Every Sunday afternoon I drive to laundromat to do my families weekly clothes washing and most Sunday’s as I drive there I listen to middle of a podcast called the Tobolowsky files which are stories that character actor Stephen Tobolowsky tells about his experiences in life. The one I heard this week had to do with working David Byrne on his brilliant movie True Stories (definitely in my top ten).
As Tobolowsky tells it he met David Byrne by simply going along with a spur of the moment invitation. This led to meeting Byrne and having both an impact on a creative project and giving him a chance to get to know an intensely interesting and driven person. In my life these moments of saying yes to spontaneous opportunities usually have a mixed value. Some were mind-blowingly life changing events, some just turned out to be filled with boredom and inconvenience, and some, which fit into both of the first two categories as well, turned out to be dangerous to the point of life threatening, but I’ve usually found in life if you take no risks you usually get no pay off. Only a few of these adventures did I regret the entire experience and those usually because I was not invested whole-heartedly. The regrets I have had in life are almost always about not taking risks. I don’t me maniacal death defying acts of foolhardy indulgence like having unprotected sex with a stranger, or partying with juggalos. I mean just not trusting myself to deal with some slightly challenging circumstances that lack of prior planning sometimes brings about. Or just doing something on my own a little out of my comfort zone. This really kicked in when I had children because it is not just me that would be uncomfortable, and if you have ever experienced uncomfortable children you know that whatever level of discomfort they are feeling, you will feel twice as much.
The funny thing is I am not a practical long range thinker. I can’t think about much beyond the day after tomorrow. It’s not like the supposedly safe decisions I have made have led me to a particularly secure life free of worry. Seems like the more I try to make my life comfortable and safe, the more I worry about discomfort and safety. Anyway when I heard that Stephen Tobolowsky telling his story about saying yes, I mostly realized that my life has been shut down to the point where there is really no one to say yes to. That is my fault. I am a very private and mostly shy person, but I know what I will be working on for the next few months, finding creative and interesting people to inspire me to do some risky things. My children are old enough now to take their own risks. But also I realize now that I could be and have been one of those people who stretch other peoples lives by offering experiences. I have not been doing this lately. I have been holed up in a holding pattern since last summer and I need to break out. I am going to make a plan about this and maybe burn it, but I will be keeping my eyes open for possible yes saying situations ready to jump in. I will check for sharks or dangerous currents. Maybe I wade out in the shallows a ways, but eventually I will hopefully find myself in the deeper more interesting water where I can see some of the rarer more interesting fish.