The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
The song ‘Forever Young,” originally recorded by Alphaville, has been covered by numerous artists, most notably Jay-Z. As with many popular lyrics, the meaning differs for each listener. For sure, it’s a reference to the Cold War, during which it was written. But for me, it’s my 2015 anthem.
To live every day with my heart in the moment and only one eye on the horizon.
I’ve missed many heart moments. At age 14, I wanted to be 16 and then I wanted to be 18 and then 21. My first time swimming across San Francisco Bay, all I wanted to do was get out of the frigid waters. I hated it. When I was in college, I wanted to graduate and didn’t give a hoot about absorbing what I was learning. My freshman year, I fell in love, but romanticized the future and focused on getting married instead of developing a solid relationship foundation. When my babies were born, I groaned for the day they’d be potty trained. I missed critical bonding moments between “boring” infancy and tee ball age.
Essentially, I stunted my emotional evolution. Distracted with the stuff of earth, I was so absorbed in what I might gain in the future that I missed the present.
As are some of you, I’m a visionary by design. Without a vision, we go nowhere fast or drive backwards through life’s maze. But if we’re uber focused on vision, we shortchange relationships and forgo eternally valuable opportunities. Both ends of this spectrum are danger zones. When we lean too far toward vision, we lose two critical elements to a fulfilling life. Pain and Joy. And you can’t have one without the other.
“Forever Young” opened my eyes to being in the moment—emotionally.
I want to avoid pain, and relationships are painful. Work is painful. Can’t I just skip all the hard stuff and jump straight to the Promise Land? Why suffer? Let’s introduce new technologies and not deal with required culture and workflow changes. Keep pushing and everyone will eventually accept it as designed. So what if we rub one another the wrong way or talk behind a person’s back? Let’s just pretend that no one ever gets hurt and move on in our grand masquerade. Life is good!
Not really. Really living means we have to touch pain.
Years ago, I suffered rope burns on a challenge course. The skin on my hands was ripped off, exposing flesh. My ER friends could have simply put on salve, a bandage, fed me some drugs, and patted my back as I walked out. But then I’d return in worse condition. Instead, I screamed as they flushed my hand with saline, rubbing Betadine through my wounds and under the remaining skin. Today, you can’t see the trauma because they were willing to touch my wound.
A new year is prime time to change your game. Touch your wounds; touch the pain of those you love. Stop running and put on your big boy pants. I’d prefer putting on an Elizabethan collar (that lampshade thing dogs wear) to keep me from seeing or touching any wounds. Forgive and forget. Pretend nothing happened. Ignore pain. Get over it! I’ll be OK.
No! Pain unresolved only leaves open scars. You’ll feel counterfeit relief for a spell, but emotional scar tissue builds up. Continue to ignore and you’ll never reach your full potential. Every time you run from pain, you deaden part of your soul and become a false you. I am learning to embrace pain. In the moment. “Forever Young.”
Unspeakable joy. Only after you endure pain can you experience true joy. If you skip through the hard stuff, you cheat yourself. Total counterfeit. Superficial. And that’s boring!
The second time swimming the Bay, I stopped in the middle and beheld the San Fran skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. Not only did I enjoy the moment, I then swam faster than my first time. Climbing some of the world’s tallest peaks, I marvel at the beauty of God’s creation and enjoy the moment. It makes the summit pure joy. I don’t reach the peak without the pain. The same goes for enduring emotional pain. Your soul reaches a new high.
Work conflicts. Not on my fun list. But I won’t run any more, meaning I won’t run away. I’ll run toward it, hoping to put some humanity back into the corporate world—culture shock! Some of my best working relationships will only be born out of pain if I don’t repeat past mistakes.
For example, a while back, an executive director was stuck in his ways and our personalities clashed. We never saw i2i. Did I go through the pain of deeper conversations or opening my heart to him, despite how he might stab me? No. I took the lazy way out. Smiled and nodded then walked out of meetings, rolling my eyes inside. But had we resolved, we could have become a dynamic duo rather than each other’s arch nemesis. We could have changed the future of our hospital. Working through the pain could have led to professional and personal joy.
I’m embracing the pain of my personal relationships. It’s messy! And it hurts deeply with every touch. I have plenty of open scars, and I’ve caused even more. But I have a new vision for healthy relationships, and the only way to achieve joy is to touch the pain. If I don’t change the game, I’ll become so callous I’ll no longer feel.
I am tired of missing moments. Of being shallow. No more counterfeit. Instead, “Forever Young.” I wanna be “Forever Young.”
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.