I've used phrases like "I'm at the end of my rope" before; I may have even heard the person sitting across from me say something like it in the past. Yet, this time it was different; he really was at the end and we both knew it. I just sat there for awhile letting the silence engulf us, because I didn't know what to say.
This wasn't a situation about money. I'm not trivializing money problems, but they can be worked out; most millionaires have been bankrupt multiple times. And, America certainly doesn't isolate someone from taking some financial hits, but with some time and effort everyone can provide for their family.
I truly believe that if you do what you love and you keep swinging for the fences, eventually you’ll hit one out of the park. There are a whole lot more important things than money, even in this era of rampant materialism. So, a lack of capital is a problem, but it’s not a catastrophe.
This was deeper. This was about a man who all his life had identified himself in a certain way, and never ever envisioned doing something else for a living. He did have some religious faith, but it had been allowed to slide to the background, and he was struggling to rely on it.
He loved his family more than anything. Those kids were the only legacy he cared about now and he was afraid of losing them. He and his family’s way of life (making a living) had to change and he wasn't real sure what direction he was going to head. All he knew was it needed to happen fast.
Maybe it was the financial strain, maybe it was the straying away from his faith, maybe it was just a combination of hundreds of things he knew he should have done differently, but his marriage was in shambles. And, she didn't know if she wanted to head in a new direction with him; her logic was understandable as the first trip wasn't that much fun. Why would she want to sign on for another?
I'd seen it so many times in the movies or in books – a man sitting at one of life's junctions, committed to changing and praying for the chance, but having to rely on another's mercy and forgiveness. It was only partially his decision now and he would have to live with her decision.
Walking away from the ranch was tough. He was a rancher through and through. He hadn't found a certain path to follow but he was comfortable knowing it was time to move on. What he couldn't handle, couldn't get his arms around, was the potential of losing his family, of not having the chance to be with those he loved. It wasn't a matter of making things right, just doing things better – of getting the chance to be the husband and the father he had always wanted to be.
I sat there putting myself in his shoes, thinking of the uncertainty and pain he was feeling, and praying for the right words. Unlike in the movies, the perfect words never came to me.
I told him that Dale Carnegie said we have only four contacts with the world – what we do, how we look, what we say and how we say it. Let's just focus on them and see if we can't get some slack in the rope, I said.
Sometimes your fate is not entirely in your hands; all you can do is to focus on that which you control.