Admittedly, Sam Black had made a few miscalculations over the years. The most recent was his failure to check the lay of the land before burgling a well anointed home. Fondling a diamond necklace, he heard voices below. His hasty exit through a bedroom window did not anticipate the three storey drop from the hillside home. His neck had not handled the fall well and his next vision was St. Peter reading off Sam’s impressive list of failings. “Well, Sam,” Pete had concluded, “to your credit, you never stole handbags from old ladies, but there’s no pretending you’ve been Robin Hood either. We’re going to need more time to evaluate your case.” Meaning: Hang out in purgatory. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. And so Sam found himself in a nether world where time did not exist, the land of permanent, stagnant status quo. Needless to say, this did not suit a man of action. He considered his options. Perhaps he could do something that would raise his stock with the higher powers. Flash: he could stop brother Red from luring nephew Benny into the long line of family ne’er-do-wells. Which was exactly what Red was doing at that moment. For the court allotted father/son weekend, Sam was sharing the facts of life with eager eyed, twelve year old Benny. They were standing amidst the throng of travelers in Grand Central Station on a New York hot summer day. “Benny, my son, what we’re doing here is rebalancing a system of economic inequality, a system that favors the rich over the poor. We’re simply moving assets from one man’s pocket into a more deserving one.” This was Red’s introduction to the fine art of pickpocketing. And the pair stood in the middle of pickpocketer paradise, a teeming train station on a steaming afternoon. No overcoats and excess garments to fumble with. Red picked their first mark, handed Benny a map of New York, and pointed him at a couple wearing Hawaiian shirts with bags slung over their shoulders. There was a noticeable bulge in the man’s rear pants pocket. Benny approached with a concerned look and map in hand, “Excuse me, I’m lost. Can you help me find Central Park?” The couple, who were also studying a map, turned to look at him. Another lost traveler, of course they could help. But before that could happen, a roundish man, indifferently dressed, seemed to trip and fall on his face at their feet. The trio of the lost stared down. Red, who normally double tied his shoe laces, couldn’t believe his luck. Somehow, both shoes had untied laces and he’d tripped over them as he made his move on the wallet. The map readers turned away and Benny was directed to the park in question. Score: Good Guys 1, Bad Guy 0. Sam was beginning to enjoy this. The next mark was an older lady wearing an outlandish feathered hat. Bedecked with sparkling jewelry, she had a very expensive Italian purse under her arm. Benny made the same approach. The woman, not used to being confronted by street rabble, condescended to listen to Benny’s story. She had just begun to provide directions when a frenzied yipping erupted at their feet. The lady’s heretofore silent companion had taken an instant dislike to the man who was reaching for his mistress’s purse. Benny and hat lady watched as the small terrier launched itself at Red’s trouser leg and clamped its teeth on his ankle. Now it was Red who was yipping. “Tiger! Tiger! Bad boy! Stop that!” instructions which the four legged protector finally acceded too, letting go his death grip, and standing back a safe distance to growl. “I’m so very sorry, sir, I don’t know what got into tiger. He’s never done that before.” Bending down to rub the damaged ankle, Red looked up and just smiled, “Think nothing of it, madam. These things happen.” With that, he tipped his hat and disappeared into the crowd. Score: Good Guys 2, Bad Guy 0. yes, Sam smiled, who knew purgatory could be such fun. Father and son regrouped, Red wondering, where did that dog come from? Okay, the next mark needs to be a sure thing. By the guidebook he was studying, the older man with the full grey beard leaning on a cane, was another traveler. He, too, had a familiar bulge in his rear pants pocket. Overweight and out of shape, Red noted, this was going to be easy. Once more, Benny approached with a lost look and map in hand. The man, who Benny thought must be somebody’s grandfather, smiled down at him. “Guten tag,” said the man. What was this, Benny thought, the guy doesn’t even speak English. Then the man’s smile broadened, “Just funning you, boy, I speak English, but my German is much better.” Benny held out his map to ask directions but before a word left his mouth, the man, with unbelievable speed and dexterity whipped his cane around and thrust it into Red’s belly, sending the surprised larcenist stumbling backwards, landing with an ungainly splat on his butt. The old man pointed the cane at Red and said in a cool, steady voice, “let that be a lesson to you. After thirty years in the Berlin police force, I know a few things about pickpockets.” The retired cop turned back to Benny, “My name is Fritz. I’ve come to see your wonderful city. Would you like to share a drink with me, perhaps we can explore together, I’ve heard Central Park is a special place.” Benny and his newly found grandfather walked off together. Red struggled to get up, dusted himself off, and looked up at the heavens. What did I do to deserve this day? If only he knew. Score: Good guys 3, Bad guy 0 Moral, Not all angels have wings. tio stib You might also enjoy: A Season for Adventuring; The Blindside Parables 22 - Life is Like a Broken Egg
Blindness kept me from seeing their faces but the voices I recognized. These were the same voices I’d heard fifty years ago, laughing and yelling as we ran wildly through our young lives. My mind saw their youthful smiles from back when we had all our hair and could walk without canes.
