The Messages around You
(While I work on a story about having tea with giraffes in Kenya, I post this essay that I had forgotten about. I wrote it in 2009 in response to a writing prompt made by an online writing instructor.)
Scattered around and on and under my desk are messages. The messages implore my immediate attention before (insert a date already gone by here). A thick envelope from AARP offers to save me money on prescription drugs. “Outside” magazine acknowledges receipt of the gift subscription for my nephew, and now wants to sell me one also.
The Aircraft Pilots and Owners Association sends its annual Christmas card selection from which to choose, with free return mailing labels if I buy two or more boxes. The electric utility, credit card companies, fuel oil provider all thank me for my last payment and note the date the current invoice amount will be subtracted from my checking account.
I go online, and messages abound at my “spam” e-mail address. Robert G. Allen is very concerned about my income, Viola want to sell me the magic elixir to enlarge my “member,” and I wonder if that means–for a woman—one boob will become larger than the other, or do you have to take double doses or buy two prescriptions to attain equal enlargement . She’d have better luck if she offered me a magic potion that would reduce those cumbersome things. Another offers life insurance in a box that I don’t have to pay for, Lufthansa welcomes me to its airline miles program, and Google advises me that I have yet to verify my AdSense account.
Pinned to the bulletin board above my computer is the itinerary and confirmation code for my recent trip to Hawaii, the one I should have taken with me instead of the itinerary for a trip to Mexico in November, which is still (battered, folded, and worn) in the carry on I brought back with me yesterday from Maui. And, in a manila file folder, one-third cut tabs, is all the accumulated information pertinent to the trip to Russia, most of which I have not yet read. I still have time; I don’t leave until Friday.
Itineraries, confirmation codes, passport and ID, a small change purse decorated with wolves in which I keep flash cards and extra batteries for my Nikon Coolpix camera—all these things speak volumes about my life the past three years. Before that—I was afraid to fly.
Judy made me to be afraid of spiders. Because I did not know my own path in life, I became afraid of spiders. Before that, I would let them crawl all over me. She also taught me that spaghetti pasta with only butter, salt, and pepper was much more preferable to marinara sauce. On that, she was right.
Kathy is the one who made me afraid to fly, because she was. Figuring that she was much more savvy about these things than I was, I adopted her attitude on the whole thing. I could always think of reasons why we shouldn’t go anywhere when my husband suggested a trip. And when we did fly, he preferred the red-eye flights so as not to waste time, which only left me comatose the next day and I thought that was a huge waste of time. He slept soundly on airplanes; I did not.
“Someone had to be awake to hold the airplane up,” he told friends. I am sure than more than one airplane had my fingerprints permanently squished into the plastic arm rest.
My fear kept my husband from seeing New Zealand, a place he very much wanted to visit. My fear kept me from flying to the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea while he was working a construction job there, and he felt—but didn’t say—that I hadn’t cared enough about him to brave the tumultuous birthplace of horrendous winds and storms.
As quickly as Kathy stopped being afraid to fly, so did my epiphany occur. “I’d rather die in an airplane crash going somewhere than sitting at home on my couch,” said another Kathy. That sounded pretty darned good to me, so I adopted that attitude also.
On my computer are pages bookmarked with sites I’ve scanned for adventure—China by bike, hike, and bamboo raft, animal safaris in Africa, Costa Rica by kayak, Antarctica by ship. I try not to pay too much attention to my bank balance and the interest rate on a CD.
Instead, in my pocket is a pewter token that spoke to me from a woven basket in a gift shop at Kailua-Kona. On one side is an embossed design of a sailboat. On the reverse side is one word: Explore.
That is the message for me, the one I follow daily, whether at home, on the computer with my muse directing my fingers on the keyboard, or in places known and unknown, I explore.
After I posted this at the writing site, two people made comments:
1) No wonder I am so stressed all the time. I look around my desk and I see Chaos. Ann looks around her desk and sees hope. Gully looks around her desk and sees life and adventure. I think it just might be time to clean my desk.
2) You explore with words also. Diving in and giving meaning to what most think may be a mundane topic to write about. Instead you explore the inside of that topic, get below the surface and wow us.