Fool’s Gold Is Where I Find It
Half way back from my morning walk, I reached into my pockets, all four pockets. One at a time, naturally. I’d forgotten my keys. The last thing I do when I leave my apartment is turn the lock in the doorknob. In a flash of memory I could see my keys—in the bottom of my bag—in the house. I felt a combination of desperation plus an urge to throw up. Over-reaction? Certainly.
My mind was pre-occupied. A friend is hospitalized and the family is gathering. But still . . . still, I felt like a fool, a silly sort of fool (rather than a major fool), to have caused myself this minor inconvenience.
I don’t mind feeling like a fool. A familiar feeling. I have years of experience. I even went through a period of time where I deliberately practiced doing foolish things—self-prescribed therapy.
One day in the mid-eighties I had just left the bank, head in the clouds, when I stumbled on an uneven hunk of pavement. Immediately my face burned bright red and I scanned the street to see if anyone had noticed me. My mind, ever-ready with a pithy comment, said to my body, something like this, “Stupid idiot. Clumsy fool.”
But in that instant of “seeing myself”, my red face, my worry that someone might have seen my awkwardness, I “got it”. Everybody stumbles on rocky pavement now and then. It is neither a crime nor a sin nor a misdemeanor. Instantly I understood that I held myself to some impossible expectation of behavior that brooked no awkwardness, no mistakes, that needed me to “look good” in certain haphazardly defined ways. Had I sprawled on the sidewalk, helpless with broken bones, I suppose I would have had to simply fold up and die on the spot.
Lord knows I’ve done some major-league foolish things in my time. Those things I preferred to tuck away on the top shelf of the hall closet, along with family skeletons, and lock the door. I don’t pretend to know my whole mind, but that day when I stumbled, what if all the foolish deeds burst out of the over-stuffed closet for everybody to see and judge. I seemed to me more concerned that nobody “see” than that I might have hurt myself. I didn’t say I was healthy.
That day, on Jensen Way in Poulsbo, Washington, I understood how silly, how truly foolish, was my over-reaction. I also realized how totally self-centered my response. And I determined on a plan of action. I would deliberately do some foolish little thing every day.
Simple little foolish things. I had fun with my project. I wore silly hats. Or mis-matched socks, thirty years ahead of a modern fashion statement. I pasted gold stars on my forehead for a job well done. I had to first go buy the box of stars, in itself a foolish thing. Nobody would make eye contact with me when I had a gold star on my forehead. Try it. Walk into a grocery store and watch the clerk get vitally interested in a box of mac ‘n’ cheese.
So, foolish me; today I forgot my keys. Mentally I dressed myself in motley, complete with cap, bells and baubles. I detoured around to the fruteria on the corner, jigged a little song and dance, and asked Quito if he would call a locksmith for me, por favor, and continued on home. I perched on the planter in front of my house and waited for the locksmith to show up to let me in my house.
In those twenty minutes I devised a plan of action: Henceforth when I take my morning walk, I will lock only the deadbolt. That should insure that tomorrow I go out the door, mis-matched socks on my feet, a gold star pasted in the middle of my fore-head, and house keys clutched in my fist.
HDN: Looking out my back door
October 2, 2014