There is of course no denying there is ‘always tomorrow’. But there is always a tomorrow after that day too. So why do you keep delaying?
This is from Stephen Moore today, as I sit here in Bali while the evening creeps in slowly against a backdrop of breezes.
I started a response, then realized I had an article. Here goes:
With respect, this is a lie. Look, I agree with the article. Just not this little piece. There isn’t a tomorrow for a great many of us, if for no other reason than accidents, misfortune, murder, suicide, bad ass weather, an horrific disease, a million million reasons. Tomorrow is always and forever just out of reach, but the idea is just so enticing. The seduction of sweet manana, is just that- the implicit promise that there will always be time, and then there isn’t.
To his point- and believe me, I’m with Steve here (and here, being, to my point, in Bali, where I landed for yet another month-long adventure in my messy, epic fucking life, being 66, and not having enough of said tomorrows to wait with my thumb up my butt), I wish I had a nickel for every moke who told me I’m gonna go there someday.
My high school reunions are populated with aging somedayers. They never did. They chose safe. And now most are too old, infirm and ill to get out of a rocking chair. They are so safe that the notion of any flight anywhere they used to say they were gonna get to is out of the question.
That’s what safe costs us.
It’s amazing what implicit scarcity will do to motivate the hell out of someone. If we told folks that they had a year to live, kindly whaddya think they might do? And then, kindly, might I then ask, if this is so damned important to you, why in hell aren’t you doing this now? We can be safe. Right. Some folks are only and forever comfortable with safe. Safe ain’t the stories you tell your grandkids ( I have none, but I have adopted nephews). Safe doesn’t give you the kinds of joy that leave you panting and breathless.
Safe doesn’t expose you to the extremities of life, which redefine us, sculpt us, and force us to face our inner demons.
Safe doesn’t teach us courage, which comes in right handy when “oh SHIT” happens, and it will. Guaranteed.
Safe doesn’t teach us to handle hurts, horrors and the handmaidens of life: death and taxes. As well as plenty of pain.
The more we settle into safe, the less we can survive the shit sandwiches which will happen. Because life does. No matter how you try to protect yourself and your family, something will intrude. Because, otherwise, how on earth are you going to learn to be in life?
I left “safe” at 17, moving out on my own, and haven’t quit since. People say they want my life. No. You don’t. You want YOUR life, unabated, unleashed, unchained. That’s what you really want. How you define that is up to you. But safe costs us time, time is life, and life is fleeting.
As stupid as it might have been (and it was) I let a Certain Man back into my life a year ago on my birthday. He was anything but “safe” in the sense that he is supremely unpredictable, especially when it comes to love. This morning I got the latest (of twelve, over ten years) breakup emails. Not safe. However let’s be clear. A few hours later I was laughing at it, my predicament, and the fact that I create my circumstances. If I needed to be safe, this breakup would have been devastating. Nope. It’s a speed bump. His breakup does not define my value, my worth, nor my competence or confidence. He wants to be an asshole, have at it, baby.
The lie of safety is that someone or something (like an Invisible Man in the Sky) can protect you from life’s vicissitudes. They will happen. The only real safety is that which I build inside me: sobriety, humor, inner strength, wisdom, experience of walking across the coals and surviving the burns, risking it all and gaining everything over and over, having nothing to do with material goods and everything to do with confidence. I’m a survivor. Because I don’t give a shit about “safe” in that sense of the word. I’ll train to be safe in my extreme sports. I’ll travel safe so that I don’t get hurt, waylaid or robbed. I will make sure my home and belongings are as safe as they can be against predators. I wear helmets.
But when it comes to everything else, I try to be on the leading edge of life. Of course I get hurt. Of course I cry. Of course I have scars. We all have them if we live long enough, and well enough, and love hard enough, and certainly as foolishly as I do. I’ve easily had as many emotional TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) as actual ones. There are no helmets for Match.com. You choose to love, you will get hurt. I wouldn’t have it any other way. No helmet for that, baby.
But deep inside me, I am safe. Nobody can touch that, because I built that house out of indestructible material. The kind that only comes when we risk living life out loud. That indestructible material is called faith. This has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, in this sense. This has to do with pushing the boundaries and discovering what lies within. Facing our lack, our insecurities, our pain, our doubts. We’ve all got them. What happens when we know what scares us and head out to meet our fears anyway is what gives us faith. We understand and respect our limitations. We also discover strengths and assets that are hidden until tested.
Safe doesn’t give us life. The compulsion to protect our kids costs them confidence. The compulsion to protect ourselves from hurt costs us our tomorrows. The more we hide from life, the more we fear it.
The key isn’t safety for safety’s sake. It’s realizing that even if the worst happens, we’re going to get through just fine. Scathed, but stronger.