Read an Excerpt
Huffing Toward 44th Street
Like about 67 million other people my age and weight, I’m going to get back in shape. I really am. Don’t laugh; I’m serious about this.
In fact, I’ve begun a new daily routine. I happen to live near the ocean, and so at some point each day that I’m not traveling, I make my way over to the beach and ...
... I RUN.
Maybe that’s a little strong. Actually, I run.
Of course, if you really press me, I’d have to say I run/walk.
Or, more accurately, I run/WALK.
Okay, I WALK.
But lately I’ve been making headway. I honestly have been moving from a brisk walk to a solid jog during more and more portions of my beach journey. I run close to the water, where the sand is wet and thus more solid. It’s easier on my massive hulk than slogging through loose sand, and it’s a natural progression from the first part of my trek.
The first thing I do when I hit the beach is search for the prettiest seashell I can find. I hold it in my hand; it helps me focus on the reasons I’m hoofing through the sand. It also helps me zero in on a particular prayer request that I bring before the Lord each day as I’m running.
One day it might be something about one of my five children. Another day it’s a vocational issue. Sometimes I pray for my wife, or for a particular aspect of my own life. Holding on to that shell is the closest thing this lifelong Protestant will ever get to a set of rosary beads. Just the simple act of handling that shell holds my attention on the request.
Another reason I find a seashell is that it reminds me that despite the pain I feel during this beach run, there’s still something of beauty to be taken from it. It’s kind of “stop and smell the roses,” only at the beach. When I get back home, I add the shell to a lovely glass container on my desk. As the glass fills up, I am further inspired to keep running each day.
Hitting the Wall
That’s the fun part. Now let’s get back to the rest of my reality:
I hate to run. Always have. Probably always will. I’ve struggled with extra poundage my entire life. I have no ambition to do a marathon, join a jogging club, or qualify as a poster boy for 0% body fat.
A typical journey finds me briskly walking the beach as far as a certain pier, about thirty-five to forty minutes away. I touch one of the pilings there, then turn back and head toward home, running as I go.
It’s not pretty. I huff and puff. Passers-by give me a look that says, That guy could be making his final run! I pant. I sweat. The longer I run, the more pain I feel. First it’s localized, in my legs and my lungs. Soon the pain invades my head, my arms, my stomach, my feet. If I concentrate hard enough, I think I can feel my eyebrows hurt.
Things start happening mentally. You’d better stop, my brain says to me, first subtly, then screaming. You’ll feel so much better walking. It’s more comfortable. It makes better sense.
When I first began this regimen, I would listen to my brain and quit running. But then I arrived home feeling deflated, discouraged and defeated.
So I made myself a goal that I would run just a little farther back down the beach each day. You know–baby steps.
That idea worked for a while, but I would hit the wall at a particular point that was brutal. The city even erected a monument, memorializing where my pain was most deeply felt….
It was the lifeguard stand at 44th Street.
I grew to despise that lifeguard stand. The sight of its two “4”s painted next to each other on the side of the large wooden hut sickened me. I’m not sure I’m cut out for this, I started telling myself. Think back to all the fun of parking in the old recliner with a dozen donuts and a tub of ice cream.
My brain really knows how to get to my brain. It almost had its way with me. I almost quit.
And then it happened.
One day as I kicked the pier piling and started running homeward, I got to the 44th Street lifeguard stand and–something inside urged me to push on. For some reason I listened to that voice and I kept running. As I continued, the strangest sensation swept through my system. I was suddenly re-energized, as if I had tapped into a new wellspring of power. Something inside of me felt like it had just been connected to a set of jumper cables. I was almost swept up into a Superman feeling, except that the silhouette of my body on the beach seemed to hint that maybe Superman should consider the Adkins Diet.
Anyway, with my newly discovered energy, I finished my run in a sprint of exhilaration. Triumphantly arriving at my finish line, I threw my fists into the air like Rocky Balboa atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Fortunately nobody on the beach knew me, and the rest just stared at me in silence.
But it didn’t matter to me.
Something wonderful had happened.
I had experienced a second wind.
Longing for a Fresh Start
This is not a book about running. It’s a book about the need for a second wind in life, and where to find it.
The longer you live, the greater your chances of running out of steam. Call it fatigue, call it disappointment, call it bad luck … the energy just isn’t there anymore. People wake up one day and realize they’re just plodding through life feeling stuck. They’re weary with the sameness of day in, day out. They had hoped for better things, a more exciting life, a higher level of accomplishment–but instead they have settled for what is rather than what could have been.
Here are three examples I know. I’ve changed the names and circumstances so as not to cause problems for the individuals. But the feelings are authentic and real.
He backs his six-year-old Ford Taurus out of the driveway and heads for the boulevard once again, the same route to work he has taken ten thousand times. He is not happy this cloudy Thursday morning, not because anything particularly terrible has happened, but because nothing particularly exciting is in store, either. Not today, not tomorrow, not on the upcoming weekend, not ever.
He will spend another day at his Department of Motor Vehicles desk, watching over his team of eight clerks at the windows as they issue license plates, process title applications, and collect fees that inevitably irritate the public. Every hour or so he will be called over to settle a dispute, to calm down a citizen who’s sure he’s being robbed by a greedy government. In between these skirmishes, he fills out paperwork, writes reports, and monitors efficiency.
It’s not a bad job; somebody has to do it, and every other Friday it produces a paycheck to keep his family afloat. What eats at his 49-year-old soul, however, is that with his modest qualifications, his lack of a college diploma, and his hesitancy to take any kind of risk or make a splash, this is basically all there’s going to be. His name isn’t going to show up in the promotion announcements that get e-mailed to everyone from time to time. He’s a cog in the great wheel of bureaucracy, turning, turning, turning each day, unnoticed and unheralded.
