Yes, I’m a day late with my hat-tip. I’m a bit discombobulated this week. I have my calendar all mixed up. I’m ready to go places and do things…Wait, that’s next week, not this week. So far, I haven’t missed anything. Although I did cancel an appointment to make room for a commitment that I thought I had but I didn’t. Oh lordy! Have you ever had a calendar problem?
About 10 years ago, I read about a young man who wrote and sent a thank-you note every day for a year. He started because he lost his job, felt depressed, and wanted to remind himself that he had a lot to be thankful for. He soon learned that he got more out of saying thank you than simply counting his blessings.
In 2023, I’m taking a slightly different approach. I’m planning to publicly thank people who have had a positive impact on my life in ways they probably didn’t plan, and most likely did so without even realizing it.
A hat-tip to a foolish essay writer
I think I was in my twenties when I read an essay encouraging us to be comfortable with looking foolish. It struck me hard and stuck with me ever since. Because, well, I was not AT ALL comfortable with my mistakes. Especially mistakes that made me feel or look foolish. I.e. mistakes that are on display for all to see.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember the writer. I do remember it was a pretty short essay in the Readers Digest. Everyone I knew had a Digest; mostly in the bathroom. The biggest lessons I learned from the essay is this:
Looking foolish gives others people permission to take risks
Loved-One and I went to Game-Works, a popular and huge arcade-like place with all kinds of video games, shooting gallery games, basketball hoops games, pinball games, and dance-dance games. I’m pretty bad at all games that require fast eye-hand coordiation or reflexes.
Game-Works is usually pretty busy, with most of the games occupied, or sometimes even with wait-lines. All of the games are in bold-eye view of everyone.
But there was one game that no one was playing. It was judo-style shadow kick-boxing competition. Kinda like Dance-Dance, but kick-boxing. What the heck, why not give it a whirl?
I had fun. I was terrible. I mean, really, really terrible. I might have managed to kick the shadow’s ankles a time of two. Did I mention, I had fun? I mean the whole absurdity made me laugh out-loud.
When I turned to leave, a line had formed. Anyone could do better than I did. See. Up until that point, people hesitated. I freed them by my open foolishness.
Foolish mistakes underline our humanness.
Once I insisted that a pair of men’s pants were incorrectly made.
“Look, one pantleg is wider than the other,” I said indignantly, pointing to the thigh area of the pants I bought for my new husband. “I want a refund.”
“That’s the way men’s pants are made,” said the salesman.
“Why on earth would a man want two different-sized pantlegs?”
“Look,” the salesman said patiently. “They’re all like that. It’s more comfortable for a man.”
He went through a whole stack of pants, pointing out the width discrepancy.
When I got home, my husband explained in more detail why it’s advantageous to have a wider thigh area on one side.
Oh what a fool I was. Oh what a human fool I was.
If nothing else, looking the fool, gives someone else a good story to tell.
The essayist really got me on this one, because I come from a long-line of storytellers, and most of those stories involve observing human behavior. Since reading the Digest’s essay, I’ve said more times than I can count before trying something new, “Well, at least we’ll give someone a funny story to tell over dinner.”
This month I went to the local health club to sign up for my Silver Sneaker membership. A strong, fit, young man gave me the tour, asking what I’m interested in at every corner. Yes, I like Zumba; Yes, I like to swim; Yes, I work out with weight machines; Yes, I’d like to learn how to play pickleball; Yes, I like spin classes; Yes, I l-o-v-e, love yoga.
The club had all levels of yoga. In an attempt to discover my level, strong, fit, young man asked, “What are you working on?”
“Well, I’d really like to master crow-pose. I can do a tri-pod, but not crow yet.”
Strong, fit, young man clearly did little yoga because he didn’t know what crow-pose was. So, like a good neighbor, I just got down on the mat and showed him the difference between a crow and a tri-pod, managing crow for a split-split-second.
It wasn’t until I got in the car to go home that I realized that I had given strong, fit, young man a perfect “Granny does the crow,” story to tell at dinner. Plus, I’ll bet he added in all the things I said I like, ‘as-if.’
Thank you, unknown essayist, for leading me to be comfortable with my foolishness.
Has an essay or book presented you with lessons that have served you well? Please leave a comment and tell me about it.