America’s national passion for football was for many, many years pure mystery to me. I could not understand the attraction of watching a bunch of guys pushing and shoving and occasionally badly injuring one another. For me, football was a total bore.
Despite that history, I am one of Tom Brady’s (TB 12) admirers: unabashedly, wholeheartedly so. Consequently, I was on my feet jumping up and down in glee at his sixth Super Bowl win last week. He is a happy man, living a life of extreme discipline in his diet, workout regimen and total dedication to what he loves best. Football.
My fascination with Brady began back in 2001 during those days when I knew nothing about football. My then new husband John and I were living in Connecticut. A Massachusetts native, John had been a Patriots fan for his entire life and could not understand how I could ignore his team. For some reason, on that snowy evening, I listened to John’s plea to watch this game…that I would not regret it. It was the playoffs and the Patriots were losing. This new quarterback, John insisted, had something unique.
I walked into the living room at the exact moment that the camera captured the expression on Brady’s face in the middle of a New England snowstorm. And in my mind’s eye, can see still the look that stopped me. Cold.
These are just a few of the things I saw reflected in that young man’s eyes. And I was hooked. Understanding no more 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.
I listened to John explain what was happening. Fascinated as I watched the Patriot team, led by the rookie quarterback, beat all the odds to win this playoff series.
As I look back on that evening, I realize that I recognized Brady’s expression… what I saw had everything to do with the way I had chosen to live my life. 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 who also makes a gazillion annually relate to my life? 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- one 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, news media or a family member, there is a long line of people eager to destroy our dreams. To join 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-one or eighty-one, whether an aging athlete like Brady or aging writer like Wilder, it’s a discipline, decision to stop “resisting happiness.”
As always, thank you for reading,