Over his brown-bag lunch at noon, Tom thinks about his wife, surrounded in her classroom by 28 fresh-faced third-graders. They’re noisy at times, but they’re eager to learn, and they think their teacher is a wonder woman. He muses … Well, the kids are right; she is terrific at what she does. She turns them on to a marvelous world. She’s really made something of herself. She sparks excitement, and she draws energy in return.
This he finds depressing in an odd sort of way, because he wonders what she really thinks down deep inside about her gray, paper-shuffling, dead-ended husband. He does not worry about her turning from their marriage; she’s much too principled for that. But she yearns for a nicer house in a better neighborhood, something that only a higher salary could bring–and that’s not going to happen. Their high-school freshman son wants to play hockey, but the gear is awfully expensive…. Their computer in the family room keeps crashing for some reason, and he doesn’t know how to fix it….
Sweeping his potato chip remnants and sandwich bag toward the trash can, Tom stares into space, wondering.
She glances toward the scratched-up door of her modest apartment as she hears the familiar Sunday evening noise. Her boys are clamoring up the steps, back from another weekend with their father. Now she must get their feet back on the ground to be ready for school in the morning. Since the divorce three years ago, her world has quivered like a flawed gyroscope, but she’s hanging on, determined to make the best of a rough ride.
“Hi, guys,” she greets them. “Did you have a good time?”
“Oh, Mom, it was so cool!” exudes the younger one. “Dad took us to this paintball place, and we all put on these other clothes so we could blast each other with red and green and purple and every color you can imagine. I got Jeremy once right in the face–it was awesome!”
She forces a smile as she tousles her son’s hair and then nudges him down the hall, dragging his duffle bag, toward the bedroom the two boys must share. There she sorts out what goes straight into the laundry, while simultaneously asking whether any homework for tomorrow still remains undone. Next will come showers for both of them, and soon enough, bedtime.
This wasn’t the life Susan had dreamed of, to be sure. Clenching her jaw, she manages each challenge as it comes, pushing down her feelings into the basement of her mind so she can concentrate on the immediate. The boys don’t seem to be all that much worse for the wear, although she can’t tell for sure what’s happening at school. Last week, a teacher’s note had come home saying, “Be sure to call for an appointment with me during Parent Week, okay?” What would that be about?
The next morning will start with an early rush, and so she lays out her clothes tonight for the coming workday. Finally she sags into bed, makes sure the alarm is set for 5:40, and then reaches for the Bible on her nightstand. Finding her bookmark from the last time, she picks up the trail again with Isaiah. The Edomite nation has done something wrong–she’s not quite sure what–and they’re now going to get it from an angry God whose patience has been used up. She keeps plodding along to the next chapter, but the dark tone persists. She was hoping for some lift, some encouragement from the Scripture, but, oh well…. Susan closes the book with a sigh and turns out the light.
He turns on his computer on a Friday morning, and up pops a meeting request. George, his boss, wants to see him at 3 p.m. Topic: unstated.
It strikes him oddly, because he’s already had his weekly update session with George at the normal time on Wednesday morning. What’s up? he wonders.
Anyway, he clicks the “Accept Appointment” button and moves on to other work. But throughout the day, he keeps guessing to himself. Is George going to retire? Has corporate headquarters sent down a new project? Is there a merger in the wind?
The day drags by slowly, until finally 3 o’clock arrives. He arrives at George’s office to find a co-worker already there. And quickly, a third member of the team arrives. Both of the others look as puzzled as he does.
George is unusually agitated. He keeps twisting a pencil in his right hand. “Go ahead and close the door,” he says with a nod.
And within 20 minutes, all three managers have been told that they’re out of work. The company’s earnings in the past two quarters have slipped to the point that Wall Street has noticed, the firm’s bond rating has dropped, and an alarmed board of directors has now mandated a 12 percent reduction in work force.
“I am terribly sorry, guys,” George concludes. “This is definitely not your fault. You’ve worked very hard and given your best to this company. But I have no choice; the brass says I’ve got to cut somewhere, and this is how I’ve decided to do it.”
The trio ask more questions about severance procedures, of course. But all too soon, the meeting is over.
Brad shuffles back to his office, his mind in a blur. Now what? He picks up his phone to call his wife.
"Honey, are you there? I just wanted to make sure. I’m coming home early.”
“Yes, okay–um, what’s happening?” she wants to know.
“Well, I’ll tell you when I get there.”
“No, really–something’s wrong, I can tell it in your voice,” she insists. “Tell me now.”
He sucks in a breath, and then says, “Um … the company is not making its numbers these days, and … I just got laid off.”
“Oh, no!” she exclaims. “How can they do this to you, after all the hours you’ve put in and everything?!” She sniffs, trying to choke back the tears.
Finally, she says, “Hurry home right away … I love you.”
With that, they hang up, and Brad reaches for his coat.
The Promise Waits for You
These slices of life, and dozens of others, can be positively impacted by the promise of the Second Wind. It can happen–it can happen to you.
This is a book of hope. It’s a book for the weary. It’s for those who looked at its title and found it almost too upbeat. It’s for those at the 44th Street lifeguard stand of life who aren’t sure they can make it home again.
I know that forsaken feeling. I know what it feels like to be fresh out of fuel. I went through a divorce several years ago that left me a lifeless lump. Energy escaped me. Life seemed to leave. Each day was nothing more than a twenty-four hour sigh.
But I have good news.
I’ve experienced a rejuvenation in my life. I’ll tell you more about it as we move through the book. But trust me, it has jump-started my life again.
Yes, I have been honored as a recipient of the coveted Second Wind. And I’ve sneaked a peek at this year’s recipients….
... You’re on the list.