Midlife Crisis - Banished!
How Darrell woke up from his suburban stupor and rediscovered his energy and passion
Darrell awakens naturally, any dreams forgotten. At 7 am, the day's already warming up for its later blistering humidity. Summer in Los Angeles takes its heat seriously.
Darrell looks across to his sleeping wife, Clarissa. After 13 years of marriage, he's amazed that he's still so affected by her beauty. The early sun is starting to burn into Clarissa's sleep, melting away her dreams. Her lovely eyelids open and she smiles sleepily at Darrell. She speaks with morning throatiness.
"Good morning, my handsome prince."
"Hiya, my beautiful princess."
Clarissa: adorable, practical, ever encouraging. She used to call him her 'lean mean lovin' machine', but as Darrell shuffles toward their en suite shower room to cool down as much as cleanse, he tells himself the 'lean' bit would now be laughable.
He surveys his naked torso in the mirror, thinking, "Well, my six pack is still there, just buried under flab." But 40-year-old Darrell secretly hates the way his physique, once so tight and defined, has billowed, bloated, and sagged from beer, pizza, and secret cookies at work. "Hey, Big Fella!" his buddies say, patting him on the gut at their games of competitive but increasingly exhausting racquetball.
The big fella is popular. "More of you to love," says Clarissa. But like a child objecting to his role in a schoolyard game, Darrell catches himself thinking, "But I don't want to be the 'big fella'!"
"I don't want to be the 'big fella'!"
As his electric toothbrush frantically attends to his molars, he hears his 10-year-old, Luke, laughing at some joke with his 12-year-old sister, Michelle. "Great kids," he thinks, "great kids."
Life is pretty good for Darrell. He has a nice house in the Wiltshire area of Los Angeles; an intelligent, fun, and beautiful wife; loving lovely kids; $120,000 a year as an area manager for a well-known retail chain; and yet...and yet.
It's lunch time. Hair dryer heat hits as he exits his air-conditioned office in downtown L.A. Darrell walks a block on melting sidewalks to an air-conditioned fast food outlet. After ritual attempts at chat with the air-conditioned blonde serving his plentiful fries, Coke, hamburger, and muffin with an unrequested side serving of surliness, he sits. The prima donna waitress pretends not to hear when he asks for extra ketchup.
Thoughts of who he was supposed to be flood in. He's re-reading Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People for the fifth time. It makes so much sense, so why hasn't he let it change his life? But today he can't make himself read.
Truth is, Darrell's earning okay money, but his mortgage is as steep as his family's expectations. The biannual vacations to Bermuda or Europe, family dinners out, latest clothing and technology fashions, sports coaching...
Clarissa runs her beauty business and has a salon, but profits have been elusive for the past couple of years. They have some debt, but nothing compared to their friends. The thing is that...it wasn't going to be like this, not really.
"I've lost my hunger"
Darrell feels he's leaking time, letting it run away like the sweat from his soft back when he walks outside. What once was a drip is now a deluge of weeks, months, and years; a tsunami of opportunity roaring down the drain. It's not where time goes that bothers him, but rather where his ambition - no... potential has gone.
Darrell has his own business on the side. He brokers the matches of upcoming young sports stars to the perfect sports coaches and sells advertising space on his website matchmeacoach.com. It's a real opportunity, so why isn't he pushing it? In the past month, he's spent maybe an hour promoting it. Why?
"I've lost my...hunger..." he thinks as he takes another bite from his chocolate muffin.
An afternoon of blurred work and irritable, perspiring problem customers.
Dinner time at home, 6.30 pm. Luke and Michelle are arguing over a sports result: whether the ref was of sound mind. Clarissa notices Darrell.
"You all right, honey?"
"Yeah, just thinking."
"That's not like you!"
Darrell finishes his ice cream, cracks open a beer, and somehow the TV gets switched on. Cops, commercials, beer, true life plane disasters, beer, lost time, arguing politicians, dry Doritos requiring more beer, something about the self-esteem of obese children in Texas, a weather report from a smiling version of the prima donna waitress. Enough. The TV, having delivered nothing of value, is silenced. It's time for bed. Busy day tomorrow doing the same thing.
Clarissa and Darrell cuddle; Clarissa is sleepy.
"Goodnight, my princess," whispers Darrell.
"Goodnight, Big Fella."
