Sunday, March 26, 2017

Untie This Thing; I'm Ready to Fly

Cap’n Crunch, Wonder Bread, a few cans each of Spam and those little cocktail wieners known as Vienna sausages, some Velveeta slices, a pack of bologna, and bags of white beans, russet potatoes, and Martha White self-rising flour. We were at the local Thrif-T Mart, and my mother’s cart was packed. She was chatting up the checkout clerk, making the kind of small talk that turns into the-beginnings-of-a-novel talk as only mothers can. I was seventeen and far too grown-up to be seen standing beside a parent. I wandered down to the 7-Up display at the end of the counter. The word “sweepstakes” caught my eye.

I’ve always had a thing for a contest. And I’m a pretty good winner. My strategy is to do something most people don’t do: Read all the directions. I’ve found many contestants are ruled out simply because they haven’t completed every required step. Take social media contests, for example. Have you liked the page? Have you shared the post? Have you tagged a friend? Have you left your name in the comments? It’s simple, really, but you have to do it. You have to do every step. Here’s a list of some of the things I have won in my life and how I’ve won them:

• a $5.00 gift certificate to a local shop – I guessed the number of marbles in a jar

• movie tickets from a local radio station –I didn’t mean to try to win these but called to request a song and happened to be the seventeenth caller

• a month’s supply of diaper delivery service – I wrote an article on creative uses for DyDee Baby cloth diapers (as if trying to pin a piece of cloth to a wriggling infant without drawing blood isn’t a creative project in itself)

• unlimited miniature golf for a year and a rockin’ birthday party filled with arcade games, balloons, cake, pop, and prizes for an ungodly number of neighborhood tweens – I put my name on a paper and put it in a fish bowl

• a selection of deli meats, cheeses, and a romantic basket for picnics that never really happened and, so, never got romantic – I acquiesced to one of my children who wanted me to enter

• a ride in the 7-Up balloon in the Indiana State Fair hot-air balloon race – I filled out four sweepstakes forms while my mom was paying for groceries

My mother was terrified. To the last minute, she asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. I shared the gondola with the pilot and a marketing rep from 7-Up. It was the biggest movie star moment of my life. I wore my free 7-Up t-shirt and sported my glammest shades. The media interviewed me and snapped shots from all angles. I thought I was the absolute shit. I never had a doubt I was in exactly the place I was supposed to be. There was no fear, no uncertainty, no questioning whether I was to do this, just a clear knowing that this was a skip along the pebble throw of my life.

In that moment where the balloon was untethered and we began our ascent, I knew I was going on an adventure and that the adventure was mine. I was not there to prove anything to my mother. I was not there to support 7-Up. I was not there to give the paper a good story or to brag to my friends. I was there because when I stood at that display at the end of that grocery counter and saw the poster of that hot-air balloon, my heart said yes.

I’ve lost this in my life. For a long time now, I’ve been living for others. I’ve been living for the press. I’ve assumed the fear of those around me as my own. It won’t look right, won’t sound right, will be more difficult than you think. People will make fun. People will talk. You will be seen as an ass. You’re above that, better than that, not one who participates in that sort of thing. You’re not capable enough, not talented enough, not as smart as you sometimes think. You’ll embarrass yourself, embarrass the family, embarrass your colleagues or the staff.

Enough. Time to silence the voices in my head.

As of today, I am once again filling out the form. I am guessing the number of marbles in the jar. I am signing my name and placing it in the bowl. The universe can bring me what it may. The more creative or whacky or exciting the prize, the more happy and delighted my heart. As of today, I’m untying those lines, sporting my glammest shades, and flying this balloon called Life.

Oh, yeah, baby. Jump in or let go. I'm ready to ride!