Friday, May 04, 2007

If it stings... must be good for you.

That's what my grandmother used to say whenever she tended a hurt with some nasty spray or liquid that burned like fire. I knew she was attempting to make the pain worthwhile but it still hurt. The same thing goes for slights and nasty remarks that sting. If they don't sting, there is no truth in them. If, however, they sting...

Whenever someone slights us--and it's usually a friend or relative because they know us well enough to know what buttons to push--it is usually out of their own pique or pain. They need to make sure you hurt, too, and digging the spurs into your ego and psyche are the quickest ways to get there. It's mean, but it's effective, and you should thank them. If it stings...

Sometimes we get into a comfortable rut where it's safe and we are content. Little things will bother us, and that's guaranteed, but overall we are happy where we are. There's no need to exert any energy to maintain stationary orbit or climb up out of that ever deepening rut, so why bother? It takes grit and guts and a lot of energy to blast out of orbit and escape the strong pull of gravity or reach up to grab the edge of the rut and pull our comfortably padded rumps out, but the effort is worth it.

I climbed out of that rut. It was a good well worn rut but I left so much undone. I had stories and novels and proposals for books gathering dust buried beneath a growing stack of minutiae. It's what Apollo Creed called the eye of the tiger, that burning desire to be more than you are, to reach beyond yourself and achieve your dreams. I had lost it. I have it back and now the results are piling up.

There were times I had a bright idea and thought what a good story or article or essay it would make. I religiously read marketing newsletters and lists of contests and calls for submission, the ideas blossoming as I read, but I did nothing with them--other than writing them down or marking that place in my memory. Memory is not a good place to keep hot ideas; it has a tendency to become overlaid with bills and work and the minutiae of every day life, getting pushed out of the light to huddle under the bed or in a corner or behind a big heavy piece of mental furniture. The only time they're found is when you move (I'm not planning to move) or when it's time for spring cleaning (not going to happen this year) or when relatives come to visit (they live too far away), and then it's too late. There's a reason to strike while the iron is hot; it's much easier to mold and bend and shape. When it's cold . . . well, you get the idea.

I got stung. Then I got mad. Then I started to look at things and see it stung because it held a small poppy seed of truth. Then I got busy.

Time passes so quickly and the older we get time grows wings and then engines and then jet engines and then it's rocketing out of sight, leaving us gasping and coughing in its wake. Time does not wait. It is relentless, a construct of perpetual motion that soon becomes a juggernaut moving at unbelievable speeds leaving nothing in its wake but regret and a cloud of dust without even a hearty Heigh-Ho, Silver! Life is short and can end at any moment. Think not? Talk to the wife of the guy who was driving to work one day when an overpass collapsed on top of him or the athlete who was in tip-top condition and going out for his morning run when his heart stopped. Yes, these are extreme examples, but they are nonetheless true.

We don't need a fatalistic view of life. We need a realistic perspective. Every time we put something off or let something mundane take precedence over dreams and desire, we lose. We lose time. We lose the heat in the iron. We lose escape velocity. The result is inertia: safe, comfortable, going nowhere inertia. Gravity has taken hold and no matter how fast we run or how high we jump, there's no escaping it. The trick is to move and keep moving, keep evolving, and most of all, keep living. That's why slights sting and why they should sting--to remind us we could have had a V-8 have our dreams right now. All it takes is the eye of the tiger and a little bit of audacity.

So, thank you for all the insults and slights and nasty things everyone has ever said to me. It did the trick.

That is all. Disperse.

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