Rocky Balboa was talking to Adrian in the first ďRockyĒ film. Itís been a good while since Iíve seen the film, but as I remember, the scene went something like this. Adrian was talking about a ďgapĒ in her front teeth. Rocky said something like, ďItís OK. I got gaps, and you got gaps, and together we donít have as many gaps.Ē
Not sure exactly why I thought of that line, or why my mind connected it to an article I was reading at the gym. As my arms and legs were working away on an elliptical trainer, I read an article about a guy who was questioning why he was working out so much. As he got older, he questioned the time he was spending at the gym. At the end of his time there, he hadnít built a better widget. The time was all about him. He was questioning what he was chasing. He knew that keeping in shape would keep him on the radar of women. (Not enough hours in the day to help me out there). But he also knew that whatever he accomplished would be gone in a short time if he didnít keep at it. That is all too true. (I still havenít made it back to where I was before a four-month absence from the gym last year.)
The writer couldnít have imagined his father going to the gym. There was just too much to do. My father was the same way. He was always working, always had a project. He came home from work and worked. The writerís father had told him that when he noticed that his pants were getting a little tight he just ate less for a while. Simple.
My mental response to the article was, ďBut Iím more productive if Iím healthy. Going to the gym helps me to stay healthy. I feel sharper. I feel better about myself when Iím going to the gym on a regular basis.Ē And thatís fine as long as I am able keep it all in perspective. If I only feel good when I look good, then Iíll never feel good. This will be even truer when I reach the big ďFIVE-O,Ē in a little over a year from now. Iíve never had rock hard abs and I never will. Pick any muscle group at this point in my life and, well . . . it ainít gonnaí happen. And even if it did, it would just take too much time and too much energy, commodities Iím putting a much higher value on now than I did ten years ago and certainly twenty.
So, what about the gaps? How does that connect with working out? Iím getting to the point in my life where I realize that some of them are there and they are going to be there, and to some extent, Iím OK with that. But there are a few gaps I would like to fill. (Iím working on one of them right now, writing.) I think many of the gaps in my life are there because Iíve been too cautious. At this point in my life, win or lose, succeed or fail, whatever results from what I try, wonít be what fills the gaps. The gaps would be filled, for the most part, before the points were added or the evaluation written or the applause faded. Just by the attempt, climbing out on a limb, saw in hand, would do it. I could try something completely new or out of character for me, or I could take something I enjoy but have never done much with and push it out into the arena.
Iíll continue to go to the gym. Iíll do what I can, but I wonít obsess over it. I may be a little late in dealing with some of my mid-life gaps. But my dad had a favorite saying, one that used to bug the heck out of me every time he said it Ė usually because he was trying to challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone: ďSon, youíll never learn it any younger.Ē Nope, I wonít.
The house lights have dimmed. Iím on my mark. The curtain will rise. Wait that line would have worked when I was just out of college, not now. How about this? The curtain has risen for the third act. Iíve just had walk-ons for the first two, but for the third act, Iím stepping into the spotlight of center stage. Thatís better.
Got gaps? I certainly do. There are a couple Iíd like to fill. Will it happen? Donít know, but it is worth the effort. And it sure beats just waiting in the wings for the curtain call.
Greg Davis teaches vocal music at two elementary schools in Pleasanton, California. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org