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What ifs and what if I didn’t

July 30, 2013

I believe a successful life is based on an inventory of “what ifs” and the more important, “what if I didn’t?” And if “what if I didn’t” outnumbers “what ifs” then you won. I’ve always avoided the path of least resistance to attain leisure time for my dreams. I find myself in my late fifties broke, doing part-time work that’s below the level of my abilities and talents, and making less money for my labor. I can’t complain about this, anymore than I have to deal with neuropathy side effects from chemo, it’s what the moment calls for. But it’s difficult to know that when I still pursue some of my interests, they aren’t connected to an outlet. I valued my passions too much to have them diminish into hobbies. I’ve been trying to reassemble myself as a motivational or inspirational speaker. I don’t particularly like the term. But I do have a message to convey about fighting cancer and building a life, and I’m finding what I’m doing to support myself financially is actually getting in the way to the next step. Ah, the what-if precipice unrolls beneath me and puts my topes over its edge. I didn’t have any “what ifs” in my life, I made all the choices that got me here.

I was working at the winery, putting labels on bags, and this seven-year old kid who was bored and wandering around the place entered the room and said, “Can I help?” And I realized that what I was doing, was something he could do! Maybe not as consistently perfect, because he’d lose interest, but the act itself. It was another hardening moment leading to the build-up of resolve for me to keep working through this towards something else, and eventually quit. Another time I showed up at the winery, the woman running the event criticized me for wearing bluejeans and said, “I told you you were pouring and there’s this surfer look.” And I look around, the other guy pouring was in jeans, the owner was in jeans, another guy was wearing shorts, and the owner’s son was in jeans. She walked away. I stood there for about 30-seconds trying to pull myself together. I’m flashing back to another winery job, where a girl who had a pot belly and was my supervisor, who wore a tight T-shirt (Probably so people would look at her boobs instead of her gut), came over to me after I had meet lifting a huge bottle to put in the water cooler, and said, “We’re trying to maintain a good look here, and your pants came down a little.” My pants didn’t–and still don’t–fit me after losing weight from cancer.  I was furious. She must haver seen it in my eyes and backed off. And now, here again, an unfounded comment.

I wanted to walk out. Instead I said,C “What am I supposed to wear, my nice pants so they get stained when I take out the garbage?”

The supervisor was in the other room and said, “I can hear you.”

I snapped, “I know.”

She backed off. And actually apologized.

I remember when I was struggling and doing stand-up at night and working as a filing clerk of some sort in a bank, and I was filing boxes in a storage room and a guy my age condescendingly referred to me as a “stock boy.”

Sometimes, even as you pace in a cage, the animals outside find a way to bite you. But they think the cage is locked. And when you do walk away they’re still staring through the bars, and you’ve done something they haven’t: escaped.


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