Some people have the moves like Jagger. Somehow, I wound up with the upper lip instead.
OK, not “somehow.” After all, I do live in a slapstick movie that Chevy Chase would envy and Mel Brooks would direct. Part of that privilege is that I can see exactly what’s about to happen – just in time for it to do me absolutely no good.
It’s how I’ve wound up stepping off a perfectly good stage. Or finding sewing needles with my bare feet. Or chasing a barfing dog around the bedroom, running into every conceivable obstacle on the way. (Oh, you’ve heard that one?)
And in this case, it’s how tripping on one broken piece of sidewalk turned a healthy walk to work into “OWWWW!”
I got lucky as I caromed off the concrete. No broken teeth, no broken nose. That seems to be part of the deal with my invisible producer: no lasting injuries that would kill off the chance of a sequel. Short of that, anything goes.
And in this case, “anything” was my swollen upper lip, to the tune of three stitches and enough blood for a Friday the 13th film.
Educational, too. For the past week, in fact, it’s been a constant tutorial in the Iron Law of the Universe: “You can never do just one thing.” Consequences snowball, whether it’s the Amazon butterfly raising a typhoon or the casual dinner remark sinking a political career.
In this case, my failure to pay attention to what my feet were doing didn’t just win me a Rolling Stones look-alike contest. It also guaranteed:
* That I would be unable to be understood by voice-message trees for at least two days. (“I’m sorry. I didn’t get that. Please try again …”)
* That drinking a glass of water would be on a difficulty level with competing in the Hunger Games.
* That drinking anything ice-cold would trigger expressions best not read in a family newspaper.
* That whistling would not be an annoyance to my co-workers for a while.
* That, contrary to “Casablanca,” a kiss isn’t just a kiss when your pucker feels like it’s hit a porcupine.
* That any kind of lengthy out-loud reading – longer than a page or two – was out of the question for the immediate future.
In a way, that last one hit the hardest. Reading is what I do. What I have done since the age of two and a half. Combine a love of books with a love of performing and the result is that I have read to and with anyone willing to listen for years: my dad, my sisters, my grandma, my wife Heather, our ward Missy, the dogs …
These days, it’s the vital bedtime ritual. Before the lights go down and the house goes quiet, I sit on the edge of Missy’s bed and read, a journey of the mind that has roamed from Missouri to Middle-Earth and from secret gardens to open warfare.
But when the stinging of your lip says “stop” after two pages, Hogwarts can take a little longer to visit than planned.
Well, lesson learned. And maybe even a small blessing with it. It only takes a few days of doing without something to discover what your real priorities are – what’s an inconvenience and what’s an essential. Being in a position to recognize that and to make adjustments later is no tiny thing.
It’s better still, of course, to be paying enough attention before a crisis hits. Especially when it’s often inattention that creates the crisis in the first place. Think, plan, imagine, observe. Act, however you need to, even if you don’t think you need to right now.
It may all seem terribly abstract.
But it’s amazing how fast it becomes concrete.