As I raced along the side of the road, I heard the rumbling of the massive engine behind me. Little did I realize that I was moments away from receiving an open, bleeding wound.
I tried look inconspicuous. As though I weren’t in any hurry at all.
But in truth, I was 100% focused on beating that machine.
Specifically, the school bus.
Every weekday afternoon during my first two years of high school, my routine was the same. The bus dropped a few of us off at the three-way intersection at the end of Meadow Road.
Then, as we walked our separate ways, the bus began the cautious routine of backing up… lurching forward… and turning around to speed off, from whence it came.
Meanwhile, my house stood 100 yards away. My feet weren’t as swift as a vehicle on wheels. But I had the head-start. I considered it a race. With an unspoken rule: I couldn’t actually look like I was racing. No, I had to appear aloof and above it all. “Oh, did I beat the bus to my house? Funny how it just happens like that…”
So, that afternoon, I power-walked along the road, monitoring the rumbling behind me. I knew that, as soon as the engine’s shrill picked up to a fever pitch, I’d lost. The bus would blast straight past me, and charge up the hill to victory.
But that day, it sounded farther behind than usual.
I scampered onto my driveway, and then up my steps.
The shrilling began reverberating behind me. Too late for me to win? No, not if I hurried.
Up four more steps. I grabbed the screen door handle, flung it ope…
As I realized I yanked the metal edge of the door straight into the right side of my forehead, the bus roared behind me. I pretended it was business as usual… figuring that at a distance, nobody would realize what I’d done.
But I knew, so I rushed inside, and into the bathroom, to survey the damage.
The pooling blood, and dangling skin, confirmed I’d given myself a minor scalp injury.
So, the wound didn’t come from the bus…
… but my own stupidity, curtesy the misuse of a screen door.
After a brief reminder of the human body’s fragility – and washing myself off – I applied a band-aid. The next morning, even though I didn’t need it, I put on another band-aid. I figured that’d look better than a weird head scab. I don’t remember anyone asking me about it.
About 15 years later, there’s still a subtle scar.
This afternoon, when I looked in the mirror at the Denver International Airport, just before a flight to San Jose, I was reminded of its existence. Not my first head scar either. The earliest – and far more noticeable – is directly over my Third Eye. Story for another time.
Until then, here are a few lessons I got reminded of, while looking into that mirror.
- Nothing bad happens to a writer.
Nothing bad happens to a creator. Every little – or not so little – ding and dent help shapes your ability to create something worthwhile. It makes you less inert, so you can become the catalyst you were meant to be. This is the more real-world version of Nietzsche’s quote “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”
Many times, when I read that quote, I remember a certain episode of The Simpsons. Homer, after suffering a heart attack, asks Dr. Hibbert, “Yeah but what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger, right?”
“Oh no quite the opposite! It’s made you weak as a kitten,” Dr. Hibbert replies.
Homer’s doctor might be right about your health. But what doesn’t kill you, can make you a better creator.
- Scrambling for something, will destroy you.
I was so desperate to beat that bus, I hit myself in the head with the door I was trying to yank out of my head’s way.
This example makes it easy to see how stupid it is to scramble.
When the scrambling is subtler, catching yourself in the act is trickier. Like if you’re desperate to get a job, and inadvertently repel employers. Or you scramble to find the right team member, and you drive away an A-player from ever working with you.
In those situations, you lose the benefit of the immediate whack to the head, so you never realize you were yanking too hard, and not paying attention.
You were using force instead of being empowered.
This is where the skill of discernment comes in. You must move your observation through time and space, to unearth the cause and effect you’re missing. Just writing this, reminds me of how difficult this is. Especially if you’re trying to resolve something causing you pain. Yet this is one of the most valuable skills on this earthly plane.
(Just now, as I paused from writing mid-flight – the captain announced to fasten our seatbelts. We shot into the worst turbulence I’ve felt in many dozens of flights. My stomach flip-flopped as if barreling through a roller-coaster ride. I wondered if the pilot were hiding the truth – that something was very wrong, and we’d plummet to the earth soon. I considered my options, remembering that being centered counts more in a crisis. Could I stay rational? Yes. At least, so far. Chances are, what you’re reading is not a posthumous publication, from a recovered Microsoft Surface Pro from the crash site – so we came out fine.)
- Sometimes, seemingly innocuous events lead to the deepest scars
Hitting my head caused barely any pain. But the evidence remains, years later.
Some agonizing events – like 2nd degree burns on my hand and foot – are now invisible to the naked eye.
Same with your psychology. Sometimes, it wasn’t the devastating humiliation, or the attack, or the betrayal, that changed your wiring. Instead, it was a symptom. The real trigger was a mere snowflake, that caused the avalanche.
So who cares? Perhaps because this can help shift your mindset from “I’m working to resolve this big, horrible thing” to “I’m re-writing a tape in my head, which is a challenge but I’m certainly up to the task.”