Darrell as Uncommon Hero
For once, Darrell's aware of his dream. Is it a dream, though? Deep within winding leafy avenues of his mind, he's being delightfully infused with infinite motivation and it feels...great. The confusions of sleep let him think for a second that this is not sleep, but the self-hypnosis he's been practicing daily. Maybe it's lunchtime at the office and he's just zoned out to his hypnosis audio.
Then he awakens, sensing the nearness of Clarissa, and knows, happily, that his subconscious mind is now coaching, motivating, calming, and yet encouraging him, even during sleep and dreams.
Darrell glances across at his beautiful sleeping wife.
Right away, he knows the day will be sweltering. "Maybe we should take a family vacation to Iceland!" he says, just to himself.
"Well, hello, lean, mean, lovin' machine!" Clarissa speaks with morning throatiness. "What were you saying about Iceland?"
"Just an idea of mine."
"A dream?" she strokes his chest.
"It doesn't have to be just that, honey."
"Being healthy has become normal"
In the shower room, Darrell can't help admiring his transformed body. He's living his own 'before and after' lifestyle. See, before, he'd known what he had to do (cut down on beer, snacking, sugar, and refined carbs; give his butt a chance not to be sat on), but he didn't know how to really feel able to do all that. Since he's discovered self-hypnosis, his subconscious mind has actually gotten on board with what he really wants and being healthy has become normal.
He still plays racquetball with the guys three times a week, but now he's actually winning more often than not, and... "Let's not kid ourselves, former 'big fella', that's important to me!" And one - just one - hard, intense gym workout per week is making him feel his old sexiness again.
As he shaves and his electric toothbrush manically polishes his incisors, he sees what Clarissa means. He is starting to look and feel like the Old Spice Guy in those commercials: all abs, tonality, and smiling confidence. He laughs at himself as he showers. It's going to be another great day.
During the morning, Darrell is unexpectedly offered promotion to senior manager: $10,000 more a year in exchange for even more of his life. "It's like they know when you don't care so much," he observes inwardly. He declines; they're surprised. He can't work more hours, he tells them - he has a family life. He doesn't tell them that four hours a day working on matchmeacoach.com and his offline business means his 'real job' is being squeezed out. He's already earning more from his own project. His old daytime job, even with a promotion, just can't compete.
Lunch time. As Darrell sits in the shaded park eating his salad and chicken amidst the implacable heat, he muses on how small changes - relatively small life alterations - can make all the difference.
The TV has sat silent these past four months. Instead of cops, commercials, celebrities gone bad, obese kids, shark attacks, and beer, he's been working, as if entranced, each night. Building his business, unfolding his potential. Darrell has been giving his own and his family's future the focus they deserve.
Darrell is expanding, but not from the waistline. He now employs a guy in Canada to develop software for his developing online presence, connecting up-and-coming sports talent across the globe with the best approved coaches and sponsorship deals.
He has a social media whiz in England helping him connect to greater numbers of prospects. And as visitors pour into his site, the revenue in ads and affiliation with other sites is rising month after month. Guest writers, some of them quite big sports names, are writing highly sharable blogs for him. Darrell suddenly has the bizarre feeling he's playing hooky when he's at his day job!
How long before he gives up his day job?
"Pretty soon I'll give up my day job."
He doesn't know, but it won't be long. He's becoming who he was meant to be all along. Clarissa has been inspired by Darrell and her beauty business is gaining ground, too. Darrell, as well as paying off old debts, has been able to invest in his wife's business.
Darrell is home from the gym at 6.30pm, showered and trim. Dinner: nutritious, healthy. Ice cream for the kids, but not for him (Clarissa never did).
A glass of wine, then a couple of hours at his desk, doing work that doesn't feel like it. Building, building.
A banter-filled family discussion about the next vacation and where it might be.
"Dad's thinking about quitting his day job, kids!"
Youthful exuberance, enthusiasm, and fearlessness. And that's just Darrell.
"Well, pretty soon. Then you'll have me around even more!"
"Oh, no!" his kids tease.
After the work that doesn't seem like work, a short TV show, 20 minutes of hypnosis audio, and a little reading. Darrell and Clarrissa go to bed. And, sometime later, lie entwined.
"You know, you're becoming a born-again nymphomaniac!" says Darrell with a dashing grin.
"Well, you know I've always been crazy for Old Spice," she says in her afterglow voice.
Darrell doesn't mention the offer of promotion at work. He's forgotten all about it.