And Sometimes This

Do you have a default setting?

Maybe it’s a routine (hello, you gorgeous snooze button, you) or a reaction that has been a part of you since the first day you remember being you.

How do you walk into a party?


How do you approach someone from whom you need to ask a favor?


What do you say when someone talks down to you?
How do you react when a stranger talks to your kids?

I think we have more defaults than we realize. Right now my defaults own me more than I own them.
It is a little exhausting getting the kids into the house at the end of the day. My girl waits patiently in the car as I take out the dog, round up her school bags and then finally her, take off my winter gear, her winter gear, and then hoist her up the stairs to the main level of our house. My boy has shared all he can think of in these few entering-the-house minutes and has disappeared to engage other entertainments. I always feel I need to take a beat after this, catch my breath. My default is to take out my phone and do…not much, really. It’s digital puttering. I could pick up the copy of Tolstoy’s Bicycle I spent a day searching the internet for, as it is the perfect book to thumb through. But, no.

Tolstoy’s Bicycle first appealed to me because of my informal study of defaults. It is a book of ages, beginning with “age -1”, discussing topics from Louise Brown (the first “test tube baby”) to biological facts to historical figures who lost parents before they were born, and stretching on up to age 30,000 (which, apparently, is how long the ancient Egyptian god Ra lives.)

Tolstoy learned to ride a bicycle at the age of 67.

I convince myself at least twice a week that I am too old at the age of 35 to change.
Too old to learn. Too old to approach life differently. My default is “I can’t” and then step two is a brutal mental pummeling for not being capable.

I seem to only be able to see one part of me.
“Hello, my name is…”

How do you fill in the blank?

What label do you stick on yourself first?
Mom?
Wife?
Writer?

I think it is the ones we dare not whisper that we think of first, before we find an appropriate way to round out the phrase.

Hello, my name is…

Depressed.
Worried.
Incapable.
Broken.
Stuck.

One or all of those may be true.
I don’t think it is the forsaking of our truths that makes us awaken to all we are, but maybe realizing, maybe more than two or three times a day, that we are NOT ONLY these things.

It is a rule in improv to always say yes, but beyond that to always say, “yes, and…”

I did a short exercise in this one night this week, one night that rounded out a hard, cold, dark day. Oh, those insults I would never even consider hurling at another living thing were howling through my mind.

The only way I could think to quiet the howling was to answer it.

I wrote:

I have failed.

Then I added YES, AND…

I am forgiven.

I am incapable.
YES, AND…
I am not done learning yet.

I am not my own.
YES, AND…
I am free to give myself completely to any endeavor I choose.

And on I went, because I needed to be reminded that I do not have to be completely healed to be complete.
I may always be “and sometimes THIS,” but I will never, not for a moment, be removed from myself, no matter what the howling might say.

I may shake loose the gears that have rusted over and are no longer serving their purpose. I may need to oil the joints that are most likely to propel me forward.

Hello, my name is…


And I am sometimes so shy my own friends make me nervous.


And I am sometimes so brave I don’t think twice before I smile at a stranger.


And I am sometimes so unsure of my next step that my stomach lurches.


And I am sometimes so convinced I have to move that I just go ahead and step out anyway.

And,

I am not too far gone to learn how to reset my default settings.

This post’s artwork is Dark Tapeworms by Salvador Dali.

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