Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

I remember when I was a kid getting a fortune cookie was a big deal. It was not just a cookie but a cookie with a toy surprise inside! (Yes, I enjoy Cracker Jack's too, don't distract me with thoughts of candy-covered popcorn!) True, a fortune is not, strictly speaking, a toy but the anticipation of what it might say was almost as good as a toy.

Over the years I have gone through phases of eating the cookie, eating a bite of the cookie, or passing on the cookie altogether and saving it for my dog, but I always look forward to a great fortune whether I'm eating the cookie or not. They seem to be more "eh, what now?" than fortunes. In fact they tend to be more advice than actual fortunes nowadays. Still I go through periods of having to clean off the front of my refrigerator, where I save fortunes under a little magnet with a picture of Charlie Chaplin on it, because they do pile up. I like to save the fortunes that sound like good life advice - even though I know they are being written by some overworked, underpaid copy writer who just wants to slog through his day and get outta there.

So sometimes you get something totally nonsensical (the goose flies at midnight). Sometimes you get a fortune that turns out to be scary prophetic.

A few weeks ago someone quite dear to me got a fortune cookie and in passing conversation read it to me. It said:

And that means what exactly?

Yeah. Well. Oddly enough it means a great deal.

In retrospect it says more about defeating your inner fears than I could express in endless postings here, and says it concisely. And poetically. Really, picture it: you're Wile E. Coyote chasing that Road Runner... you take a step, you float above the chasm. Before you can take that second step you're falling to the ground despite your brand-new set of Acme wings.

It takes a big step to get across to the good stuff.

Now I have been a proponent of baby steps for a long time, simply because huge enormous changes seem to be part and parcel of my mental illness. Big moves, huge gestures with no forethought, no planning, simply 'oh let's go to London for the weekend! - TOMORROW! (of course I did that when I didn't have a pot to piss in, nor a window to throw it out of which is WHY it was a big mania-induced jump). Things like that. Big steps, no small jumps. To avoid over stimulation, or triggering a bit of mania - which might lead to depression - it seems better for me to go with the baby steps. Little inches towards wellness, little steps to being whole, a slow journey but worthwhile.

For the past few years I've been taking LOTS of baby steps. Purposeful, in the right direction, and without much of a sprint. This has worked well for me and has kept me happy, sane and in a place of peace and wonder instead of one of turmoil (for the most part).


It seems the fortune cookie wasn't screwing around. After years of coasting on life is good, everything is fabulous and good lord am I glad I didn't kill myself I found myself at the edge of an enormous, scary-assed chasm. Not a pair of Acme wings to be seen. The choices were run back, go where I knew it was safe, knew I was happy and secure and peaceful - or face my seemingly insurmountable fears and leap across that puppy, wingless and freaking out, to find something even more amazing.

One of my all-time biggest fears was of the water: then I learned to swim.

The two big fears I have now? Becoming sick again and trusting someone to love me. I think I can work the balance of staying healthy. I'm damned determined to, that's for sure. The second one? That's a damned big chasm, we're talking gaping maw, abyss-like depths below. And I've often tried to cross it in two (or 10) small jumps. Hasn't worked out so well. In fact, I'd have to say it was wrought with horrific failures all around.

This was not a fear I ever anticipated conquering - and while the prospect didn't exactly delight me, I was okay with it. Actually I'm not sure I'll ever fully beat this thing, but I'm not going to negate the possibility. And I did take a gigantic step. All those baby steps leading there made that possible. There may be more chasms to come... I may not have the courage to cross them, but then again, I'm not the best judge of that.

Life is chock full of scary, terrifying things. But if we can fight our fears and push through to the other side, we find that we really are our own worst enemies. We talk ourselves out of the good stuff because it's so terrifying to take the risk of having it... which in truth is the risk of losing it. But our fears kill us a little bit at a time, our strength is in fighting our fear. Losing what we feared to obtain is painful, but the delight of having it is so beautiful it feeds our souls.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going. I'm not sure I won't be hurt. That's not something you can get a guarantee on. But I'm feeling pretty damned brave about right now. And I'm trying to keep the balance of right here, right now and enjoy that more than worrying about what might be. I have to tell you, that's a new strategy for me. And it feels okay. Still a bit scary, but not nearly as scary as jumping the span of that chasm - and a helluva lot less scary than going backwards.

The next time I get a fortune cookie: no matter how silly it sounds, it's going on the fridge and I'm following its advice. Of course if it says the goose flies at midnight I'm gonna need some help interpreting what that advice means. Hopefully someone will lend a hand. I'm going to trust that they will.


Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure I won't be hurt."

Hmmmm... I guess none of us are sure of that when we embark upon anything. And even at that, when we do get hurt, it may have been worth the trade-off in the end, though we certainly can't expect to see that at the time. But when the journey's over we can look back, and assess every leg of it. Can intense curiosity carry us through the darker stretches of road? "This is kinda scary but I really want to see what this journey looks like once I get to the end"? Maybe...

I feel suited to ask these questions, not to answer them...

Junk Thief said...

I don't have too much of your first fear, but a lot of your second one. I'm grappling with it better than I have in the past. My past remedy was to go into isolation, or consume myself with work and say I don't have time for such "nonsense". Thanks for being brave enough to face it and talk about it.

The fortune cookie stuff is one bit of wisdom I always follow. I have found that they vary by regions. In NY they tended to be fairly trite. In the Midwest, they were often profound and specific. "You should think about changing jobs in June." "The person you want to go out with wants you to call." Really, they were that specific. In California it's no unusual to get 2-4 in one cookie. Uh, no wonder they call this a culture of excess and so many options you can't make up your mind.

Gary said...

How's this one? "Tony, at night all cats are grey".

Anyhoo, my last fortune from the cookie was "God will give you everything that you want". I saved that one.

Great post. I adore you.

Joy said...

Anon - I don't suppose any of us are qualified to answer those questions. But what the hell, we can try taking the trip.

JT - I hear you on the 'nonsense'. I'm not sure how 'brave' I am, but I'm sure trying. :)

Gary - "Tony.. Jen... Tony... Jen... Tonyyyyyyy." "Marion's a bitch!" Good God do I love that movie. :)

Happily Anonymous said...

Well...if you're facing a chasm I'd rule out baby steps myself. wings, on the other hand, would be cool.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Good for you for taking that leap! Even if it hurts it will have been worth it.

Think of it this way: How many times did you wipe out when you were learning to ride a bike?

Joy said...

Happily - I think you might be onto something... wings: good.

Whim - Ouchie! I'm just thinking about all those tumbles. Oh wait, that was just this morning. ;)

kimy said...

great blog and wonderful post on fortune cookies! there are times for baby steps and there are times for leaps! the rub is to know which to take when

I have been taping fortune cookies to fridges and date books for a long time - like with cross-stitch samplers I find they often offer lots of good advice!

love the pics of your animals....sweet!

although today is the first time I've visited 'i've got a crush' I expect to be a regular! loverly!!

namasste, kim

Joy said...

Kim - thanks so much for your kind words! Welcome and I hope you will come back again!