Timing is everything

Or is it?

I’ve used timing as an excuse for inaction, to justify feeling stressed, to not be happy in the moment. I’ve used this thought template over and over and over:

“As soon as ________ happens then I’ll _______.”

This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, there’s always something new and difficult waiting on the other side of that first blank. The hard things in life are never followed by a runway of calm and uneventful time. They are usually followed by more hard things. I’m learning you have to deal with the hard things while still living and moving forward. I’m also learning to keep perspective on the hard things. I’ve learned the worst moments in my life have all been survivable and I’m grateful for all the valuable lessons I’ve learned.

Second, taking action at the “wrong” time can create rad and unexpected results. Some of what turned out to be the best decisions in my life seemed real questionable at the time. I’ve never regretted quitting a job without another one lined up or breaking a lease without another place to go. Necessity is the mother of innovation, even when it’s self-imposed necessity.

If there’s something to be done, I’m convinced the time will never be “right.” The reasons will change, but you’ll never find that wide-open runway. So if there’s something to be done, the time is probably now, don’t you think?

Sorry!

When I was a child I loved the game, “Sorry!” It’s a simple board game that consists of a deck of numbered cards drawn to navigate a player’s gamepiece around the board from “home” to the finish. Also included in the deck are “Sorry” cards that allow a player to replace another player’s gamepiece with their own and send the other player back to “home.” The moral lessons tucked inside the box are free with purchase.

One evening when I was around 7 or 8, I convinced my parents to join me for our 546th game of Sorry. Bless their patience. I prepared the board, shuffling the cards, and likely selecting the blue gamepiece for myself. In the process of shuffling I caught a glimpse of the first two cards: a “Sorry” and a “1.” The “1” card is noteworthy because it allows a player to remove their gamepiece from “home” in order to start their journey around the board. Naturally, I swapped the “Sorry” and the “1” so the “Sorry” would be the second card drawn. Probably I chuckled an evil chuckle to myself and sat back to watch my plan unfold.

My parents joined me at the board, and I very graciously invited my dad to go first. I happened to be sitting to his left, so I’d draw second. Dad, perhaps surprised that I hadn’t challenged him to a footrace or something for the advantage of drawing first, drew the “1” card. Such good fortune! He’d be ahead of the game, getting out of “home” on his first draw! But, alas, this good fortune would not last. I feigned surprise when I drew the “Sorry!” card, gleefully knocking his gamepiece off the board with a flick of my skinny wrist, like a little sociopath in training.

Dad’s luck never turned around, and I won that game in record time. As this result became inevitable, my joy in winning waned. I felt dread in the pit of my stomach. I may have even voluntarily skipped a turn. After that game, the gaping chasm that had once held my sense of right and wrong caused me physical pain. As my mom sat with me in the soft light of my grey and pink kitten lamp later that night, she could tell something was bothering me. I burst into tears and confessed the entirety of my wicked plot. Mom suggested I apologize to my dad and ask him to forgive me. I probably didn’t agree to that right away, but I did end up following her back out to the living room.

Mom would have told Dad that I had something to talk to him about. He would have gotten up to turn off the T.V. I’m sure I was standing there in the doorway covered in snot and hiccupping. In the way I still do, I likely let loose a stream of words that sounded like they were racing to be first out of my mouth, just to get it over with.

I remember Dad hugged me and told me that he wasn’t mad. He said he was proud of me for telling the truth even though it was hard and no one would have ever known. I remember sleeping like a baby that night.

On Loss

There are moments in time that reset the clock to zero. When you have to start counting from that point because it has such significance that you start to think of your life as having a “before” and an “after” that moment. They almost always catch you by surprise, even when part of you can see it coming. In the “before” you would stop to absentmindedly pet a soft little brown dog in the bedroom doorway. “After,” a brown towel left carelessly on the floor and caught out of the corner of your eye leaves you sobbing in that spot on the floor.

In the “before” you think know how much you love them, but it’s not until the “after” you realize how hard it will be to live without them. You learn the feeling of the air being abruptly sucked from your lungs when you’re just minding your own business during some mundane task. You learn how necessary it is to sit and stare into space and just cry until you feel wrung out. You learn that, months later, a year later, the pain hasn’t actually lessened, you’ve just gotten better at leaving it running in the background.

You learn that painful loss changes you. You could get mad about traffic, but it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. You could get offended at some petty slight, but you know it’s not worth the energy. Instead, you hug the red dog and the old black dog, and give the little black dog a kiss on the snout that makes her sneeze and ask for another. You thank the little brown dog for all she taught you.