A friend lamented the other day of the losses of her youth, which included a firm jawline and hair color that didn’t require a monthly touch-up.
I have my own lamentations about what used to be, back in those days. The simple losses for me include shoulder pads and sleep that came easy then tunneled deep.
The more significant ones are the loss of complete fearlessness and pure innocence, both of which I possessed in potent form in the days when a weekend consisted of Friday night football games, Saturday chores and Sunday church.
Life has “learned” me a thing or two. Mama and Daddy promised that it would. The paths to both success and failure begin with lion-hearted courage or, at very least, a mouse’s squeak of it. Really, I hadn’t thought too much about it until a couple of things happened recently.
First, a young person, whom we love solidly, began a whirlwind of decision-making that was big, quick and earth-shaking. As I watched the naïve bravery of the life-altering decisions, my heart felt that I was on an amusement park ride that takes you up high, then drops down hard toward the bottom.
Money and love, I always say, are two subjects that people won’t take advice on. Life, they will. If you know the best place to buy the freshest fruit or how to cut an onion without producing tears, folks will listen.
I once was that way. In my youth. But, as I said, life “learned” me.
Around the same time, Tink took a job to be the executive producer/showrunner/head writer on a show that was already one of cable’s number-one scripted shows. He took several phone conference calls then flew to Los Angeles for network meetings.
As I stood at the kitchen island, cutting an onion (without crying) Tink, hands thrust deep in his jeans’ pockets, shoulders raised, ambled in and said quietly using an Appalachian word, “Baby, I’m a-feared.”
I stopped chopping. “About what?”
He shrugged, walking to the window to watch a deer near the back porch. “This show is already a hit. What can I bring to it?”
The most challenging job is to take on something that is flying high and lift it higher or, at least, keep it where it is. I didn’t answer immediately. I studied on it for a second and carefully gathered my words.
“You’re the perfect person to write this show because it’s about good-hearted people caring for one another. It’s about a town where kindness toward others counts more than self. And this you have learned first-hand from the rural South. The Lord prepared you for this job by bringing you here from Los Angeles. You live it.”
When you lose innocence because life smacks you down with failure or you’re taught the truth of mortality, fearlessness no longer comes easy. It must be summoned from deep within and held onto with firm determination.
While Tink hand-wrestled trepidation, I packed for a trip to St. Simons Island where I planned to spend time working on a novel I had begun a year earlier while staying at the King and Prince.
“I’ve got a thump in my stomach,” I said, closing the suitcase. “I’ve written myself into a corner and I’ve gotta figure a way out of it.”
“You will,” he replied. “I’m confident.”
I mulled it over. “Graham Yost says the best thing you can do is write yourself into a corner because it creates an unpredictable narrative.”
Graham, a friend of Tink’s, practiced what he preached on the hit television series, “Justified,” often delivering unexpected turns and twists.
Off we went in separate directions to Los Angeles and St. Simons Island. With us, we carried a manufactured sense of courage that was deliberate and determined.
We also carried what comes with the loss of natural fearlessness and courage: abundant experience.