Burnside held a crumpled napkin in his right palm. Stopping, slowly arching the trajectory, he lofted a missile up and some six feet ahead to a four foot waste basket. Swish!

“It’s all in the follow-through,” the shooter chuckled.
“Like in pitching,” I said.
“And golf,” he added.
“And…” (leaving a recovery meeting, I was compelled to be profound)…like in life.”

Fact is, though…it’s true. Still, it took this clown half a lifetime to see—to realize all I need to do is use the gifts I’ve been given—whatever they are—and things will be OK. When I really look at it, my level of acceptance relates NOT to how things play out as much as whether, deep down, I know I’ve done all I can, leaving nothing in the locker room. There’s a peace in being all in. A serenity.

For so long I was your “three inning player,” that great starter but poor (if at all) finisher. Losing interest (perhaps), fearing failure (at times), I’d tell myself it really didn’t matter, I somehow didn’t care or it wasn’t for me. Truth was I lacked not inner strength so much as inner faith that if I truly put it all out on the table, win, lose or draw, I’d succeed. Today I get it.

Today I follow through. Today I know I don’t have to be THE best—I need to be MY best. I’m changing from a boy with promise to a man with commitment, and— win, lose or draw, I can live with the outcomes.

As an English major, my minor was theater, (at least for three innings). Theater 165 however, mandated working stage crew a month at Mershon Auditorium. (I learned this two weeks in, of course, finally reading the syllabus).

SOUTH went my passion for the arts. Dropping the course, there went I, a college senior, changing minors. Cramming eighteen psychology hours (six three’s) into one quarter, I emerged a psych minor. (I still recall The Jersey Girl joining me for Monday evening’s Psch 120, “How To Study”. In a class full of freshmen we both got A’s).

The signs were there, back then. I was always looking for the easier, softer way. How often did I just mail it in…do just enough to get by? That record I set junior year— cut 100 classes one quarter—kept a chart! Funny then, not so… now.

We sold Highlights on weekends. Long before Breakfast At Wimbledon there was Breakfast On Albert. Each Saturday he’d confirm our awakening by feeding us and assure our production by offering free dress shirts to those with ten sales. We’d spread out across town, running oh so qualified leads, and, week-in, week out three things occurred: it rained in Wieder’s neighborhood, I hit 10 on the nose, and Stuart led the pack. How was it that I always seemed to get that tenth sale at 1 just as the Bucks kicked off? Each week? Why was it that Fenton worked ‘til 3? Each week.

I know now what it was: I had promise; Stuart showed commitment.

It all came so easy to me…even law school. Daily I’d drop the wife at work, run to breakfast at Corky’s, then down the hill for class. Morning classes—always morning classes. Afternoon, you see, meant soaps. Beginning on ABC, it was “All My Children” at 1, then a switch to Channel 3. “Days Of Our Lives,” “The Doctors,” “Another World In Bay City,” “Another World-Somerset,” and….for a time “Bright Promise.” Never mind studies…I was living the dream, never once thinking perhaps B’s could be A’s.

The list of things I’ve done well, but perhaps not well enough is sobering. Hindsight, of course, is 20-20. What would have been had I worked harder at marriage…at fatherhood…at life? I’m not beating myself up….just thinking.

Recovery, to be sure, has taught me follow through. Today, be it fun, family or frolic, I’m in it to win it. As I can, whatever the endeavor, I try to be the best Bruce I can be. And yes, I often fall short.

Would I prefer to see my kids more? Of course! Did I tell them to leave town? Still I’m the best brother I can be, the best friend I can be…even the best ex-husband I can be…regardless of endeavor, it’s been a long time since someone’s said to try harder. Today, if only today, I finish what I start.

Would I like to spend more time reading poker, perfecting that skill? Of course I would. Should I watch my weight better? Respect the dollar more? Obviously. How well I know! Still, even as a work-in-progress, I’m comforted knowing it’s not the speed I’m travelling but the direction I’m facing.

So seldom these days do I think shouldda, wouldda, couldda. Once a bright kid with all kinds of promise, I’m now older, wiser, and all in. No wonder even my bad days are good. No wonder even when I miss the shot my life goes….Swish!

It’s all, as Burnside says, in the follow through.

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