The Ironman knows that although compared to the life of a galaxy, the human life is all too brief, still, a lot can happen in a lifetime, a decade, a year, even in an hour. It is why the Ironman doesn't get overly excited when things are going great nor terribly disappointed when things aren't going his way. This tends to be the mindset of someone with experience more than the mindset of a kid.
Experience is the great teacher. One is doing great at one's job, winning raises, promotions, a mentor...and then the mentor leaves, someone new takes his place, and the new boss tends to be distant and aloof. In a situation like this, many will panic. 'The new guy doesn't like me. He's going to fire me and replace me with one of his own buddies. I'll be out of a job and unable to get a new one. I'll wind up peniless, alone, and sleeping on the street. No decent woman will ever look at me again.'
This is not the way of the Ironman. He's been through it all before. He knows a whole bunch of things. The new guy may not last very long. Or, if he does, he may soon come to respect the loyalty, hard work, and expertise of the Ironman. And if he doesn't, and is so parochial as to replace perfectly good people with his own cronies, so be it. There's always a good job out there for a good man.
The Ironman knows if he just hangs in there, and doesn't panic, and follows his own creed and work ethic, that sooner or later things will start going his way. He's come to learn this through business, sports, hobbies, and, yes, relationships with women. If he just hangs in there, sooner or later, he'll get what he wants.
A case in point. A friend was going with a girl his freshman year of college. She was a slender, dark beauty, and the young man was nuts about her. But as they headed into their sophomore year, the girl told him she felt hemmed in and wanted to date other people. The young man's heart was broken, but being an incipient Ironman he kept his hurt to himself. He stopped phoning the girl cold turkey, and when he passed her on campus he merely nodded politely.
By their junior year, they began dating again. The boy was as in love with her then as he had been two years ago. However, after a few months went by, the girl again expressed a desire to date other people. "Okay," said the young man, "I'd rather you didn't, but if you feel you have to, go ahead. I can only tell you this: I'm going to get on with my life. I may be here when you decide you want me back -- and you will ~ and I may not. That's the chance you're going to have to take."
After college the young woman went off to become a model and then a stewardess. The young man landed in Boston and went to work for a bank. Although he dated other women, and there were even a few who had fallen in love with him, he couldn't stop thinking about the girl from college. But he remained steadfast in his resolve not to call her, not to write her, not to plead with her to come back. For some odd reason, he had a bedrock confidence that he was meant for her and she him. At the same time he was equally resolved that if she never came back, he would find someone else, that life would go on.
Sure enough, after about five years had gone by, and they were both in their late twenties, he received a letter from the girl. Her job as a flight attendant was taking her to Boston for a night. Would he like to have dinner? Since she had initiated the contact, he agreed. Over white wine and halibut at Legal Seafood, they remembered old times. She ordered a second bottle of wine and opened her heart to him. She had missed him terribly. There had never been another like him, not as sexy, not as much fun, not as loyal. Why don't they just do what they'd always been destined to do and get married?
Our young hero's heart was breaking in two. How convenient if he agreed right then and there on the spot, how sweet to put an end at last to those years of longing. But well on his way to Ironmaness, he listened to the small but unmistakeable voice in the back of his brain telling him to slow down, to take his time, to trust not in instant solutions, TO BE PATIENT.
And so he was. After all, he'd been twice burned. This time he wanted to be certain. So he simply replied, "I've missed you too.
But let's not rush things. We haven't even seen each other for five years. What if we've become two completely different people? Let's keep in touch and see how things progress." She was woefully disappointed, hadn't been expecting this kind of response at all. After all, she used to have such power over him. It got her attention.
When they finished dinner, she wanted him to come upstairs to her hotel room. "Next time you're back in Boston," he said. "Really?!" she eplied. "I've been thinking about this for five years. How can you stand it?" He simply smiled.
It wasn't two weeks before she was back in town. This time our young Ironman really surprised her. "Sorry," he explained over the phone from his office, "but we're putting a special financing package together for one of our biggest clients and I'm probably going to have to be here all night. When are you going to be in town again?"
"You're kidding!" she responded, sounding crestfallen. "Are you trying to tell me something?"
"Of coure not," he responded. "I'm really looking forward to seeing you. Tell me when you're going to be here next and we'll set up an official date."
"Well, actually," she confessed, "I've requested Boston as a regular assignment, and so I'll be staying over twice a week from now on." Our hero smiled confidently to himself. It was working. They made a date for the following Thursday night.
