Back in another career, my fourth, I ‘met’ Brady.
Everything was brand new: The marriage, the career, the faith and football.
It was January, 2002. My still new husband insisted I watch the Playoffs between his beloved team, the New England Patriots and Oakland. We were living in Connecticut, cold, snowy Connecticut. I’d decided to leave my career in academic medicine where I’d built a national reputation and join my husband in an online business about which I knew nothing. About sales. Or marketing. Or excel spreadsheets.
John knew I didn’t like football and seemed to have no problem with it. Until the night of that game. When he insisted I stop working and come upstairs to watch Tom Brady’s first Playoff game. Now known as the ‘Tuck Rule’ game, the Patriots had no chance against Oakland. They were outmatched and had no chance of winning, a Patriots Super Bowl win was a pipe dream.
As I reluctantly climbed the stairs, watching the television as I did so, the camera happened to capture an expression on the twenty-three-year-old quarterback’s face. Mesmerized, I stopped and stared. Football as metaphor for life, faith, and happiness.
These are just a few of the things I saw reflected in that young man’s eyes. And I was hooked. Understanding less than nothing about the game, I sat down, mesmerized. Because I realized that what I had just seen had nothing to do with football…and everything to do about life: yours and mine. About risk and choices, challenges and failures. About tenacity and resolve, passion and focus.
As I look back on that evening, I realize that I recognized Brady’s expression… what I saw had everything to do with the decisions I had made. The very real challenges caused by the choices or more accurately, the risks, that had gotten me to where I was. The determination and grit to make this new life work: leaving Texas for a brand new life and now a new marriage, new faith, new career.
Getting by just isn’t enough, I have seen enough to know that ‘getting by’ doesn’t get us to happiness, does it? Not even close.
I think, and therefore, write about happiness, a lot. Because unfortunately, I know far more unhappy people than happy. And that has been the case since I was a kid in a family of mostly unhappy women. My mother and sisters were getting by…none of the three of them had the desire for excellence…a passion, I have come to believe, that is critical for living a happy life.
Come again? How does a guy, an aging athlete, who makes a gazillion dollars a year, married to a woman worth even more relate to my life? Or to yours? Of course he’d be happy…all that money and fame! But we know the lie of that statement, don’t we? Think for a few nanoseconds about people with everything but are miserable.
Brady’s success at forty- three has shattered the assumptions about age ceilings…about the prognostications of the medical experts who told Brady back in 2007 that he would never again play football., of so many of the illusions and lies that press in on all sides of those of us who choose to empower the ‘expert’. Whether it be our doctor, the news media or a family member, there is a long line of people eager to tell us how to live. To augment that inner voice that shouts “You Can’t!”
Because it’s never about just one thing. Happiness is never achieved through an award or a raise or a title or even about making a gazillion dollars a year. It is about acquiring the discipline of happiness unique to each one of us. Whether forty-three or eighty-one, whether an aging athlete like Brady or an aged writer like Wilder, it is a discipline, a decision to stop “resisting happiness.”
How on earth do we resist happiness?
By listening to the voices: “I can’t do this,” “This is impossible,” “I’m too old,” “It’s too hard,” “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Allowing the predictions of the authorities make us cower in our homes, afraid of our own shadows, steal our joy.
When I began writing fiction, I had to squelch those voices. Sometimes on a daily basis, especially in the beginning. And bounce back after a terrible review and accepting the fact that I ‘ll never be a “NY Times best selling author.”
But here is the really funny thing. I love to write-it is by writing that I know what I think, believe and understand, therefore have written and published my entire life. Back then, though, I had to cram it in on weekends and vacations. Now I get to do it fulltime. How very cool is that?
And these ancient world novels which require a day-or a week- of research to write a single paragraph only to rewrite the following day? Yes, it is hard work, sometimes exhausting. But struggling to convey King Xerxes (The Reluctant Queen, writing now) as someone you can see, or a Pontius Pilate- (I, Claudia) who is no longer a name our of a routinized prayer, but real, breathing, person sitting right next to you? What a high that is!
Yes, it’s the audacity of writing that I love.
Brady speaks easily about his lack of natural ability, explaining simply that he has to work harder than the Lebrons or the Jordons but that, “I love football.” In college, he sat on the bench and then in the pros, no one wanted him. He was number 199 in the 2000 NFL draft.
The rest is history. And then there was the devastating injury, the fiasco of Deflategate, and deciding to leave the Patriots to go with one of the “worst teams” in the NFL. And of course, Covid 19. But suddenly, there he is again in his tenth Super Bowl, facing someone twenty years younger. It would be a rout-Kansas City would win by a landslide.
Now you see why I write that it’s are metaphor? These are just a few of the takeaways: