Reggie Miller cut behind the screen on the low post, curled and bumped Michael Jordan out of the way, slashed across the top of the key to receive the inbound pass with three seconds left in the playoff game. Beyond the three point arc, in one motion he leapt, squared his body to the basket, and swished the basket to win by one. His was a peak performance. He was playing at his very best.
Sports abounds with stories of players preparing for a peak performance. Athletes plan their training regimens around being at their best at the time of the Olympic Games. Tiger Woods seeks advice from Jack Nicklaus on how to peak for the four major golf championships. They hone their craft. They find the necessary combination of ingredients which will allow them to be at the top at a chosen time.
I want to be a peak performer. I am not an elite athlete, but I want to be at the top of this game called life. Do you remember days when you felt like you were sitting on the top of the world? Have you had days when the joy of living just overflowed? Those are the days that I want and I want them all the time.
I am far from hitting this joyous stride. I have searched for years for the right combination of activities, the right recipe of living, to allow me to always be at my peak. Every once in a great while I hit the right combination and I repeat it the next day. It never works a second time. Why not?
This search for endless joy or serenity, or whatever you want to call it, is a problem in itself. While chasing the unattainable, I miss what life has to offer. And I am a failure. How often can you have a peak performance? What do you call all of the other days? Are they all lost days? Are they all failures?
I am a person known for my ups and downs. I have spent a lot of time trying to control them, to make my experience all in the middle.
Many years ago my wife told me of a saying of her grandmother: “You have to take the bitter with the better.” I do not like that idea, but it is right.
I am learning that leading a full life means living with ups and downs. There is no choice. It happens. The key for me is to continue to do what needs to be done during those times - to not be overwhelmed. But sometimes I will be overwhelmed. I have learned that even those times do not last forever.
In the acceptance of the cycles of life comes a peace. To give up the fight brings an openness to life. For even in the depths, in the bitter, life shines around us. The depths are where we roll in the ashes and are transformed to emerge in a different place.
So I am beginning to stop chasing the peaks. I am beginning to accept what shows up in my life. Those ups and downs and middles are the stuff of living. I have faith that it is all there for a reason - that all of it somehow moves me forward.