We’d grown up in the same neighborhood of Fauntleroy, a small community on the edge of Puget Sound in West Seattle. Little did we know then just how blessed we were. There was Lincoln Park with its beach, Colman Pool, tennis courts, and a grass field that turned to mud in autumn and became the site of countless epic football games. There was Fauntleroy Elementary School, now over one hundred years old, where we all met and then proceeded on to Denny Junior High and then Chief Sealth High School and first loves, embarrassed dates, first cars, and strange teachers. And, there was the Fauntleroy Y.M.C.A. and the Leaders’ Club, our home away from home, where we learned the value of service and the joy of teamwork. It was a world where we felt safe, where neighbors talked and helped each other, where we ran about at all hours without the slightest hesitation.
It was a world that has passed by.
But, for an afternoon, I was back in that magical place with friends I’d not connected with in fifty years but with whom I was closer with than people I’ve known for the past thirty.
I’ve been wondering what “happiness” was lately, but now, days after that reunion, I realize I spent that entire time smiling. I was with friends again, guys I’d loved, trusted, and shared life’s adventures with. Somehow, with the sad exception of one, we’d all survived our own life journeys to meet up again, now grown men watching our own families grow up.
I’m still smiling!
It’s been a good day, mostly. I received a hugely positive book review, a number of projects I’m working on inched ahead, I met someone who might become a wonderful computer helper, and my wife and I created a surprisingly tasty meal together. Trust me, the last accomplishment was especially satisfying for a blind guy who lives for sumptuous taste.
So why am I writing about “Rejection Therapy,” Bernie Sanders and fly fishing?
Let’s start with “Rejection Therapy.” Just what is it?
Would you believe that “Rejection Therapy” is listed in Wikipedia? by that account, “Rejection Therapy” is a game invented by a guy who wants to help us get over our rejection angst. You win the game by getting the most people to reject you. I would do well with this game.
I’ve been playing “Rejection Therapy” most of my life. However, I’ve been playing in v-e-r-r-r-r-y s-l-l-o-o-o-w motion. As an example, it took me two years to recover from the shame of my first dating disaster before I even considered asking another girl out. By age forty, I’d reduced my recovery time to a mere three weeks.
What might this process have to do with you? Since life is all about relationships and I’m assuming you’ve had your share of these, I think it’s safe to guess that you’ve also had relationship failures. If this is true, the important question is-
How have you dealt with rejection?
Since this discussion is edging towards serious, let me break off and share my afternoon’s rejection therapy experience.
I happen to believe in the Bernie Sanders for President campaign. Without getting too much into it, suffice to say that I’d pretty much given up on American politics after Regan in the 80’s and generally avoided the stench of any news that came from the nation’s capitol. Yes, such behavior could be described as apathetic or un-American, but it was what it was. Then I found myself in the midst of a group of impassioned college kids pitching for Bernie Sanders, an old fart whose been standing up for what he believes is right for America more than thirty years. Those kids got my attention. I checked out Bernie and his ideas and soon I was another impassioned supporter promoting Bernie on street corners,, feeling hope for America again.
I was out this afternoon, standing on a corner in a small middle-class town wearing a big smile, sporting my best positive attitude, as throngs of people passed by on their way to the farmers’ market.
I put out a hearty “Good afternoon!” to everyone walking by. No political pitch, there was a big Bernie sign behind me with leaflets on a table. Just a hearty “Good afternoon!”
And what did I get in return?
They didn’t smile. They didn’t speak. They turned their heads, swerved to walk further away from me, did anything to pretend I didn’t exist.
