Have you ever felt fear cripple you — lock up your hands so that the only motion they can make is to ferret their way into pockets of any size? The knowledge of what you must do swills around in your gut, gradually seeping through your veins like a paralytic.
You can’t send the email. Dial the phone. Say the first word of the conversation that needs to be had.
And maybe a day…week…few years later — you think back to that moment and wonder what might have been had you grown the requisite pair and taken the leap.
But that — it’s all regret. Useless. You sure as hell can’t do anything about that thing now. Or maybe you can.
On Saturday evening, I spent a night very much (and gratefully) alone, enveloped in a blanket with various dogs in various positions. I was doing what it is that I do when I need to unplug: watching movies that used to amuse me. The flavor of the evening was Purple Rain. And somewhere in the middle of the movie, a story started stirring around in my head. It was a good one, too. Or at least as good as a story that only lives in your head can be. I needed to write it down. Get it out of my head an onto the paper.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I started thinking about everything I’ve never started because I…didn’t (and with no good excuse, mind you).
Maybe you know what that feels like.
Maybe I’m just a bit morose with my 40th birthday looming next month.
Maybe it’s high fucking time I had this conversation with myself. Why do I, in the presence of everything I need, not start something?
Because I’m like you. I’m sick of friends, self-help books, and every bloody expert and guru telling me what I need. Sometimes things just don’t get started and they sit there on the kitchen counter like a bunch of bananas you bought to eat at breakfast that end up looking like furry, brown phalluses not even fit for banana bread. I have everything I need to get some shit going, but all that shit winds up in the bin next to the was-bananas.
And it’s okay.
Sometimes what we need is pass opportunities over. Maybe we’re in the shit. Maybe the timing is crap. Maybe money’s tight. Maybe it’s just a long-ass conversation that makes you forget whatever it was that you wanted to talk about in the first place and you find yourself at home four hours later with the same question clanking around like a pinball in your soul.
And you find yourself doing something you never planned on doing instead. It sure as hell isn’t anything your friends or any book full of “advice” thought you should be doing.
But you end up doing it anyway…and it turns out to be fucking brilliant.
Like the Last $10 in Your Wallet
I walked into the grocery store on Sunday morning to buy toilet paper. That’s it. I had just over $10 with me and when it was all said and done, I had a single $10 bill in my wallet kept company by some loose change. I walked out the door to my car and there was a man standing outside. I see him there often — I know he’s homeless.
So I could have walked to my car, taken my toilet paper home, gotten on my bike as I had planned and continued my mission to burn off everything I’d consumed in the name of a dead turkey.
But I didn’t.
I asked him how he was and if there was anything he needed. It sounded something like this:
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean is there anything I can go inside and get for you,” I replied.
“No one ever asks me that,” he said.
“Well, I am. Is there anything inside that you need or want?” I asked.
“Really?” he asked quite skeptically.
“Really.” I said.
And so he told me. And so I told him that I’d be right back.
So I went inside and got him what he wanted. I bought a reusable bag so it would be easier for him to carry and more likely to make it wherever he was going than one of those atrocious plastic numbers. I brought it back outside and handed it to him.
“What’s that smell?” he asked.
“I got you some hot soup — it’s that big container on the top with the tape on it.” I said.
He just looked at me and after a minute he just said, “Lady, why you so nice to me?”
I just looked at him and said, “No reason, other than I wanted you to have a better day.”
“Thanks, lady…wow. Thanks. Dang. I mean, god bless you. God bless you lady, ” he sputtered out. And then I handed him the $10 out of my wallet and told him to have a good day.
I went back to my car, started the engine, threw the toilet paper and my wallet with a now empty billfold across into the passenger seat and backed out. I maneuvered my car around to the other side of the lot, over by the bank that wasn’t open, and parked.
And I cried. Cried, cried, and cried.
Not because I was sad. Because I started something and I finished it. And it was meant to be started and finished right there.
I drove the 1/4 mile home (hello, First World Problems), parked, and went inside to go about my day. I never went for the bike ride, but I’d gotten a workout all the same.
So The Next Time…
You beat yourself up about not starting something. About being afraid. About letting an opportunity pass you by…
…remember that maybe it’s supposed to pass by so you can make room in your heart for the shit that matters. Because it’s not an iPad Mini. Or a big screen TV. Or whatever the hell else you can score at whatever percent off if you shop on Thanksgiving or get up at o’dark-thirty to wait in line for a “deal.” It’s not the rush to get the 5 pounds off your ass that you put there willingly and enthusiastically. It’s not the car you get into so you can roll up the windows and park in a space in front of a deserted strip mall bank and cry.
It’s about doing all of the things that fall outside of the parameters of our best laid plans that we couldn’t have planned in a million years.