My wife drives us to and from work each day. Recently an incident on our afternoon commute almost resulted in my last words on Earth being a string of profanities that I will not enumerate here.
An oncoming vehicle had entered our lane, and all that prevented the car from occupying the same space as ours, an impossibility that nature would have quickly resolved with our death or mutilation (to paraphrase Sheldon Cooper) was my wife’s cat-like reflexes. She glanced to our right and finding the other lane clear, swerved.
Apparently we lived.
I don’t want to say it was one of those moments of clarity when suddenly I began to re-evaluate everything I was doing with my life and how I was spending my time and whatnot. Of course those things did kind of run through my head, but I don’t want to subject you to cliches right now.
Really it made me think about one’s final moment. Did I want that string of profanities to be the last words my wife heard me say? What if my panic caused more distress for her in that moment? What if my panic in that moment robbed me of calm? What if my tendency toward panic robbed me of calm on a daily basis?
This post is really about every moment, up to and including the final one. That car charging toward us in our lane was a big ol’ horrifying reminder to use the tools that I know I have at my disposal to maintain my cool under any circumstances.
Not to get all metaphysical on you.
I’ve long felt that I am not a “die with my boots on” kind of guy. I want to know it is coming and be at peace with it all. I don’t need my last words to be like those of Sir Isaac Newton, who is alleged to have spake thusly on his deathbed:
I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
But, you know, something like that.
I’d like to be known as the kind of guy who could turn a phrase in a pinch, or even not in a pinch. The problem is that I have also long felt that I am a better writer than I am a speaker. I need to have time to consider my words.
Maybe I have been reading too much lately about Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel, two baseball clowns who, though they had a knack for saying things in a very – shall we say – unique way, if you knew them at all or if you were paying attention to what they were saying, you knew that what they said made perfect sense. How else do you explain the existence of the terms “Berra-isms” and “Stengelese”? These guys seemingly just blurted stuff out and it was often pure gold. They spoke a language with its own logic.
I just want to leave a better legacy than a string of profanities. I mean they have their time and place, to be sure, and they can be quite fun. In that moment on our afternoon commute that day though, it probably would have been better to have someone else write my script for me. But no. That would not do. Because that string of profanities was me being my most authentic self in that moment. Maybe I could have used a little help cleaning it up a bit, making the most effective use of those swears as possible.