Bob Buford recently released another of his “musings for friends” letters, which I’m posting below with his permission. If you’d like to subscribe to it, go to www.activeenergy.net.
As most of you know, I have been laid low by a difficult-to-diagnose, utterly absorbing staph infection of the spinal column since December 27. It has been a dull, essentially worthless period in which pain killers and intravenous antibiotics (which the doctors describe as heavy artillery) and every sort of lab test and scan known to man. No desire, no energy. I have been completely robbed of appetite and thought-life. I have had zero exercise. I’ve lost 20 pounds. If you want a remarkably precise description of my symptoms, just Google “Osteomyelitis.” That is what I have.
This past week has been a sea change of sorts: at long last, my UT Southwestern specialists are in agreement and sure of a diagnosis. My energy is coming back. I am beginning to be pleasant to people again. Linda, my ever beautiful, astonishingly tolerant wife says, “You are getting your mojo back!” Looking to see if “mojo” is a legitimate word, here is what I found in the Oxford American Thesaurus:
Mojo – ENERGY, vitality, spirit, zest, verve: power, dynamism, drive; fire, passion, ardor, zeal; informal zip, zing, pep, pizzazz, oomph, moxie, feistiness,
mojo noun informal 1. get your mojo working. Magic, voodoo, hoodoo
Sure enough, that is just what I have been missing – and, thank God, assisted by massive doses of prayer and “heavy artillery” antibiotics, we seem to have this infections disease of the bone in slow retreat.
Have you every lost your mojo? I’ll bet so! It comes like the biblical “thief in the night,” ushered in by disease, despair, divorce and discombobulation. I have a friend whose recorded voice mail greeting said, “Hi, this is Bill. Right now, I am discombobulated. When I get recombobulated, I would love to return your call. So please leave your name and number.”
On a more serious note, I am always looking for the lessons in the midst of the mess.
Lesson One: In the midst of the mess, Back to Basics
In this case the relevant question is, ‘When you are lost, how do you find your way back?’ My favorite answer comes from Oxford Don and author of many wise books, C.S. Lewis. When you’ve taken the wrong road, says Lewis, the worst answer is to keep pressing forward. Instead the answer is to reverse course in order to find the intersection where you got off track. Off-track is not always the result of a bad decision. Sometimes, as in my case, stuff just happens. Nevertheless finding the right road and getting refocused on what works for you personally and is in line with your values and priorities is more likely to get you where you want to be than denial (“this can’t be happening to me”) or intense effort in the wrong direction.
Let me illustrate. It is a splendidly sunny Saturday morning as I write this piece. I had a great night’s sleep – early to bed, early to rise. My mind is back in gear.
Looking at the clutter around my favorite chair, my glance fell on a journal written five years ago titled, “My Next Season.” The first page was a long paste-up quote from Solomon; perhaps the most “famous” about change of seasons whose enticing first line is:
Lesson Two: “To everything there is a season.
A time for every purpose under heaven.” — Ecclesiastes 3
This lesson is summed up late in the same chapter when Solomon says:
“(God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
My conclusion: I am not in control – of fortune, of this disease, of my age, but there is a time for every purpose. Just because I cannot see how the pieces fit together, does not mean they are not part of a known symmetrical whole caused or allowed by God.
As I read on with my own reflections written in next to provocative quotes, I found a theme for each page that demonstrates that though my age, external social and economic facts have changed dramatically in the past five years (for example, who would have guessed that the largest bank, the largest insurance company and the largest automobile company would all be nationalized!) that my values have changed little if any.
Lesson Three: When you are in a pit, it is better to have a friend around.
“Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor,
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion,
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
– Ecclesiastes 4
To have had my forever friend, Linda, close by has been a treasure beyond measure.
Lesson Four: Who’s on the Bus? Relationships are in the center.
I wish I could personally express my gratitude individually to each person who has sent a note, email or message through Linda or BJ. Many of them are priceless, some from friends I haven’t seen in years.
Reading back over my handwritten journals brings back to mind lessons learned over years from individuals who have been “there for me” working on projects, in Small Groups, and in 20-year relationships. I will let my friends, Don Williams and Tom Luce, serve as stand-in wisdom figures for all three categories. Here are a few lessons I have learned from these two wise men:
- Joy is a biblical commandment. Love is more than emotion.
- Purposeful work is a gift from God. It is like manna. It can be received or rejected. It doesn’t last. Yesterday’s joy fades.
- Heritage is an inheritance. It cannot be earned, but only received.
- Belief is a choice. There are some things you choose to accept based strictly as a gift of faith whether they make rational sense or not. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” – Hebrews 11:1
Lesson Five: There is always another Season.
Returning to work, I found to my delight that a lot of great work had been accomplished during these two dark and barren months. It just wasn’t accomplished by me. Supporting the work of others is my work now.
“Bob, at this stage in your life it’s your job to release and direct energy, not to supply it.”– Peter F. Drucker
So What about You?
Have you ever experienced extended periods when “things just don’t make sense?”
How did you make your way through?
Who has been “there for you?”
If you have feedback, post a comment below (preferred) or write directly to Bob Buford at bob.buford@ACTIVEenergy.net. See all back issues here.