Some days you’re the dog…and some days you’re the hydrant. Think about that.
I went online to check my bank account balance the other day. The first thing I realized was that the amount in my bank account had parentheses around it, suggesting it was negative. Not suggesting, telling me. It wasn’t major, just the result of some bills being paid earlier than I thought and me not depositing money in a timely fashion. But it sent me into an absolute tailspin. I had a few things that I was planning to buy that day, but with what money? Like I said, it wasn’t major and it’s fixed now, but I lost it. In the short time that it took me to look at the balance and sign off of my account I switched moods. Then I started crying. Then I thought about my Dad. And then I really started crying.
My Dad didn’t have an actual occupation most of my life, but he’s made a living out of living life to the full. Exciting, illegal adventures used to be his second specialty– his first is getting women, especially his daughters, to fall in love with him–, and his liberal views on life carried over to parenting as well. That worked out to my benefit, and it meant that during the weeks when I went to stay with him I pretty much got whatever I wanted. He was also liberal with money, and usually had large amounts of cash sitting around the house. So I figured that he’d just give me the hundred dollars or so that I needed to make my fundraising goal for my school’s athletic competition. I spent a few days with him during a holiday weekend, and decided to ask for the money right before my Mom came to pick me up. He carried my bag to the living room from the back bedroom, and sat down on the couch. I started off loud at the beginning because I was so confident, but switched to a softer voice toward the end because I could see he wasn’t enthused. Finally he said no, and I was stunned.
I crept into the bedroom he shared with his girlfriend. It smelled like weed and candles. I don’t think I fully understood that he was smoking pot at the time. However, I was smart enough to realize that he wouldn’t miss a few bills if I took the money I needed out of his tiny white drawer. There were other options besides that hiding spot, but I had just seen him drop the money from his jeans pocket right in there. I needed that go-kart, I needed to win that school competition, and I don’t take kindly to being denied what I want. My Father didn’t know that I was after a go-kart because I thought the idea that it was for school would be enough to sway him. I think I knocked something over, but no one came back there to see what I was doing. And just like I thought, I found at least four hundred dollars in that tiny white drawer. I couldn’t bring myself to take it, but I was mad the minute I saw it. I went running down the hallway and I started screaming at him and saying things like, “You do have money! And you could give it to me if you really wanted to!” My Dad wouldn’t win an award from any parent’s association, but I’ll give him one for his ability to be patient and loving. He stayed on the couch and let me scream, and finally told me that I shouldn’t go through his things. I got into my Mom’s car, and she knew something was upsetting me. I told her I was just sad to be leaving my Dad, and fell asleep.
About four weeks later I went to visit my Dad again, and he was waiting outside of the burnt-down barn for me. He had this cool look to him, and then he said, “I got more money than a guinea got dots. Go check out your new toy…well, I bought it for me, but you can ride it.” And this man had a huge, or what seemed huge at the time, four-wheeler sitting on the side of the house. Better than a go-kart, a go-kart for adults! We rode it for at least two hours solid. I didn’t realize it when I was a child, thinking and speaking like a child, but God doesn’t need your help to get you the things that you’ve asked Him for. I thought I needed to win a nation-wide jump roping competition and raise a bunch of money in order to get a go-kart. And God had a bigger, better toy in the works the whole time.
I reflected on this story the other day during my breakdown. When I pulled myself together, I came out of my bedroom and gobbled down some of the previous night’s dinner before heading out to see STD’s show. STD stands for Stephen Tyler Davis, not a sexually transmitted disease. There was a ticket to the City’s hottest show in the New York Musical Theater Festival with my name on it, and I was going no matter how I felt. I got caught in the rain, but I grabbed a seat hugging the wall just as the show began. I saw Taylor, a buddy from college, get settled at his keyboard, and then STD emerged. I could tell he hadn’t slept much, had been working his tail off to make the show perfect, and that he’d probably been living on junk food. But he had a glow about him that you only find on people who are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Mark my words, Huckleberry Haywood is a hit show that is Broadway bound. Maybe not today or this year, but it is going and he’s going to get rich from it.
The show was absolutely wonderful, and the storyline itself causes almost everyone to tear up at some point. I held back tears during most of the show, but by the end there was a steady stream of tears coming down my face. I studied acting, went to the same school as STD, and we both swore up and down we’d be famous one day. I love to perform, and instead of performing I’m listening to a Voice that no one else can hear tell me that I’m supposed to be an evangelist, and TRUSTING that voice enough to stop putting energy into being an actress. And I know deep down that it’s the right thing to do, but in that moment I was just…so…sad. I was crying for my own failures, or what seems like a failure when you’re watching your best friend give an applause-worthy performance from a SEAT in the theater. That coulda been me. I coulda been a contender. At the end, I greeted STD on the steps inside to avoid the crowd waiting to congratulate him. He looked so happy, and I couldn’t really talk. So he did. “Did you like it? Thanks for coming! I’m so glad you’re here.” And on. Finally I told him that I couldn’t stay for the after-party because I had rehearsal for my Church’s drama group, and we hugged. I looked at him and I was so proud, but all that came out was, “You look terrible. Get a haircut.”
On my way to the subway I cried again. When I got off at the stop I needed, I asked out loud, “Where is my recognition? Where is my show? What am I doing?” And that Voice told me that from now on I get the highest kind of recognition a man or woman can get. Because I please an audience of One everyday. I please Him by trusting Him, and my recognition will indeed be given.
We’ve gone through a few four-wheelers over the years, but I still ride them like I did the first one we owned. And I fixed my bank account, but that’s not the point. I’m not about to resort to jump-roping and cutting loose to get what I need. I’m not going the long way through a trail of negative emotions, I’m divorcing anxiety. If I can’t get what I’m crying out for the first time I ask, I know how to be patient. My best is yet to come.
Written to: Beethoven “Fur Elise”