13 July 2021

Heart of a Lion

I had the most wonderful opportunity to go on a Safari in Kenya. I saw allll the babies: gazelles, wildebeests, giraffes, warthogs, hyenas, lions, elephants, hippos!! …I mean! Come! On!!! I have a degree in ecology and the super human powers of a Disney Princess in befriending animals. To say it was awe inspiring really doesn’t suffice.

But what stuck with me the longest was watching the dynamics between the critters. The elephants are everything gloriously Tough-Mama. Elegant, majestic, aware, and ready to bring-it, but would rather just graze about if possible. Giraffes are surprisingly sassy but also know when to freeze like a tree for literally hours until the lions leave the area. And the lions. You know, I never thought myself to be team lions per se but, I tell you, they’re really something! Massively powerful and highly revered by everybody from the mongooses to the humans in their souped-up Land Cruisers. You would think that’s an obvious thing to say, but until you see it in action, it’s hard to describe.

So why am I sharing this other than to sound like a bragging jerk? It’s coming…

I grew up like much of America. Rooted in the work ethic of the Protestants hoping my incessant sweat would someday lead to smoking brisket with the Vanderbilts. And you know what? Knowing that my dad was raised in a hundred year old cabin in the hills of NC (before it was cool) with five sisters, and then was eventually able to make a pretty living, raising us kids in upper-middle class Boulder, it seemed legit. My dad worked long hours and he preached the same to us. Train hard for your sports, study harder, navigate the politics gracefully, don’t be too much of a ding-dong in high school, go to Stanford if you want, and then, sure as shit you can be an astronaut if you so choose!

So that’s what we did. One of my brothers played D1 football (and in fact got in to Stanford but passed it up for a girl), my other brother is a high roller in finance and long before his quarter century turning he was cruising in a schmancy 6 series BMW. One of my sisters went to Pepperdine and then off to grad school, while the other is a super fantastic news anchor/executive producer (shameless shout out to Keni Mac!). You get the idea. Seems to work right? Work hard, keep positive, and by golly dreams come true.

What about our formidable leader? Welp, he still works harder than anybody I know. He’s a lot of fun to adventure around with and he’ll always make time for his kids. That being said, we’re all busy (as you can imagine) so it’s not all too often. Recently I was at lunch with him. We were on a patio and it was hot and somehow that made our aging a little more pronounced- my greying and fine lines, him being a bit more rotund. He made this comment about one of my siblings having the “heart of a lion.” The implication was one of pride (cute pun!). It’s having the tenacity to put out the grind, to not stop because it’s uncomfortable, to push on and up. All the way up. Calling Ms. Vanderbilt to let her know you’ll be there with the slaw.

I see this every day in life and social media. There’s this idea that we must push hard and challenge ourselves. That if we aren’t growing, we’re dying. You’ve heard that right? I’ve said it! Busting ass day in and day out. We see The Rock in all his godliness constantly posting about his lack of sleep and heavy lifts in the middle of the night, coupled by his larger-than-life life. Often the challenges we take on are in the same vein—being fitter or making more money.

Here’s the problem though. It’s a moving target, up and up, never attainable, always chasing. And then alongside the rants of “work harder” are complaints of fatigue into perpetuity coupled with crippling anxiety.

We never stop and think to ourselves, “ahh… I’ve made it! I’m content and fulfilled.”

And so as I’m sitting there with my dad. Reflecting on the validity of his statement, it brought me to the heart attack he had a couple years earlier, and then I got stuck. All I could think about was…

Lions right? Nope, the warthogs! Possibly the most endearing babes on that savannah. They were always zooming. Tail flagged high for balance, head even higher with pride, snout blasting oxygen through the pipes. Running, running. Literally! I never saw one stopped. Either rooting or running. With glutes stout AF and rock star manes, they’re a real vibe. I mean, quite the catch really.

But in the end you know what they really were? I hate to say it.. but they are quite the catch–for the lions! The lion who is lounging under the trees with their sweeties, pooped from weeks of round-the-clock sex and full bellies served kindly by the hyenas. Simply splayed out and indulging in the sunshine. The basking lions who are at the top and know they made it. They’re relaxed, fulfilled, content, and hardly caring about the buzz around them of those other sweet animals with hearts racing, panicked panting, and the almost audible go-time mental worries of how in the hell they’ll make it out alive.

Bless ’em all!

Of course there’s a time for the grind. There’s a time for putting in a hell of a fight, same as the lions must do. But why not realize a point of peace and ease? Why are we insatiable for the struggle? What is this constant grind doing to our bodies, our mental health, our relationships?? If those parts of us aren’t getting their full dose of love then what’s it all for?

It seems to me that perhaps we all got a little duped with a false idea that more is better or that we aren’t enough. Maybe it’s the dismal remains of past times when survival was in fact howling outside our tents every night and we had to grind like the warthogs. But y’all, we have Walmart, Ring doorbell cameras, and dating apps!

So. It’s really simple.

G-O! GO! Go Lions!! Roarrr!!!


But for real I’m calling Team Lions. My goal is not always up and up. But instead to work hard to a point. The point where I can then kick back and enjoy the deep sigh of satisfaction when I’ve made it. Maybe go deeper instead of upwards. And if nothing else leave the incessant zooming and potential hear attacks to the warthogs.

We must caution the grind!