Wow! I was stunned. I wasn’t pushing any hard sell for Bernie Sanders, just saying, “Good afternoon!”
Well, not quite nothing. I kept an approximate count, and from more than one hundred passersby, I received about five “Good afternoon to you,” responses, and even a few “Go Bernie!” quips. But most everyone went by pretending that a smiling human being, decently dressed, clean shaven, offering a simple “Good afternoon!” didn’t exist.
As I began processing what was going on, my mind flashed on other “Rejection Therapy “ experiences I’ve had. If you’re a writer, perhaps we’ve shared similar countless agent and publisher rejections. but, have you ever been fly fishing?
I hugely enjoy fly fishing for steelhead and trout. I’ve gone entire days without a single strike, not one indication that fish live anywhere near where I’ve been fishing. Yet, this is not upsetting. Sure, a bit disappointing, but like the “Rejection Therapy” game where players can ultimately learn to be at peace with rejection, I’ve learned to pay attention to the total fishing experience and not worry about catching fish. Drifting down a beautiful river, taking in the sounds of Nature, rushing water and songbirds, feeling a warm breeze on my face filled with the sweet scent of pine trees. All these things let me cast hundreds of times without a trace of an excited fish.
I recalled my fishing feelings as people continued to pass by, paying me no heed. Suddenly, I was standing on the bank of the River of Life, taking a deep breath of the fresh jasmine filled air, feeling the sun’s warmth on my face, noting that in front of me flowed a constant stream of fish faces, most of them a species I was not interested in catching. I smiled and kept casting, believing that eventually a bright and curious human being would come by.
Assuming you, my friend, are also seeking mutually supportive intimacy in your life, you’ve also been doing your own form of “Rejection Therapy.” I can only hope your recovery period is significantly less than my current two and one half weeks. The next time you’re turned away, consider seeking a different kind of people to play with, or even a new place to fish.
In case you enjoy such things, here are a few parting thoughts-
“you only catch fish when your line’s in the water.” -a smart ass guide watching me trying to untangle my line from a tree that wasn’t supposed to be there
“Fail faster to succeed” one of those catchy quotes for entrepreneurs who don’t have a clue what it really means.
“You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you’ll find your prince, or princess for that matter” -probably some smart grandmother type comforting a forlorn granddaughter or grandson.
Be happy, it’s a choice!
“Why do I need to grow up?” asked my nephew, in one of those rare moments when youth values age.
“Why do you ask?” I replied.
“Because adults are always telling me I need to grow up,” he answered earnestly.
Feeling his inquisitive eyes staring at me, I knew a simple answer would not suffice, especially since I’ve struggled with the same question for over fifty years.
I’ve tried to grow up, built boats and houses played architect,, took my shot at saving the world as a social worker, never quite made enough money as an entrepreneur, collected a surprising array of failed relationships but did manage to win a gold medal in speed diapering. I’ve learned I’m an inept ballroom dancer, that I like to eat good cooking but don’t have the patience to create it,that the wonders of Nature are an infinite source of inspiration, that death happens, and that the true riches of my life are the friends I’ve made and worked to keep along the way.
Although I treasure time with my family and friends, I’m quite introspective and often introverted. To borrow a line from Steve McQueen, “I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.: I must admit that after all the other “adult” careers I’ve tried, writing seems to suit me best. Writing is also a better fit for a blind guy than being a fly fishing guide. I’m not good at it yet, but I believe that by working at telling stories with solutions, sharing ideas that build a better world, I’ll perhaps make a positive difference with the life I’m blessed to live.
Writing is also wonderful as it gives me an acceptable adult excuse not to grow up. What else could I do where I can hang out in my imagination all day and people will just nod almost approvingly, and mutter, “don’t mind him, he’s a writer.”
The voice snapped my attention back to the young boy waiting for the definitive answer to why he should grow up. There was a long pause.
“Growing up is not all it’s made out to be,” I finally replied, “I suggest you take as long as possible before getting seriously involved with adulthood.”
“I like it!” he said laughing and walked away.
My wife tells me I should be careful of what I say to children, they might believe me. She also pushes us to get out and enjoy life, to travel, go adventuring, and drink more wine with friends.
My wife is very smart and fun to live with, My kind of adult.