- Chris Tarte
I’m struggling...and I’m exhausted.
I’m not talking about the physical exhaustion from working out at the gym or the injuries I sustained in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device destroyed our vehicle, resulting in a lower leg (below-knee) amputation, traumatic brain injury, and other maladies. The exhausted, tired of fighting, sometimes-wishing-I-could-run-away, or just sleep until my problems just resolve themselves and I’m the new Rip Van Winkle, kind of exhausted. Maybe you’ve felt like that too.
I push myself in the gym because I’m not happy with the way I look. I feel like I must look like the ripped and toned guys in the magazines. I had a coach look at me one time and say “Whatever happened to looking like an athlete?” I guess my body at the time didn’t meet the standard. If I don’t look like an athlete, I’m not truly an athlete! That’s what I’m telling myself. I compare myself to this huge, ripped, muscle-bulging Olympic bobsled guy I saw in the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. He had these massive thighs too. Many bobsled athletes do, in order to push their enormous sleds onto the track. The sleds weigh anywhere from a minimum 284 lbs (2-man sled, women) to 462+ lbs (4-man sled, men’s) according to teamusa.org. Simple logistics: the stronger you are, the more you can push. The more you can push, the faster you can make your sled travel, so every person pushes themselves to be the best physically because the team needs you at your best. I don’t look like that; therefore, I must not be in the best shape, so I must not be an athlete.
I’m on my third marriage. The mind games that come with that are terrible. I’ve been fighting for custody of my kids for 4 years and everything I do has to be perfect. One wrong move and I could lose them forever to my ex-wife and the judicial system. Four years of fighting just to see my kids. Arguing with the school system over what I can and cannot legally do. Multiple encounters with law enforcement, including one arrest and plenty of charges brought against me. One physical fight at a basketball game that resulted in people going to the hospital. Some would say I clearly don’t understand what a marriage is supposed to look like if I’m on my third one and this is what resulted from a prior one. They would question my choice in relationships if this is the result. I can already hear some critics now, saying, “You shoulda been more careful with whom you chose to marry.” You’re just proving my point of how mentally exhausting life can be. Not only do I deal with these things; now I’m trying to figure out how I feel about your opinion.
I’m new to business, and I didn’t dabble in much business prior to my explosion. Because many people in my community have ties to my ex-wife, I wonder if they’ll tattle that I have a new job or business, and she’ll come after me for more money. Business scares me because, to a certain extent, I care about people’s opinions, and I want to do right by people. Are they going to judge me because of what someone else said about me, or are they going to give me a chance to make their life better? I was not as successful in my last venture for a number of reasons, so I constantly critique myself whether or not I’m good at this or not. What if I fail again, and I waste more time chasing a dream I’m not sure I can achieve?
So every day, I wake up and once again think about 3 pressing things: am I a good husband and father? Am I an athlete? Am I a good, and honest, businessman? I resolve these issues on a daily basis.
I attend a gym where people work. I don’t mean, “I showed up and did a few things for a few minutes, so I worked out.” We all know those people. I used to be one. The anxiety would get to me, so I wouldn’t go, or I’d be so focused on whether people were staring at my prosthetic leg. I mean, these people have goals, they struggle, they push themselves, they want to compete, they want to GROW, kind of goals. I can ask questions of these professionals. They’re not meatheads; they’re business people who compete across the world. They’re athletes. Some are bodybuilders, some are weightlifters, but all are just people sharing a place to reach our physical goals. I even met another amputee friend who goes to my gym. He calls me a 2-kneed freak because I have both knees and he is an above-the-knee amputee. I’m jealous because he can lift stronger than me. We get along great. Our skin color doesn’t matter, our different musical tastes played over the gym sound system don’t matter (most of the time. It gets kind of awkward when The Beatles start playing “Love Me Do” during an intense set), our different injuries, body types, NONE of that matters. We have a common goal: to better ourselves. I don’t compare myself to the Olympic Bobsled guy anymore either. I can lift with a prosthetic leg. I can put in earphones to distract myself from thinking they’re judging me. I’ve also gotten to know them, and they me. They know safe ways to lift, to adapt, and what the rules are for lifting properly. So they taught me how to do things better, to do things right, and to lift heavy without getting hurt. I made friends at the gym, and found a way to better myself and quit comparing myself to others.
Sometimes I make poor marriage choices in the things I say and do, because I’m human. Not an excuse, just an acknowledgement of humanity’s free will. My wife asked me one time what I was drinking. I responded “Water.” She asked if I drank something other than water, what would it be? I responded while distracted, ironing my shirt, “If I’m not drinking water, I’m drinking...something.” It’s still a running joke between us, and that was 3 years ago. However, I learned many areas in where I failed before, and am learning better, more productive choices to strengthen my marriage. I cannot multi-task, so when a family member asks me a question, I need to stop what I’m doing and pay attention to that person. When what I’m doing isn't working right, sometimes my marriage needs professional counsel. I’m not above asking for help. I want to do things right. I have patterns needing to be broken. I have negative conditioning entrenched in my brain that assumes things. I need to reset my thoughts and behaviors to a different default setting, so I can make better choices for my marriage daily. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m better than what I was. Just as important, these choices also reflect what kind of example I’m being for our children.
I haven’t achieved the financial success in business others have...yet. I’m not done building yet either. I did choose to be a part of a company and a team I respect. I chose to be responsible to a leadership who leads by example. Their moral and ethical platforms are the highest standard I expect of myself. So I’m growing, learning, trying new things, and reaching out in ways my introverted self normally wouldn’t before. Personal development has been key, and I’ve appreciated their patience in dealing with me. I know that I don’t know, so I listen to those who do...mostly. (Sometimes I still want to be independent, but humble pie still gets served to me. I’ll get there one day soon.) I surround myself and seek counsel from those who know how to achieve what I want to achieve because they did so.
Ezekiel 20:43 says:
“There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done.”
I remember those poor choices I made before and I don’t like them, so I’m thankful that 2 Cor. 5:17 says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation.”
Every day, I make new choices. I’m becoming someone new, someone better. I’m not the Bobsled athlete; I’m a skeleton athlete. My body is different, the way God designed it, so I push myself to be better, for HIS glory, not mine. I take care of it, and quit worrying about how I compare to others. If you’re worried about people talking about you like I was, like in Psalm 38:12b:
“...Those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie”,
you don’t have to be. God says:
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1),
and Matthew 7:17 reads:
“Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
I stopped worrying about what people would say about me. I quit worrying about the comparisons, the failures, and what I used to be. I start over, be someone new, make good choices, and be better than I ever was before. Business will always be business, but my fruit will be seen from my efforts. Some days, when I’m exhausted, tired of fighting, and can’t take it anymore, I realize that Jesus said I’ve got a safe place to go when He said:
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
It’s never too late to be someone new, someone better, or just to rest in Him.