January 26, 2018

the fine line between brave and stupid

Sometimes, it's the Universe that tells me I can't or won't do something.  The air and the sky and gravity just imply it.

And if it tells me to be patient ... that's so cute, isn't it?  Does it think I'm going to stop and sniff the shaker to see if it's full of cumin instead of just deciding it's full of cinnamon and Stevia and sprinkling it all over my cream-cheese-smeared Bagel Thin?

We've all done things that were plain stupid, not brave.  They weren't brave because we were ignorant and didn't realize there was any sort of risk.  Like when I was nine years old and a neighborhood kid and I decided we were woodworkers.  His father had a shop in an attic room above their garage, where all of his nice tools and sharp carving knives and the mother of all vice grips were located.  Down the road, there was an odd cabinet-making shop in our otherwise residential neighborhood.  We gained the cabinet makers' permission to rummage through their dumpster out back for any scraps of wood we wanted.  And we climbed around in that dumpster many times.  I think the rats and snakes in there were probably so startled by our presence that they just sat back and watched, and talked about it afterward, told stories of us to their grand-rats and great-grand-snakes.  "Did you see those kids?  They were so stupid that we didn't even have the heart to bite 'em."  Then we'd carry the scraps up to the workshop and I don't even remember what we did with them, but I recall carving things with those very sharp knives and never once getting cut, while the radio played "I Can't Fight This Feeling Any More" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me".

There's plenty of things we do that are brave and not stupid at all, too.  Like giving birth.  Holding your kid down so the nurses can give him his kindergarten immunizations.  Driving every day.  Leaving bad situations, even if it means being alone.  Brave is an individual thing.  One person's impassioned speech to a crowd of thousands is another person's letting a waiter know the steak wasn't cooked properly, even though it means making a fuss.


I have a tendency to sit on the fence between the two.


Brave, stupid things I have done:


1.  Taken a cold shower.  Not a wake-me-up cold shower, and not a not-tonight-dear-I-have-a-headache cold shower.  We were in the mountains once, in the dead of winter, staying in our converted RV, heated with space heaters, that served as a cabin and had a built-on bathroom and porch.  The bathroom held the shower and the water heater.  I can't remember why we had no hot water that weekend ... it might have been one of the times we forgot to turn the well pump on before the breaker for the heater, and listened to the heating element go "BANG!" again because there wasn't any water in there.  Anyway, we didn't have any hot water because Reasons.  The water was so cold that after washing dishes, we had to hold our hands over a space heater for a while and rub them together to stop the aching.  But I felt greasy and scungy, like the man from Bearskin who hadn't showered for seven years, and got fixated on taking a shower.  I just had to.  Going without showering and washing my hair was making me miserable.  So miserable that I decided it was worth it to make myself an honorary member of the Polar Bear Club and shower in 33-degree mountain well water.  


In retrospect, I'm sure I had to enter an altered state of mind to make myself get into that shower and let that water hit my body, and to stay there long enough to get clean.  It blew right past "refreshing" and sped by "invigorating" and parked firmly in front of "painful".  It felt like needles against my skin.  But I shampooed and soaped and everything and got out and toweled myself off, changed clothes, and felt like a million dollars.  I don't think I would do this again, but that's subject to circumstances.


2.  Removed my own IUD.  (WARNING:  INVOLVES FEMALE BODY PART STUFF)  I had a Mirena implanted many years ago, back when it mattered, but after a year, it malfunctioned or blew a gasket or something, because I suddenly went into full-blown pseudo-menopause.  I called my OB/GYN office and was told that they could get me an appointment in four months, not tomorrow or next week, because it wasn't an emergency.  This was not a judicious thing for the scheduling clerk to say out loud to me, though I'm sure she was able to piece her life back together after long-term counseling.  I hung up and thought about the whole situation, and got even more pissed off, and walked over to the computer and pulled up the Physician's Prescribing Information pamphlet for the Mirena.  Yep, that's what I thought.  Forty-two sections and diagrams and warnings about carefully inserting and positioning it, and exactly one line about removing it, which was to grab the wires with a pair of tongs and pull.  The thing is made of flimsy plastic and folds up like an Olympic diver.  So I took it out and threw it away.  The next day, I felt better, back to normal.  I called and canceled the appointment, and told them all about why.


3.  Left high school a year early.  I took a notion to leave high school after eleventh grade and go straight to college.  This was partly because I wanted to major in math and the math teacher who taught the higher grades at my high school was a burned-out long-timer who usually put his feet up on his desk and told us to just work on our homework problems from the previous day.  And partly because there were early acceptance programs out there at several colleges and universities and the idea was intriguing.  But it was mostly because I was terrified of giving the valedictory speech.  My GPA was a whole head above that of the salutatorian, and standing on the stage at the podium in front of an auditorium full of the doting parents and siblings and grandparents of my classmates was looming in my future.  There was no way in hell I was going to give that speech.  It never occurred to me that I could just stick around my senior year and enjoy that full, rich experience, and then suddenly get sick on graduation night.  I had to run away at a sprint, with rock-solid legitimacy on my side.  So I went away to college at 17, and got my diploma in the mail that winter, when my high school let my first English course suffice as the last credit I needed to graduate.  It came in an impersonal envelope without a note.  


I paid handsomely for the stupid aspects of this, though:  That May, I attended what would have been my own graduation ceremony.  This was brave x 10,000.  I watched my peers, most of whom I had known all my life, walk across the stage one by one.  I watched my best friend give the speech I would have had to make.  The clash of emotions from all over the spectrum I experienced was exhausting, gutting, but I went all the same, for her, and sat with her parents.  She nailed it.


Hey, psssst, Random Writing Prompt.  C'mere.  Know what?  I don't regret any of these things.

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