Breakfast Of Champions

It was such a great line, a line that said so much more than just the words. There was this huge defining moment of the person who said the line, why he said it, how he said it… but there was even more. His quickness of wit, his light and easy defense of himself – god, it was so wonderful!

I was watching an NCIS rerun the other night, something I usually do on the weekends when there is so little else on late in the evening. The main character, Gibbs, had gotten out of bed to answer his doorbell at 6 a.m. The man at the door was his former mentor, retired NCIS Special Agent Mike Franks An old friend, Franks had been called back to temporary duty from his retirement “shack” on a beach in Mexico. He arrived at Gibbs’ doorstep at the crack of dawn and rang the doorbell. Gibbs sleepily answered and Franks bustled into his living room and threw his duffel bag on the couch.
“You’re early.” Gibbs mumbled.
“Actually, I’m right on time, Probie,” Franks replied. “Probie” is Marine short for Probational Agent and another word for “rookie.” Gibbs was anything but a probie, but not in the mind of his old pal.
‘Aren’t you going to offer me a drink?” Franks asked.
Gibbs hesitated. “What do you want?”
“A whiskey’ll do,” the man replied.
Gibbs shook his head. “It’s six o’clock in the morning! You haven’t even had breakfast yet.!”
Franks waved his hand. “Throw a cheerio on it.”

See, now right there is a guy I want to meet, want to talk to, just like Gibbs is doing here. I want to bounce myself off him, and see where we both land.

“Bounce myself off him??” Sure, you know, they way all of us do to one extent or another. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we try to keep redefining ourselves (or at least re-confirming our suspicions about ourselves) by letting those few people that we know, respect and trust, who we are, how we are and how we are feeling about certain things at certain times. Women do this so very well. It’s like a friendly “trolling for feedback” on ourselves, which, we have to admit, we need from time to time. We need to know where we stand in others’ eyes, how we are perceived, if they think we are who we think we are.

Most “manly men” that I know don’t need that bullshit. They know who the hell they are and fuck anybody who can’t deal with it. Meh. Giant egos, tiny minds. Who do we know who can’t stand a little introspection, a little improvement? Our internal waters are deep… for all of us. Our actual individual brain power is relative in this regard. To be a walking, functioning human being on this planet is to have a depth of sensitivity, feelings and thought that naturally go deeper than most of us are willing to admit. Most of us are just swimmers, some are snorkelers and a few are Scuba divers.

“The true profession of a man is to find his way to himself.”
Hermann Hesse

And that’s where the difference in brain power begins to matter. Those who are willing to Scuba dive into their own depths often come up with some great introspection… not just about themselves, but about life and the world in general. The basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar comes immediately to mind. You can see wisdom in his eyes, compassion in his face and voice. And he says things like this –
• You can’t win unless you learn how to lose. …
• I think that the good and the great are only separated by the willingness to sacrifice. …
• One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team. …
• I try to do the right thing at the right time.

To my mind, Kareem, someone nearly all of us know of, is a deep diver. Guess who else? Bill Russell. Bill has shared these thoughts –
“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”
“You can do anything you want to do if you want it bad enough.”
“Commitment separates those who live their dreams from those who live their lives regretting the opportunities they have squandered.”

It’s not that hard to recognize someone who is really intelligent, thoughtful and “deep.” For me, I usually get the feeling they know far more than they’re telling me, or already know far more than I’m telling them. Often they will subtly take a fairly simple idea and reframe it into an entirely new dimension. Or they might say a thing we’ve heard before in a way we’ve not heard before. I love those people… knowing they’re not necessarily pleasant, not necessarily easy to deal with. They are hard (and often impossible) to get to know, and they usually read the rest of us quickly and gently discard us, usually over a short time.

That’s okay. Many of us do the same things on the level of folk we attract. How well we get to know ourselves has much to do with the kind of people we ultimately attract. Others read us in ways we don’t expect, making our “circle of friends” somewhat accidental. For it’s only natural that we look for things in others that we like, that we respect. Often we realize they have something we like, something we need, something that we get from them. Knowing that doesn’t give us a reason to beat ourselves up about it, though… it’s human nature, plain and simple. Hopefully our respect for our friends will keep us from taking more from them than they want to give, or more than we deserve.

Over the years I’ve slowly come to make my peace with all that. Diving a bit deeper to realize who I really am has been a huge help in understanding how and why others respond to me they way they do or don’t. Knowing where we stand in the world has many benefits, one of which is to save ourselves a lot of angst when relationships don’t work out to our expectations. Being able to accept what is, what isn’t and what can’t be is a huge relief for an otherwise invisible burden for us to pack around, often unknowingly.

I’ve been able to accept, mostly, the hurt and disappointment that comes when someone I admired, respected  and cared about quietly checked out. It used to drive me crazy, wondering what the hell I did wrong, what was wrong with me… always why it was my fault, never theirs. Being able to accept the result without knowing the reason is difficult, but often necessary. Regardless, relationships are so important, whether we acknowledge it or not. 

At this point in my life I’m simply grateful for the few small things I can control, and when life occasionally still throws me a hanging curve, I simply swing, miss, and throw a cheerio at it.

Steve Hulse

One Reply to “Breakfast Of Champions”

  1. Love that we are never done learning! Even at 80+, there are lessons to learn. Continues to make life interesting!

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