This time they did spend the evening together. It was extraordinary, the culmination of five years of desire. The girl snuggled up to the young Ironman in bed and told him again and again how much she loved him and had missed him, as if she were trying to get him to admit the same. He refused. He couldn't stop thinking about all the men she must have had during the years they'd been apart. As much as he wanted her, he had grave doubts about her ability to stay faithful, to keep from getting bored. He felt he still had to be in greater control, to dominate her, to have the balance of power shift ever more into his court. So he simply pulled her to him and silently made love to her again.
They began seeing each other nearly everytime the girl was in Boston, with our hero being careful to disappoint her occasionally by being tied up at work. Although he didn't much feel like it he continued to date a woman he'd been seeing for the past year, sometimes even when the girl he loved was in town. The stewardess in turn began openly and aggressively to suggest they get engaged. "Soon," our Ironman would reply. "I'm just not sure I'm quite ready yet."
"How can you say that?" she railed. "I'm so crazy about you. I can't stand being apart from you." Inside he felt the same, but he'd be damned if he was going to let her know.
"Well, can't we at least agree not to date anyone else?" she asked. Somehow, although in true Ironman fashion he'd never mentioned the other woman to her (more about this in a separate chapter), she'd sensed there was another woman in his life. The young Ironman felt he was now in sure enough control to allow the girl a small victory.
"Okay," he allowed, "we won't see other people." Privately, he wondered if she somehow weren't screwing every pilot she met, but for some reason he sensed that her passion for him had escalated to the point where other men were of little interest to her. Women are often like that. When they're mad about a man they're not sure of, they often have absolutely no interest in anyone else. Not till they somehow feel certain of him. And the Ironman was not about to allow her to feel that way. Not for the rest of her life.
After several months of dating each other exclusively, she suggested he move to California, so they could be together more often. Once again our hero was sorely tempted. He loved San Francisco, the weather, Northern California, the mountains, the bay, Napa Valley. But he refused. "You move here," he countered. "My job is too important to me." The girl readily agreed and was able to get the airline to switch her to a ground job so that she wouldn't have to spend several nights a week out of town.
Of course she'd wanted to move in with the Ironman, but true to his strategy he suggested it would be wiser for her to get her own place, at least for awhile, till they were completely and absolutely sure they were right for each other. " But I've been sure the first time I ever laid eyes on you," she responded. "Aren't you?"
How quickly we forget, thought the Ironman. "I'm getting there," he responded. "I'm getting there."
Six months went by and the relationship continued to flourish, with the girl constantly pressing for them to get engaged. "Soon," the young man would reply. "Soon." And although they continued to see each other almost every night, the Ironman would make sure every once in a while to spend an evening out with the boys, suggesting at the same time that she spend and evening with her friends. "But I don't really feel like it," she'd reply. "I'd rather be with you."
"Yes," he'd say, "but it's healthy for us not to become overly dependent on each other." In truth, he would just as soon have spent the evening with her, but he was resolute on keeping the upper hand, on making her feel that she needed him more than he needed her.
Game playing, you say. So be it. Life is full of games, of strategizing, and the Ironman knows that if he is going to achieve what he wants then there will be times when he must act with a certain icy self- interest, when he must say and, more importantly, do things that run counter to his instincts to be soft, to be self-indulgent, to be accomodating, to take the easy way out.
What makes it all worthwhile, you will find out, is that after awhile acting like an Ironman starts to feel more and more like a natural part of your personality so that one day, perhaps when you're thirty- two or thirty-eight or forty-one or fifty-six you will have become an
Ironman who does the Ironman thing naturally, instinctively. In short, you will have become an Ironman and Ironman behavior will be your true norm and weak, self-destructive impulses will be as difficult for you to act on as strong, patient, tough-minded ones may be now.
Another six months went by, and the girl was actually beginning to show signs of the strain the relationship was having on her. She lost weight, was having trouble sleeping, questioned the young man occasionally if he loved her. Sometimes she wondered aloud if he was having an affair. He began to sense that she really and truly loved him, that he was terribly important to her, that she wasn't caught up in some momentary infatuation but had bonded with him deeply and profoundly. In short, he had her where he'd always longed to have her. And so he asked her to marry him.
He was overwhelmed by her response. She broke into tears of true joy and wept openly for the entire evening. "I've never been so happy in all my life," she said over and over again. "I've never been so happy."
They were married in a big, elaborate, traditional wedding at her family's home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, two mature young people in their early thirties whose relationship had had its ups and downs and one that had survived a long and testing courtship. One had the sense that this was a relationship that was going to last, and so far, twelve years and three children later, it has.
But the Ironman continues to keep the upper hand, to be strong, at times a little distant, to keep her guessing, for he remembers how painful it was to have lost her, how desperate and out of control he felt. And he knows he never wants to feel that way again.