds think alike!

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc
Chris Reed
# Chris Reed
Wednesday, January 09, 2013 2:11 PM
Seconded. Though I am a classic procrastinator in every sense of the word, I'm starting to realize the things you stated more and more as I blow through my 30s. It's a constant struggle, though, because I like the vices as much as the remedies. So my goal is to strive for balance in all areas, hoping that's enough to make this moment in my life the halfway point. Beyond that, all bets are off. I don't want to come full-circle: needing constant care, having to be fed, wearing diapers, etc. Fuck that. Once was enough for that type of existence.

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