One of the best things I learned in high school was not the phrase “semper ubi, SUB ubi” (always wear, UNDERwear) (oh, that AP Latin humor gets me every time), but that the one way to make sure that no one hassled you was to look as though you looked like you knew precisely what you were doing. If you LOOKED like you knew what you were doing, you were probably not setting fire to a locker somewhere. Probably.
It was an early version of the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ adage that they teach people suffering from mental illness, and it’s a good life lesson. Should I ever put together Aunt Becky’s Guide To Life, along with “Pants First, Then Shoes,” that will be up there high on my list of things to master.
I’ve always been remarkably good at it, maybe it’s because my home life was chaotic, maybe I just have a good p-p-p-p-poker face, I don’t know. But I always look like I know precisely what I am doing. And for the most part, I have always simply known that what I was doing was precisely what I should be doing for that time. Even during my blasted nursing school days, whether or not I was HAPPY, it was what I should have been doing because I knew with certainty it must be.
I never waffle much with my decisions, especially my decisions about how delicious waffles are, and I never much struggle with uncertainty. For me there is a single path to follow, and I simply follow it. It’s very dogmatic to be me, I guess, and even though my decisions aren’t always right, there’s never so much as a shred of doubt in them while I’m making them.
Lately, though, I’ve been struggling. Floundering, even, although when I say that, I think of the fish and then I giggle because I think of that Faith No More video with the flopping fish, and then I remember how much I fucking love Mike Patton.
But my decision to be a writer was something that came about as a shock to me. It was like I realized I could dip my head underwater and breathe without a mask. I simply didn’t know that I had any talent for it, and once I did, I was beyond stunned, because you think you’d know if you could do something cool like breathe underwater, right?
I’ve gone after it, balls to the wall, because I realized that this was what I was supposed to do. But for the first time in my life, I became doubtful. Was this really what I was supposed to do?
Where my path before had been brightly lit with gaily colored lights and lighted disco sidewalks (hey, this is MY path, Pranksters and I would bejewel all of you if I could), it turned a murky, cloudy grey. I couldn’t see what I was supposed to do next. I was all kinds of turned around and suddenly a mist crept in and I couldn’t even tell which way was up any longer.
I don’t even know how long I stood there alone, just standing and waiting for a sign. Months, probably. I’m not a big step-on-a-crack-break-your-momma’s-back kind of Magical Thinker, but I needed a sign from God, from you, my Pranksters, from ANYONE to tell me that Yes, YES, a million times yes! this was what I needed to do.
Yesterday, I got it.
All at once, the mist evaporated, the lights turned back on, the disco lights began flashing under my feet and suddenly I could see that I’d been facing the right way the entire time. I’ve always been facing the right way. This IS what I was supposed to be doing all along. Eventually, I will succeed.
In the meantime, I just have to remember that it’s not all given to me to know and that it’s not all within my power. I got my sign, and now it’s time to do my part.
It’s going to be another long, strange trip, but I’m beyond ready and more than thrilled. I’m going to buckle up and hope I don’t shit my pants along the way.