Famous last words

Said you heard every word
But I watched you turn away
Your eyes grew colder than winter
“Love is so intrusive”
I thought I heard you say
And laugh so unconvincingly

Famous last words
‘I’m not ready yet’
‘I won’t be gone a minute…’

Narrow is the road
And too high a price to pay
Loneliness is such a sanctuary
Empty are the musings
And wasted are the days
You said you were only waiting…

Famous last words
‘I’m not ready yet’
‘I won’t be gone a minute,
But I won’t forget’
Famous last words
Tomorrow never comes
Will I ever know that I was in love?

Said you heard every word
But I watched you turn away
You said you were only waiting…

Famous last words
‘I’m not ready yet’
‘I won’t be gone a minute’

— Famous Last Words by Jars of Clay

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you may have noticed that I have become incredibly gunshy and risk-averse. I’m instinctively not a risk taker. I have literally told friends that I have made it a life goal to take as few risks as possible in order to prevent the negative consequences.

But you know what? As they wisely responded to me, a certain degree of risk is unavoidable in life. You take a risk getting in your car and driving to work every day or walking outside in a storm. Sure, you can keep the risks you take to an absolute minimum, but where does that get you in life?

Everyone who knows me even a little bit knows I love (and quote incessantly from) Seinfeld, but I also enjoy a number of other shows, including Family Guy. One of my favorite episodes involves baby Stewie Griffin — known for his plots to take over the world — traveling in time to meet his future self.

Baby Stewie is disappointed to find that his future self is not of the world domination variety. Instead he is a lonely virgin with a dead-end job who refuses to take a great opportunity (a very sweet and interested woman at work). When Baby Stewie cajoles him into it, he fails miserably at the sexual experience. The woman goes back to work and tells the manager about what happened on their disappointing date, and Adult Stewie loses his job as a result. He also forgets about the candles he had lit for this event and accidentally burns his apartment down…blaming Baby Stewie for everything. Literally by avoiding risks in life, Adult Stewie lost what little he had.

At the end of all this, Baby Stewie asks Adult Stewie how he turned out to be so pathetic. He pauses for a moment to recall and then remembers that he nearly drowned in a pool when he was a baby and that made him averse to risk for the rest of his life…and basically rendered him a loser. He never learned that just because one risk has a bad consequence that all risks have bad consequences. Instead, like me, he merely retreated because he was living his whole life in fear of what might go wrong.

A horrified Baby Stewie goes back in time to prevent the pool incident from occurring because he decides that it would be more important for him to alter the space-time continuum than to end up like Adult Stewie did.

Transitioning to my real life, I realize that I could do better for myself if only I took a few measured risks. You’re never going to see me throwing down thousands of dollars in a casino or running one of those get-rich-quick schemes, but I must teach (force?) myself to stick my neck out a little bit once in a while if the risk is worthwhile.

I took a small risk recently, and thus far it has paid some very nice dividends. This was one day that was not wasted. Let’s just hope those are not famous last words.

Taking baby steps

I used to love riding my bicycle when I was younger. I rode almost every day. One time I rode too far away and down far too busy a street and then came home to find my mom standing angrily in the driveway…and my bike taken away from me for a while.

After she gave it back I still loved to ride. But after a while I started to notice a nagging pain in my left leg whenever I rode. I tried to just work through it but the pain became too much to bear, so I went to a doctor. The doctor put me through a series of tests and found that I had a benign cyst on my femur. The doctor offered to do surgery to remove it but thought that the surgery might be worse than just living with it since it wasn’t malignant.

The only trouble was that it kept me off my bicycle. The less I rode, the weaker my legs got and the less I was able to do other physical activities that I enjoyed. I couldn’t run or play basketball or (attempt to) dance without getting out of breath. It was partially because I was asthmatic, but the weakness in my legs made my heart and lungs work much harder to compensate for the lack of strength.

A few days ago I was walking through the garage looking for something and I can swear I heard a bicycle whispering at me.

“PSSSST! Where have you been? Isn’t it about time to get me out for a ride?” it seemed to say. “I’m tired of being all cooped up in here!”

So I got it out. I got a few feet down the street and discovered that the tires were messed up. Now this could have been the perfect excuse not to ride, but instead I went back and borrowed a bicycle from my mom.

I got on that bike and rode it through the neighborhood. But because of the pain I was in and my difficulty breathing when I saw home again after going in a circle through the subdivision it felt like the finish line at the Tour de France. I didn’t ride very far, but I was able to achieve a small victory. And maybe that small victory will enable me to push myself to go just a little farther next time. And a little farther the time after that.

Clearly I will never win the Tour de France, and it was never really a dream of mine anyway…I always thought of bicycling as a non-competitive hobby and maybe a means of transportation in certain areas. But I can savor a small victory.

Now I don’t know if I can put my finger on it but I think something about that very minor achievement gave me a tiny boost of confidence that I sorely needed, and it might just ripple through the other aspects of my life.

Addendum: After discussing my experience with my mom, she said, “Thank you! I thought I was the only one who couldn’t pedal that bike! I thought it was just because I was old!” Apparently there is a problem with this bicycle and it shouldn’t be this hard to ride, even for me.