Sunday, January 25, 2015

You still have dreams, don't you. So why be timid?

A few days ago I put up a post that ended with the line---”Don’t worry about old age; it doesn’t last that long.”

Fact is, we should probably file that under “Half True.” It may not last as long as we’d like, but we know that today “old age” and retirement last longer than ever before. In turn, that normally happy fact creates its own set of anxieties. Will our nest egg last that long? Will our health hold out, or are we destined to live our last days in a “cared-for” situation? It’s the same old story, October and November are tricky times. We all bump into that reality from time to time.  

It is those “bumps,” and how people deal with them, that I write about. Creating those stories requires a certain amount of planning---looking ahead to see where the storyline I have in mind is taking the characters I have imagined into being. Yet it seems that no matter how well I plan there are times, when I least expect it, the story takes its own surprising turn. 

In a recent instance, what started out as a story about an October couple’s search for a relational common ground seemed to take on a life of its own. The storyline I had so carefully crafted was simply hijacked by the confused and conflicted pair. No matter what I had planned for them they seemed intent on taking their tale in a different direction. Almost before I understood where they leading me the two of them were insisting that their future relied on a new and uncharacteristic boldness.

In October Bold David and Marian found themselves backed into a corner, bogged down in their own natural timidity. Their relational prospects were growing dimmer, until they realized that what they wanted would require a change of direction and attitude. Were they willing to do that? Did they have the nerve to try? I was halfway through the story before it dawned on me that their situation required a liberal dose of what I call October Bold---a willingness to move beyond their normal responses and take a chance.
Of course, an October version of “bold” will probably not look like the carefree, sometimes foolhardy boldness of our youth. Over the years we have gathered our share of barnacles and baggage---and well-worn excuses for not trying something new, or different, or a bit risky. In the same way barnacles slow a ship our own doubting can hold us back. I am not talking about an exaggerated risk or betting the farm on some untried dream. Instead, think of it as finding the courage to stretch the envelop a bit, to follow an appealing possibility beyond the reasons you would normally use to avoid it. 
I count it as boldness to pursue an October hobby or interest, a pursuit you’ve always wanted to try, but were never willing to follow beyond your comfort zone. Roma did that when she began her genealogy work. Was it worth while? I think so. How else would I have known that I married my tenth cousin?
For myself, writing October relational stories about Tanner seniors, then having the nerve to tell the world what I am doing, qualifies as boldness---as did creating a blog to elaborate on those October adventures. From the beginning I wondered what gave a rank amateur like me the right to do that. But the further I ventured down that path the more I realized that I was there because I wanted to be. That’s reason enough.
This October boldness of mine was not a matter of daring adventure or great physical risk. It was a willingness to move beyond my comfort zone to pursue something I really wanted to do. To hold back or hesitate because of what someone else might say or think about my feeble efforts strikes me as a very unbold reason for not acting.
Think of the trials we’ve gone through to reach the October of our life. Haven’t we earned the right to be bold---in an October sort of way? If that is true, why not scrape off those limiting barnacles and take a chance of your own? Do your own thing---for your own reasons. So what if you end up looking silly or out of place. If you’re like me, you’ve been there before.
What I call October boldness is all about moving beyond our own self-imposed impediments. Moreover, that willingness comes in many shades and shapes. For David and Marian in October Bold it was a matter of moving beyond their own intimidating perceptions of each other. In the story I call Conversations With Sarah Jimmy Brooder resorts to what I would label “backdoor bold.” 
Though Jimmy’s dream is bold, he lacks the will to act on his own. So rather than turn away from what he wants, he relies on 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. Not surprisingly, when Gladys finally unravels Jimmy’s indirect invitation she is in his face, asking questions of her own.

Turning back to face Gladys, Jimmy nodded toward the back door, away from the crowded Fellowship Hall, and nudged her in that direction. “You say that you’ve heard something,” he said as they walked. “Does by chance it have anything to do with me---and you?” Noting her cautious nod, he continued. “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. But it made no sense at all. A ‘double date’---at our age. What is that about?”
“It sounds like I need to bail Hank out of the trouble he’s got himself into.” By then Jimmy was scolding himself for having created such a mess. He had gone looking for Hank’s help, to ask Gladys the question he could not bring himself to ask. Instead, Hank had apparently enlisted Angie to do the asking. No wonder Gladys was confused and upset. Still, since it had been a bad idea from the start, it was not fair to blame Hank for the ensuing confusion. 
A single tug on her arm turned Gladys toward him. “Look, I’m sorry. This is all my fault,” he said. “It was something I hoped could happen. But I understand why it must sound crazy to you. The thing is, if you’re going to be mad at someone, it should be me. I’m the one who asked Hank to help me out. I just didn’t know he would be getting Angie involved.”
“Why did I ask Hank? Because I thought going to the concert with you was a good idea, something I’d like to do.” Jimmy was already nudging them back toward the Fellowship Hall. “Anyway, I’m sorry I caused such a fuss. Why don’t we just drop it. Let’s pretend it never happened. Okay?”
“So tell me, do you still think it’s a good idea? Or have you changed your mind?”
“Oh, it’s still a good idea. But it’s one of those ideas whose time has come and gone.”
“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. It was clearly time to end their ridiculous charade. 
“Gladys Horner, I know you’re not going to the concert with me. Why would you want to show up in front of all your high-society friends with Jimmy Brooder in tow? You’re a bright lady, with more sense and good taste than that. I knew that all along. I just let myself get a little carried away, that’s all. So let’s just forget about it.”
Gladys took a deep breath and drew herself to her full five foot two. Looking up into his face she assembled her parting words. “Jimmy Brooder, you are exactly half right. I certainly 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 not so much a physical thing. It’s 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 risks only hurt feelings, embarrassment, and head-shaking snickers. It took longer than it should have to realize that my sometimes fragile ego can deal with those assaults.

Perhaps someone buys my books---maybe they don’t. My blog may be read---or not. Either way, it feels like my boldness has earned me a satisfying opportunity to be true to myself. And I hope that you can be bold in your own October way. If there is something you want to try or do and nothing more than your own timidity holding you back---then give it a try. What are you waiting for? Will it be easier tomorrow or next year? Be Bold.

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