“Are you sure that’s safe?”
That’s the question I’m asked every time I shoot a video of myself skating on the pond in my neighborhood.
I pride myself on my attention to detail and ability to assess a frozen pond in the winter.
Perhaps this desire to intimately know the ice was fueled by my childhood and the day I fell through the ice, and was rescued by my best friend.
It was the one day in my life that I thought I might die. (well…one of the days).
I was lying on my back on a sled, pushing myself across the pond and watching clouds. I called this Cross Country Sledding.
When I stopped and stood up, I realized I had gotten myself to the deeper part of the pond that had thinner ice and I broke straight through it. I was over my head in the icy cold water. Through careful maneuvering my friend Brint was able to pull me out.
That day was an accident. I wasn’t looking for trouble, just watching the clouds and enjoying the outdoors.
But I can’t say that for some of the other events that happened in my elementary school age years.
Sometimes I knowingly put myself directly into dangerous situations.
You’ve heard the term “boy brains” right?
Reflecting back on my childhood, that’s exactly what I had.
I think back on some of my activities as a young boy, which often ended with my poor frazzled mother shaking her head as she muttered “just what were you thinking?”
And me, only after the whole thing played out…“what WAS I thinking?”
My parents probably sat in bed at night, books on their laps, discussing “what are we going to do with him? It’s a problem…he just doesn’t think”.
In reality, it was quite the opposite. Thought….focused, deep thought, however flawed, was often part of my process.
My most memorable stunts took planning, patience, strength, timing, and courage.
One lazy summer day when I was about 6 years old, I carefully placed a brown paper bag full of 10 penny nails at the bottom of the three steps between the shed and the barn where we lived in rural New Hampshire.
I think that my plan was to impress my older brother Adam who’s three and a half years older. I called him over and said, “do you dare me to jump on that?”
I’m only 6, and so brave.
His shoulder-shrug paired with “I don’t care” only fueled my need to impress.
He actually seemed a bit irritated that I had made him walk all the way across the yard for such a lame query.
So I did what had to be done… I jumped!
My aim was true and I landed with both feet squarely on top of the bag of nails!
I was amazing!
I probably would have been fine if I had been wearing my Herman Survivors…or even sneakers, but instead I was wearing a stylish pair of leather moccasins.
One of the nails pierced my right moccasin and entered my heel approximately 3/4 of an inch.
I screamed. I cried. I bled profusely as my mom carried me all the way back into the house.
Now I certainly got the attention I was craving from Adam.
It’s a story that we can laugh about now, 44 years later.
The experience of it all left an impression on me, because I never went professional with my nail/stair jumping act.
I don’t have much recollection of the physical pain, but I do remember the rest of the summer being rather miserable for me.
My mother wouldn’t let me go swimming in Bow Lake for the rest of the summer due to having a puncture wound that needed to heal. Something about infection entering my body and such.
So now that I’m older, wiser, and at a point in my life where I’m doing a little bit of reflection and analysis, it’s time to make an attempt to find a deeper understanding of why I may have jumped.
For no behavior is without cause, and I certainly wish to prevent any more literal or metaphorical jumping on nails. So why did I set up this crazy stunt?
Why make the jump? Why take such risks?
Some of us appreciate a spotlight and thrive on entertaining others.
I find that I am indeed one of those people.
“We couldn’t all be cowboys. Some of us are clowns.” Adam Duritz (Counting Crows)
There’s a certain energy exchange between audience and entertainer that brings both parties together. They are intimately connected and benefit from the shared experience.
This is very satisfying and seems to be a universal human need—the connectedness of shared exhilarating situations.
Throughout recorded human history there have been stories of acts and actors that dazzled, baffled, awed, and left deep impressions on the witnesses. So much so that some of these actors have been immortalized. Childhood heroes such as Evel Knieval and Harry Houdini come to mind.
“All the world’s indeed a stage and we are merely players. Performers and portrayers. Each another’s audience outside the gilded cage.” Rush
I can’t say whether or not I actively seek immortality, but I do know that one of the more powerful things one person can say to another is “I see you”.
And I do want to be seen. I want to push myself to excel in all areas of my life. There’s vulnerability in that. But there are innumerable dividends as well.
With a little bit of age and wisdom, my methods of gathering attention have grown a bit more savvy and thoughtful than a bag of nails. Thank God.
There are many other stories I could tell that contain a proverbial “bag of nails”.
Although pain and suffering were never part of my original plans, they certainly have been scattered throughout some of my best stories….and my most rapid spurts of growth.
There is pain in stagnation and missed opportunities as well.
It makes my wonder…
- Is it possible to grow without the bouts of pain along the way? Life is about choices and sometimes our choices don’t turn out the way we had planned.
- Isn’t it true, when looking back at the places of most pain in our lives, that they are also the times when we gained the most insights about ourselves?
- And think about the people who were there as you moved through the pain…there’s a bond now that can never be broken. A shared knowledge and mutual sympathy of the times when we were both inexperienced and seemingly bouncing through the uncertainty of life together.
And, oh have we’ve grown since then.
Nowadays, I look forward to my visits with my brother who lives with his wife in our childhood home in New Hampshire.
We have grown…the stunts of our childhood long gone, but they keep us bonded. They’ve become the stories that we tell when sit with friends at the bonfire in the backyard overlooking the pond…
And yes, our bonfires have become smaller since our younger years, the nights shorter, but the music, the music just keeps getting better
Enjoy a cup of tea!
P.S. Consider this….