“Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.” ― Benjamin Franklin
By Jonathan East
My 14 year old daughter asked me to tell her a story the other night. It was at one time an evening ritual, something I looked forward to as much as she. I couldn’t wait to see how those innocent eyes would react to the strange twists I would put in the stories. Wow, she’s no longer a child. The window is shrinking fast. A few more years and she’ll be off to college. I often worry about how little time I spend with her. Between my full-time job and the part-time job I recently stepped away from, I found myself pretty exhausted by the time I arrived home. Now that my evenings are free projects around the house takes up most of my evenings. The main bathroom has been ripped up for a year and a half now. After I remove a few more sections of the floor I’ll start prepping for the tub installation. Taking a shower in the other bathroom is fine, but I miss my hot relaxing baths.
My mind has been in overdrive with all that I have to accomplish… remodeling the bathroom, painting the kitchen, landscape… pretty much the entire house needs a makeover. But my daughter and son need my attention more than anything of those things. The to-do list will always be there, right? There must be a healthy balance where by doing at least 30 minutes of yard or house work each day I’ll feel as if I’m progressing. Time spent with my kids each day is a must.
When my daughter asked for a story my first reaction was to say, “Some other time sweetie.” But heck, it has probably been a few years since telling her a story. I had come up stairs only to see if they were asleep. I was watching game 6 of the NBA finals and with only 2 minutes left in overtime I didn’t want to miss anything. I told her I’ll be back up in a few minutes not knowing if I had it in me to tell her a story. Over the past 5 years or so I’ve been in a different state of mind. I underestimated the affect stress would have on me. I’ve always viewed myself as a grounded person, someone with a healthy dose of humility, ambition and confidence. I knew I could take on as much as life wanted to dish out. But stress began to slowly chip away at me. My circumstances and many of my stressors are somewhat common, but some of them I felt were not so common. Stepping away from opportunities in the film industry that could have led me down a different path, recovering from a near bankruptcy from a failed business venture in 2005 (I should have filed as my advisor suggested)… following my two precious little ones back to MI away from my Southern CA paradise… a mentally unstable elderly parent… the unwelcome career move… all took its toll. Before I slip further into neurosing about my past, I’ll shift gears a little and write about the story I told my daughter last night.
After watching the Miami Heat avoid what seemed at the time to be a sure loss, I headed back up stairs to see if I could muster up enough mental energy for a story. As I sat down next to her the word wizard jumped into my mind. “The Wizard that Never Was,” flew off my lips. Not knowing where I would take this I began telling a story about an 87 year old wizard who had chosen a life of solitude, isolating himself from everyone. He has allowed fear, the opinion of others and all else pertaining to the ego mind to control him. And the sad thing about this wizard I told her was that he was the most gifted of all of his kind. He simply never felt led to express his talents and gifts. For most of his adult life he did nothing but sit on his front porch. This old man was such a mystery to everyone. Every person in town made up stories about him, ranging from him being the wise oracle, prophesied in ancient mythical stories about being The One… to him being nothing more than a deranged old man who simply never lived up to his potential.
I shared with my daughter a Benjamin Franklin quote… “Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.” Again, I didn’t know where I was taking the story so I threw in something from another story I heard about a morning runner and an old man, changing it a little to fit the direction my impulses were leading me. I started talking about a 37 year old runner passing his house each morning. Every morning a quiet voice within would speak to her, telling her to stop and talk to him. She was curious about the old wizard. But she was afraid, until one morning she passed his house just as he was turning away from his mailbox. Only inches from the curb he stopped and said without turning around, “Don’t you have something for me?” She wanted to keep running but the timing and how it resonated with what she had been feeling each morning made her feel as if she had no choice. “I don’t know,” she said. “What do you mean?” she asked. By this time he had made his way to his porch. “Please, sit down,” he said. For what seemed to be an eternity she sat there next to him without a word being spoken. She didn’t know if she had something for him or not.
“What do you run from each morning?” he asked. “Nothing,” she said. “Is that some sort of rhetorical question?” “I don’t know,” the old man said. “Aren’t you that wizard?” she asked. She sat there waiting for him to answer but he continued to look off into the distance. He finally broke the silence by asking, “How do you define wizard?” “Someone who has special powers,” she says. “Don’t we all have special powers?,” he said. “I don’t know where you’re going with this old man.” “I don’t either… you’re the one with something on your mind.” By now she’s becoming a little frustrated, I tell my daughter. The runner then goes off on a little tangent expressing how her mother thinks that he’s some kind of holy man, possessing gifts that no one else has and how all of her friends growing up think he’s nothing more than a crazy old man. A few seconds after she finishes her little rant, he does nothing but stare at her as if he’s waiting for her to tell him more. She stares back at him, thinking she could somehow feel his answer. She had recently read a book about telepathy and metaphysics, so she thought she’d try and see if some of that stuff was true. But she didn’t feel anything, just the burning sensation from her left plantar fascia tendon. Knowing she had another mile to run she didn’t want her body to cool down. “I have to go,” she said. He smiles and says, “Come back when you figure out what you’re running from each morning.” Feeling frustrated again she starts explaining why people run, as if speaking to a child who doesn’t understand the idea of exercise and fitness. “I know why you think you run,” he says calmly. “Rhetorical or not, the answer you will find is the same…. next time when you stop and talk to me simply expect to have the answer… you’ll be surprised and enlightened by what comes out of your mouth…. I know you will have something for me.”
She smiles and says before running off, “I hope so.”
I said good nite to my daughter and asked if she’d chew on the story for awhile and then come up with the next part where the runner comes back for her next visit.