Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Losing Sleep

I slipped into bed last night at 1:05 AM after a Tuesday evening trip to Nashville and back. For his birthday I gave my cousin Josh a ticket to a book reading/concert of our favorite author, Donald Miller. I read Don’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years five years ago and it turned my world upside down. For Josh, a college student grappling with big life questions, Miller’s breakout hit Blue Like Jazz had recently struck a chord within him. Josh had class until 5, so I met him at his apartment and we made the two hour trek to Music City. Conversation about life, faith, music, and movies flowed on and off as we made our way to the show. We were both excited to meet Donald Miller, but realized it came at the cost of losing some serious sleep right in the middle of our week.

“You going to be good to wake up early for work tomorrow?” Josh asked as we began our ascent up Mont Eagle Mountain.

“I’ll be fine. I don’t mind losing some sleep for something like this,” I reassured him.

Josh paused.

“Yeah, you want to do stuff like this while you’re younger, because when you’re like fifty you won’t want to.”

“I hope I still want to do stuff like this when I’m in my fifties,” I replied, “I don’t want to lose that sense of adventure as I get older.”

“Nobody wants to, but it just kind of happens.”

The car returned to silence.

Josh was right.

For most of us getting older comes with changes. Sometimes those changes are positive, like when your palette becomes more sophisticated and you grow out of eating only hot dogs and hamburgers to eating hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken nuggets. You broaden your horizons a little bit. You change. Most of the times these changes are subtle. Just this past year I made the life-changing transition of tucking in my shirt. I had lost a little bit of weight, and my gut no longer protruded as far as it once did, so I went for it. I would have never tucked in my shirt in the past. Little changes. I’ve even been ironing my clothes lately. Yes, I know, I am a 31 year old recovering slob. But that’s how life goes. Most of us don’t just wake up one day and change everything about ourselves; changes bud slowly over months, even years.

You get older and your music gets softer, your bedtime gets earlier, and you start saying things your parents use to say. Oddly enough, all these changes occur unbeknownst to us. I can remember going to a Nickel Creek concert last year downtown at fantastic venue called Track 29. Nickel Creek is an amazingly talented folk/bluegrass band I had wanted to see for nearly a decade. So there I was, standing in the crowd and listening to the beautiful harmonies accompanied by perfect mesh of mandolin, violin, and guitar. I’m trying my best to soak it in, but all I can think about is how my legs hurt from standing on the concrete floor. I looked over at a group of twenty-year-old hipsters who were swaying and singing along to the song. They didn't seem to be experiencing the same problem with the floor as I was. In that moment I would have gladly traded my spot in the crowd (and probably my own shirt) for a metal folding chair. Then I realized something. I am the old dude in the crowd. I’m the family guy. The one with the day job, and the kids at home. I tried to untuck my shirt, but it was too late. Without my approval life had changed me into a boring 30 year old who was too busy wondering if anybody had ibuprofen for his achy joints instead of enjoying the great live music.

I am not sure when the switch is flipped, and we become old. I actually don’t believe there is a single switch. It seems to be more like a pool float with a pinhole leak. Slowly the air of life seeps out from us, and reduces us to less than what we once were. We lose the spark. Life ceases to amaze us, and we just begin to dial it in. Author Bob Goff calls that spark “Whimsy.” And unfortunately, if we are not careful, our whimsy will slowly fade away.  Bob writes, “There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of completely engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.”

The book reading and concert were incredible. Don Miller would read an excerpt from his new book Scary Close, and then singer-songwriter Ben Rector or Thad Cockrell would sing a song that coupled nicely with the reading. We hung around after the show to meet Don. He signed my copy of a Million Miles and I showed him a picture of our son Wesley. I told him that his words inspired us to step into the story of adoption. He was warm and genuinely gracious. The interaction was brief, but I was able to thank him, and that’s all I really wanted to do.
From Left to Right: Ben Rector, Donald Miller, and Thad Cockrell

As Josh drove us home in the freezing cold in the middle of a quiet Tuesday night, I kept thinking to myself how glad I was we made the choice to go to Nashville. I was going to miss some sleep, but what is a few hours of sleep to make a memory? I wouldn't trade those hours back for anything. The conversation. The laughter. The late night gas station snacks. I may be getting older (and trust me I was feeling it after about 12:30) but I never want to let my age steal the whimsy from my life. I never want to be too old to get into an adventure.
Don’t waste an opportunity. Sometimes you just have untuck your shirt and live life to its fullest. You’ll miss some sleep, but you won’t miss the memories.

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