Unless I change my mind, which sometimes happens, the story I’m working on now will be titled October Bold. It’s interesting how a storyline, and what I want to emphasize, changes as I go along. Over the course of a couple hundred pages what started out as a couple’s bumpy trek toward some hoped-for common ground has taken an unexpected turn.
David and Marian are slowly realizing that finding such an elusive space will require a change of course, and attitude, for both of them. Are they willing to do that? Do they have the nerve to try? Near as I can tell their situation calls for a dose of October Bold---a willingness to move beyond their normal responses, to try something new, and take a chance---in dealing with relationships or any other activity.
Of course, like most everything else, the October version of “Bold” bears little resemblance to the carefree, sometimes foolhardy boldness of our youth. By the time we reach October all of us have gathered our share of barnacles and baggage---excuses for not trying something new, or different, or a bit risky. In the same way that barnacles can slow down a ship, our own doubting logic may hold us back, making us more timid than necessary. I’m not talking about some exaggerated risk or betting the farm on some untried dream. For us October citizens it’s about finding the courage to stretch the envelop a bit, to follow an appealing possibility beyond the reasons we would normally use to avoid it. What I call October boldness is about moving beyond our self-imposed impediments.
I count it as boldness when you finally decide to pursue a hobby or interest you’ve always wanted to try, but never ventured to do. In my own world, writing relational stories about my Tanner friends, then having the nerve to tell everyone what I was doing, qualified as boldness. As does creating a blog about those October adventures. From the beginning I wondered what gave a rank amateur like me the right to be doing that. But the further I ventured down that path the more I realized I was there because I wanted to be. As long as I’m not hurting anyone else that’s reason enough.
This October boldness of mine is not a matter of daring adventure or great physical risk. It’s a willingness to move beyond my comfort zone to pursue something I really want to do. To hold back or hesitate because of what someone else may say or think about my feeble efforts strikes me as a cowardly and very unbold reason for not acting.
After everything we’ve gone through to reach October, isn’t that how it should be? Haven’t we earned the right to be bold---in an October sort of way? Why not scrape off those limiting barnacles and be open to taking a chance of your own? So what if you end up looking silly or out of place. If you’re like me, you’ve been there before.
Jimmy Brooder’s first steps toward boldness in Conversations With Sarah are what I call “backdoor bold.” Though his dream is bold, he hesitates to act. But rather than turn away he resorts to his own timid, but decisive approach. In true “John Alden” style he asks Hank Rolland to do what he cannot do for himself---arrange a date with Gladys Horner. When Gladys finally unravels his indirect invitation she is in his face, asking questions of her own.
Turning back to face Gladys, Jimmy nodded toward the far end of the hallway, away from the others, and nudged her in that direction. “Tell me,” he said as they walked. “Does what you heard have something to do with you and me?” He noted her cautious nod. “Maybe something about a date, a double date, to the Big Band Concert?”
She moved closer, straining to hear his soft words. A second later she offered her response. “Yes. That’s what I heard. From Angie. Who heard it from Hank.”
“In that case, I need to bail Hank out of the trouble he’s got himself in.” Jimmy was scolding himself for creating such confusion. He had gone looking for Hank’s help, to ask Gladys the question he could not bring himself to ask. Hank must have asked Angie to do the asking. No wonder Gladys was confused. Still, since it was apparently a bad idea from the start, it was not fair for her to be blaming Hank.
A single tug on her arm turned Gladys toward him. “Look, I’m sorry. This is my fault,” he said. “It was something I wanted to happen. But I can understand why it sounds so crazy to you. Anyway, if you’re going to be mad at someone, it should be me. I’m the one who asked Hank to help me. I just didn’t know he would be getting Angie involved.”
“Why did I ask Hank to lend a hand? Because I thought going to the concert with you was a good idea, something I’d like to do. I still think so.” Jimmy was already moving back toward the Fellowship Hall. “Anyway, I’m sorry I caused such a fuss. Why don’t we just drop it. Okay?”
“So you still think it’s a good idea. Is that what you’re saying?”
“Then why didn’t you just ask me? Why did it take Hank or Angie to do that?”
Jimmy Brooder had the look of a man prepared to run away, to escape her probing questions. Why did she have to keep pushing? It was time to end their ridiculous charade. “Gladys Horner, you’re not going to the concert with me---out there in front of all your high-society friends. I knew that all along. You’ve got more sense and good taste than that. So let’s just forget about it.”
Gladys paused long enough to draw herself to her full five foot two, looking up into his face, assembling her parting words. “Jimmy Brooder, you are exactly half right. I won’t be going to the concert with you.” She started toward the front door, before adding over her shoulder, “Not if you don’t have the nerve to do the asking yourself.”
He stood rooted in the middle of the hallway, watching as she walked away. Replaying her words, he asked himself again if she had actually said what he thought he heard.
Boldness, in its October form, is a frame of mind. It can be a timid, but decisive decision to act in the face of all the reasons we have created over the years for not acting. The kind of October Bold I advocate does not entail physical danger, but rather the risk of hurt feelings, embarrassment, or head-shaking snickers. It took me longer than it should have to realize that my sometimes fragile ego can deal with those injuries.
Perhaps someone buys my books---maybe they don’t. My blog may be read---or not. Either way, it feels like October boldness has earned me a very satisfying opportunity to be true to myself. And I pray that you too can be bold in your own October way. If there is something you want to try or do, and there is nothing more than your own timidity holding you back---then do it. What are you waiting for? Will it be easier next year? Be Bold.
As always, if you’re so inclined I’d appreciate your comments, posted below. Beyond that, if there are folks with whom you’d like to share this October Years post I hope you’ll pass it on. It’s an easy thing to do. Just click on the “M” at the bottom of this page to email the post, with the video, to any addresses you choose.