I don’t take myself too seriously. In fact, I laugh at myself now more often than not.
What’s the point? Why would I take myself seriously? I’m in this life to enjoy it, and my time spent with the others in my circle. I’ve seen what happens when people take themselves too seriously. They get lost. They get caught up in themselves and become so entangled, they can never reel it back in and find focus. They lose their footing and trip, then barely recover from the fall.
Then point the finger and place the blame on everyone else. I know… I’ve done it.
I may not be an intelligent man. I’ve never taken an IQ test or completed college for that matter, but I see my life as multi-layered.
Three things keep me rooted to my reality: My enjoyment of the time I have left on this physical plane of existence with the people I love, no matter what. My attempt to be a positive beacon to those around me, no matter what. The guarantee I never take myself too seriously. No… matter… what. As long as I abide by those three principals, I fear nothing. As long as I maintain my reality, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
If we can find the ability to reach inside, locate the personal shortcomings, recognize that nothing is perfect and be willing to laugh and learn, the sky is the limit. Our personal shortcomings and faults are just as important to who we are as people, as the topics we excel at. It’s embracing our weaknesses that provide us with continued strength and stability.
However, learning the principals, almost never happened. It was a retraining of the brain that allowed me to find that footing I was missing.
When I was a dumb teen I intentionally got myself lost in the backwoods of my home state for the express purpose of “something different” to do with the buddies. A “brilliant” idea for a fun adventure with a small group of friends.
“Let’s get lost in the woods, see if we can survive, and make it back before dark. With nothing but what we have on us. We depart at the crack of dawn. Dude… this is gonna kick ass!”
Not the smartest of moves.
A time before GPS and handheld technology. A period of my history where face time, Messenger, Skype, texting, and social media was non-existent. If you didn’t have access to a landline or a payphone, you were not not making contact with the outside world.
We hiked for hours. It reached a point where we had become hopelessly lost and had zero bearing from our starting place. We laughed about it at first, “Mission accomplished! We did it guys! We’re officially lost!” Thick towering pines surrounded us, crab grass clung and sliced across the skin as we navigated around swampy bogs. Mosquitoes the size of fifty cent pieces buzzing by and a blazing sun overhead. Not one of us thought to bring any water, food or supplies.
Roughly six hours into the excursion, panic settled in. Legitimate fear, thirst, hunger and a longing to return home. At this moment, each tree looked identical to the rest and what once seemed familiar, now gone from memory. Each path blocked by the same overgrowth, crisscrossed by tangled branches, knee high bushes, and everything looks the same. The claustrophobic prison becomes more congested, and eventually we reached a moment of pure terror.
We may not make it back, and no one will ever know what happened to us. Through our own stupidity we may have sealed our doom in a forest. On purpose no less.
We screamed at the top of our lungs in hopes someone would hear our cry for help. At times we ran, as one of us saw an open field, or what appeared to be a break in the trees, a place for respite, maybe a fence or a rock wall to follow, and all we did was get more lost and deeper in the unmerciful realm of nature.
Help was nowhere to be found. We were at the mercy of Earth and all we had was each other.
We trudged on till nightfall without having had any water, food or hope of rescue, and the moment we decided to drop to the ground and try to get some rest, lights broke through the trees and a noise vibrated around us.
We jumped to our feet and ran towards the source of the light and sound, and our journey brought us to a dirt road where a vehicle was disappearing around a corner. It’s red brake lights now swallowed back up in the night and fading away in the distance. At least we had two options at this point: Follow the vehicle and hope it brings us to a phone or civilization, or branch off to the right and hope the opposite end leads to the same place.
We concluded the vehicle was returning home and walked the dirt road to our right. Three hours later we’d be back in civilization and scarfing down burgers and water at the local fast food joint.
Being lost in those woods, was the only time I had cried out for help in my personal history, that I can recall. My desperate plea for rescue that day fell on deaf ears, but I screamed through those trees just like everyone else as though my life depended on it. It was only through dumb blind luck we emerged from the jungle victorious. Had we been traveling in any other direction, we may have never found home.
Asking for help falls among the accolades of things I have difficulties with. I have issues with reaching out for assistance and opening myself up to others with areas that are personally challenging. I don’t typically ask for help.
I’ve always made strides to seek venues where I could figure it out on my own. Only when I reach a point of desperation will I cry out for help.
The second I landed in the safe-house, I wanted to “go at it” of my own accord. I wanted my choices to dictate my life. It was time to cease the riding of the coattails of others and formulate, shape and mold a new lifestyle in my image.
Unfortunately, life and the relentless onslaught of life events was a continued obstacle. I was still trapped in the forest. It was impossible to dodge the inevitable and I never once screamed for help. At this point in the safe-house, most of my personal items had been dispersed into attic spaces of various family members. My furniture stored in random scattered basements and I was stripped down to bare essentials. It was an upcoming week without the kiddos, so the transition to whatever happens next was easier to bear. While sitting in my swivel chair and spinning in circles at the center of an empty room, less than a day before my journey into homelessness begins, there was a knock on the door.
“Hi, I’m Mary and I’m here to look at the house.”
“Come on in. Make yourself at home. I’ll be out of here tomorrow. The place is almost empty and it’s clean.” I sat back down in my chair and retrieved my fantasy book from the floor beside me. Mary gave the home a walk through, then returned to me while I made obvious attempts to ignore her presence.
She stood at the fireplace and I spoke without raising my eyes from the page, “The dryer in the basement doesn’t work. The bathroom light flickers and the mirror will need to be replaced. The fireplace is clean but not the best heat source. If you like watching a fire, it’s great. The handrail at the back stairs outside is loose and will probably need a look at.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much.” She replied and exited the house without saying goodbye.
I was screaming in my head, but remained silent.
She didn’t leave the property for a span of a few minutes. Instead she sat in the vehicle beside the porch and while I peeked through the kitchen window and observed from a distance, I watched her wipe her cheeks and eyes before finally shifting the car into drive and speeding away.
I stood at the window for quite some time. I leaned on the sink and gazed around the quiet environment and outside the homestead and thought, something good will come from this. Maybe not perfect. Maybe not ideal, but good. For the time being, let’s focus on good. Ideal will come later.
My phone rang and it startled me from my thoughts. I snatched it up and Nancy was attempting a call. “Hey. What’s going on?” I answered.
“You know, I was thinking,” she replied, “have you asked anyone in the family to give you a place to stay until this all blows over? Did you think to ask? Or are you just waiting, and then see what happens.”
“Nancy, I’m in my mid thirties. I’m not asking if I can move back in with my parents. I have to do this on my own.”
“Well, what if you can’t? What are you going to do? Sleep in the car in the parking lot at work?”
“I don’t have options. I have to see if this plays out in my favor.”
“… do you need any help with anything?”
“No. Thank you. I’ll see you around the office.”
The conversation ended, but she planted a seed. I stood in the kitchen staring at my phone and pondered who to reach out to. It was one thing to keep folks apprised of my situation, but to ask for help?
You’ve done it solo thus far. Why change it up now?
Mom? Dad? My bachelor friend?
The phone rings again and I almost drop it. A family member this time. No everyone, I’m OK and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Please just leave me be.
“Hey, Jere. Please come over to my place and bring Shelby. I have something to show you.”
“Ummm… OK? Yeah, I’ll be there in thirty.”
“See you then.”
I hate surprises. I have things to do and pity parties to throw in my honor. Just tell me what’s going on. For the love of Pete.
I hate my life.
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