As a junior in high school, I could have gone to the Senior Prom. The boy who wanted to take me was nice enough, but he liked me much more than I liked him, and I didn't want to lead him on. I certainly wanted to go to the prom. I just didn't want him to think I was his girlfriend. I told the intermediaries that he shouldn't ask me (it was a long long time ago, children, and the rules were different) and that was that. I was sad on Prom Night, but my heart knew that I'd done the right thing. I'd missed an event, but I'd been true to what was right.
It's as real to me this afternoon as it was in 1968. As Aaron Sorkin put it, the memory helped to bring a murky problem into specific relief.
After ignoring their calls for more than a polite period of time, I agreed to a friend's plea that I speak to the group's representative. This was not a chore - he was young and charming and a fellow Cornellian and a gardener and the more we talked the more it became obvious that he could easily pass for the Cuters' older brother.
That was part of the problem, I think. I liked him so I wanted to like what he was selling. It was a dangerous combination.
The issue is fraught with emotional overtones, overtones I was dismissing as he was reminding me of their presence. With passion and reasoned argument he explained the dire consequences and the relatively uncomplicated solution. He was a good salesman and he had a great product. The hook was set and he began to reel me in.
Don't think for a moment I was anything but flattered to be asked to join them. But don't assume, either, that I gave it the consideration it deserved. I got excited and I jumped in with two feet. Sure, I'll talk to the media. Sure, I'll go on the morning shows. Sure, I'll lobby the Senate. Sure, I'll fly, changing planes. I won't have any problem getting around. I can take a cab if it's too far to walk.
There was no reflection, no thought, no intelligent questioning. He was offering an adventure and I was signed on before we hung up the phone. Then reality set in. TBG was the first to weigh in. "Good for them - they recognize that you are a presence," came just before "There are crazy people out there... please don't put your face on this issue" burst forth. Talk about passion. The man was intense.
I ignored it and went on planning but I was uncomfortable. I was flattered and I was anxious. I was holding the paradox in my hands and trying to be kind to myself and true to myself and not letting events dictate my reactions .... it was exhausting.
There was never any question that my young friend was using me. We talked about it and laughed about it and agreed that they would write and I would rewrite my script and that I wouldn't say anything I didn't believe and the whole time I was vaguely uncomfortable. It was free floating and hard to attach to anything specific but the attitude I've been nurturing during my recovery, my gentle calm, was shattered.
It never really repaired itself. I had a weekend to think about it and talk about it and get input but it wasn't until Little Cuter and I talked it out that everything became clear. It was the right invitation to the wrong party.
There were too many items on the down side of the ledger. The fun parts remained untarnished. The negatives pierced my heart. I worried about disappointing and not living up to expectations and becoming too fearful to act but when all was said and done I had to trust my gut.
The only parenting mistakes I made occurred when I didn't trust that little bit of anxiety that hides beneath my transverse abdominus muscles. I couldn't ignore the fact that I wasn't sleeping well, that I was barely hungry, that my mind was racing in a thousand directions and none of them were ending in happy places.
My decision was reinforced after I spent the morning attending to details for an upcoming project here in Tucson. Emails, phone calls, a golf cart ride, more emails and some updating..... and through it all I was smiling. I got up from the desk with a spring in my stride and I noticed it. I noticed it because it had been absent since I made that first phone call.
As the legal experts in my life tell me, that is dispositive. It requires no more explication. I'm happy and I'm not going and I am in charge of my life. It was nice to be asked..... I'm respectfully declining.