Bedtime comes early when you’re camping with a 4 year old.
There are only so many marshmallows you can eat…so many games you can make up with rocks and sticks…so many mosquitoes you can fight off.
There is no late-night beer drinking around the campfire.
As the sun starts to disappear, it’s usually time to call it a day. (Especially if you’re going to have enough daylight to read a bedtime story AND explain what “call it a day” means to a 4 year old.)
My son and I recently ventured into the Great Outdoors for a quick 2-day camping trip. It was on my current life list to take The Boy camping (No. 37).
If you simply want to know how the adventure turned out…it was incredible. It was one of the most wonderfully great things that I’ve EVER marked off any of my lists. Words can’t explain how I felt when my son said, “I like camping with you, daddy.”
If you’re in the mood for a little more than that…hang on. This 2-day trip completely opened my eyes and provided a life-changing reminder.
– – –
The powerful perspective of this experience hit me our first night in the tent. The sun had just disappeared beyond the horizon. The fireflies were dancing in the woods. I was WIDE awake.
“I haven’t gone to bed this early since….never,” I thought to myself. I looked at my watch it was 8:55 p.m.
So…I traded some texts with my wife, I read a little bit of a book that I brought along, but a lot of time was spent just laying there listening to my 4-year-old son saw logs like a grown man.
I decided to flip through the handful of photos that we snapped earlier in the day. There weren’t a ton of pictures; we arrived at the state park around 3 o’clock, and we were busy setting up camp and exploring right up until we zipped up the tent for the night.
I was trying to document my Live the List experience, so I made a point to get out the cell phone camera at least a couple times that day.
I’m glad I did.
I don’t know if it was Crash’s snoring, the hot summer air blowing through the tent or the photos themselves, but I received a subtle whisper from God as I scrolled through those pics: “This is exactly where you’re supposed to be.”
A huge smile came across my face, I fought back tears of joy and just like any faithful man who receives validation from God…I logged into Facebook.
I could have easily made up a dozen excuses why I shouldn’t and/or couldn’t take my son camping for 2 days. I could have easily kept saying, “next week” or “next month.” Sometimes we have to stop lying to ourselves about how “crazy” our lives are, remember the most important things in our lives and STOP putting things off until tomorrow.
I grabbed The Boy’s hand and took a deep breath, exhaling with pure intention. The relief filled our tent. I kept thinking about the fact that we almost didn’t make this trip. My Facebook status mentioned “a dozen excuses why I shouldn’t and/or couldn’t take my son camping.” It was more like two dozen excuses.
– “What about my clients?”
– “What if someone wants to see a house?”
– “I have marketing deadlines coming up, I really need to focus on those projects.”
– “Will he even remember this?”
– “I need to be writing.”
– “It’s going to be hot.”
– “Let’s wait until the fall.”
This head trash was still creeping in as we drove out of the driveway for our father-son adventure.
I guess my question is….Why do we do this? Why do we talk ourselves out of doing remarkable things?
More importantly: Why do we hide our excuses behind the default response of “I’ll just do it tomorrow”?
My best friend in the world is a longtime smoker. I ride his butt to quit. Throughout high school and college, it was always “I’ll quit after this” or “I’ll quit after that.” He wanted to make it through life’s twists and turns with a cigarette in his hands.
He never realized – or at least he never admitted it – there was always going to be twists and there were always going to be turns. As soon as you make it through one turn – here comes another one.
For my buddy, “life” has kept him from putting down cigarettes for good. For the rest of us, it seems like “life” keeps a lot of us from truly living. The twists and turns keep us from doing the things we really want to do.
“After we pay off the car, THEN we will….”
“When the kids start school, THEN we will…”
“When the kids get out of school, THEN we will…”
“When I turn 40, THEN I will….”
“After I lose 25 pounds, THEN I will…”
“When I retire, THEN I will…”
When I launched my current life list, I wrote about this tragedy. It’s worth repeating:
The worst phrase in the English language is “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Those four and half words are dream killers, and I firmly believe that they are the primary reason people don’t accomplish their goals and fall short of their aspirations. That phrase paralyzes us to do nothing and embrace the status quo (bored, joyless, unhappy, uninspired, lost).
Instead of attacking life and going after what we really want, we fall into the same-ol’ same-ol’ – foolishly confident that there will be a tomorrow. If we knew the exact day we were going to die, we could throw around the phrase “I’ll do it tomorrow” with 100 percent certainty.
Tomorrow is nothing more than a hope.
The philosopher Eminem said it best: “The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.”
– – –
As I laid there in our tent, holding my son’s hand, I thought about the other facets of my life that are impacted by foolish excuses. What else in my life is being affected by the reckless and arrogant phrase “I’ll do it tomorrow”?
I have three life lists with a number of unaccomplished dreams and aspirations…
I have a handful of book ideas dancing around in my head…
I have countless life lessons that I haven’t taught my kids yet…
I’m still holding stupid grudges….
Nike told us to “Just Do It.” Were they only talking about the things we do while we’re wearing their sneakers? I really don’t think they were.
We need to draw a line in the sand and DO IT.
We need to stop making up lame excuses and DO IT.
We need to stop lying to ourselves and DO IT.
Question: What is “IT?”
Answer: Whatever the hell is important to YOU. Whatever the hell is important to ME.
It might be a simple life list thing – learn to play the guitar, eat sushi, take your son camping – OR it might be a game-changing thing – finally telling someone that you love them or forgiving someone.
If you’re naïve…er…stupid enough to think that tomorrow is a guarantee, you deserve to die with regrets.
Ask Richard Durrett, the beloved writer for ESPN.com who covered the Rangers, Cowboys and Stars, if he planned on dying from an aneurysm at the age of 38. Since his wife was expecting their third child at the time of his death – I’m guessing he didn’t.
Ask Fast & Furious star Paul Walker, who died in a senseless car wreck while he was out joyriding at the age of 40.
You KNOW that I could go on and on with countless number stories like this. The news articles and obituaries tie all of these tragedies together with two simple words: “died unexpectedly.”
– – –
Even though my mind was racing in the warm tent that night, I felt a sense of clarity and peace come over me. Fatigue set in next. I looked at my watch again. It was just before 11 o’clock.
I decided to try and sleep.
As I closed my eyes, I grabbed The Boy’s hand again and whispered aloud: “Thank you, God.”