Happiness Is a Spent Body, Draft 3

With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall…


He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.

Psalms 18:29; 33-36, NIV


As I type this, my body is sweaty. My fingers trimble. What little that’s left of my hair drips perspiration on the keyboard.

I finished a 17-mile bike sprint before coming inside to work on this chapter. I’m spent. And it feels freaking amazing.

Today is day one of this year’s training. Of this season of life. SERIOUS–at least for this old man–TRAINING.

Or at least the “real” training that’s been on the horizon since the sneakers were hung up late last fall. I’ve been lifting and jogging and recumbent bike riding during the cool days. I can’t bring myself to say winter. We live in the southeast United States.

But today, it’s time to get SERIOUS.

Shooting for a half ironman triathlon this year: 1.2 mile swim. 56 mile bike ride. 13.1 mile run.

My guts get kind of squishy just looking at those numbers.

Last your I did an Olympic-length event: 1,500m swim. 40k bike ride. 10k run.

The year before that I did a Triathlon sprint: 750m swim. 20k bike ride. 5k run.

I know, I’m mixing metric and miles. It’s the life of a Triathloner. You get used to it.

Now don’t get me wrong. Last year or the year before, I didn’t jump into an ocean wearing a goofy swimsuit with hundreds of my closest friends, doing our best imitation of salmon swimming upstream.

I didn’t bike around the city of Pensacola in spandex with a big number markered on my arm and ignoring the tourists.

And I certainly didn’t run by countless water stations wanting to give up on my dreams at every stop for a sip of Powerade.

I admire everyone of those gifted, focused, demented racers who do all the things above, but that’s not me. At least not yet.

I’m not racing against anyone but myself right now.

Like I tell Queen Gwen after every full-length workout, “Well, my dear, I would have finished dead last but I didn’t finish dead.”

I’m what you call an “Ultra Clydesdale” when it comes to Triathloning. A category that I don’t believe existed until I just typed that phrase.

A typical triathlon athlete weighs about 135 pounds soaking wet. A clydesdale (the heavier competitors) comes in about 175 pounds, give or take their last bowl of pasta.

I tipped the scales this morning, on the first day of training, at 217. Two-freakin’-seventeen. Fifty-two pounds above where I want to be by the end of year.

Sounds like an Ultra Clydesdale to me.

God have mercy, of all the distances ahead of me, the length between 217 and 165 seems by far the longest. Fifty-two pounds. That’s a lot of missed chili dogs.

So, for now, I compete behind the fence.

We’ve got a big backyard with an eight-foot privacy fence all the way around. We’ve got a pool that’s 40×20. We’ve got a stationery tri-trainer that sets on the pool deck.

No reason for me to go anywhere but the backyard.

And work my ass off.

Six days a week.

Until it gets too cold for me to go.

The swim: 1.2 miles. That’s 160 lengths of the pool.

The bike: 56 miles. That’s 16,800 spinning revolutions on the tri-trainer.

The run: 13.1 miles. That’s 179 laps around the fence.

Dear God, what was I thinking?

I was thinking of being spent. Done in. Vanquished. Worn out by the tasks willing to be tackled.

My dad, the Marine DI, used to tell me and my kid sister after every squabble: “If you’ve got time to quarrel you’ve got time to work. Here’s your chores. Get busy.”

A spent body. A tired mind. A sated soul ready to rest.

I think, in a large way, God made us to work.

Think about it: He made Adam. Put him in a garden. Then put him to work.

As a gardener. As a zookeeper. As a husband.

He kept the garden. Named the creatures. Gave in to his wife. Two out of three ain’t bad.

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest: in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”

–Exodus 34:21, WEB


Work. Rest. The two go hand in hand.

Rest without working? You get really, really soft.

Work without rest? You’re headed toward a psychotic episode.

Been there, done that–in both instances–got the T-shirt.

Work. Six days a week. A prescription from the heavenly Father.

So what does all this have to do with wooing the woman you love?

If you’re worn out, you’re too tired to fight. And, what the hell, you might actually be able to tone up that flabby ass of yours.

More importantly, as in all these tasks taken on to make you a better you, if you’re focused on making yourself better, you’re not focused on her. No time to give her shit. No time to quarrel.

“Get busy,” I hear my earthly father say. “Here are your chores.”


“Father, why do we work?”

“Because that’s what I made you to do. I’m a worker.”

“You get a lot more accomplished than I do.”

“Been at it a lot longer than you have.”

“What is the purpose of work?”

“To make you stronger. To make the world a little bit of a better place.”

“Is that possible?”

“No, not really. The world is what the world is. But it helps you sleep at night. Helps you keep from autocannibalizing yourself.”

“That’s a nasty thought.”

“Nasty. And very real.”

“So, we should stay busy?”

“Well, you’re called a human being, not a human doing.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you also learn how to just be.”

“OK. That clicks with what you’ve told me in the past. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’”


“Is there a healthy balance?”

“That, my friend, is an oxymoron.”

“What do you mean?”

“You humans aren’t healthy. You’re not balanced.”

“Should we strive to be that way?”

“Hmmm. Let me put it to you this way. Should you work on making your strengths stronger or your weaknesses stronger?”

“I’m not sure exactly what you mean.”

“In your weakness, you’re most likely to seek me out. I want you weak in a way because then you seek strength. My strength.”

“So I should focus on my strengths, getting stronger?”

“That’s what I would recommend. Sharpen the sword, if you will.”

“Back to the healthy balance thing…”


“Not possible?”

“What do you think? For you, I would say that’s double tough. You’re one of those candles that burn twice as bright…”

“And half as long?”

“You said it, not me.”

“Eschew healthy balance and just go for it is what I’m hearing from you.”

“Eschew? Did you just use eschew in a sentence?”

“You made me a writer too. Got to brush off some of the seldomly used words.”

“What you do is you need to communicate. That’s what I made you to do, O.U.”

“Yes sir. We’re drifting off topic. Healthy? Balance?”

“O.U., you’re a runner. Runners run. You’re a writer. Writer’s write. That’s what they were made to do and that’s what they do. When they focus on other things, some things get lost in translation.”

“Like when I try to do home projects?”

“Lord, I love saying that, you’re a train wreck on those projects. Swear like a sailor…”

“I’m starting to get your point. Do what I do and do it with all my heart.”

“And mind. And soul. And strength.”

“And that’s how I’ll honor you?”

“And that’s how you’ll find inner satisfaction. That state of mind, that state of soul, gives you the ability to approach me in the proper mindset.”

“To honor you?”

“To honor me.”

“While I’ve got your attention, what about the whole platypus thing–”

“Enough, O.U. Go for a run.”

“Yes sir.”


And that’s where we’ll stop on a Thursday morning.

Word count: 1,429

We’ll edit this weekend.






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