Drive the Forklift

The other day, a friend stood next to a forklift and asked me, “Do you want to drive it?” The me of not so long ago would have looked at it longingly, quickly convincing myself there were too many reasons not to, most of all that I was not good enough, not skilled enough, too much of a galumphing dork to handle the situation. The opportunity would have gone sailing by like the pleasant scent of strawberries on a summer breeze, so delightful, so inviting and so quickly gone. And then I would spend days and months and years mentally kicking myself for being such a loser.

But that day, instead of cowering like a lump of leftover cookie dough, I smiled, jumped into the driver’s seat and said, “Hell to the hell yes!” (a phrase I’d long wanted to use and was saving until just the right moment). I didn’t get to do anything macho like stack pallets or unload a semi, but my joy ride once around the empty parking lot was just that: pure joy.

A very important lesson I learned in 2017 was that bravery is not bravado. It’s courage, its facing something that scares you and doing the scary thing anyway. There may be sweaty palms and jello-wobbling stomach jitters involved, but you face the monsters hiding in the musty tunnel. In time, you find yourself standing taller and holding your head higher, because once you have to face those fears enough times, you get stronger, you stop being so afraid. The scary thing doesn’t become any less scary, but you learn to have confidence in your own ability to cope. You might emerge from the tunnel with spider webs in your hair and bits of monster guts clinging to your shoelaces, but that unpleasantness will come to matter less than you ever thought it could.

As I slayed my monsters and learned to trust myself, to be braver and less afraid, I also discovered a form of faith. I learned to believe in following my own instinct. Under the fluff and feathers of civilization and designer labels and technological gadgets, we are, after all, animals, and animals do pretty well by surviving on instinct. It is one of the gravest tragedies of the human condition that we have regimented ourselves to following rules someone else laid out for us, blindly believing that those rules are the one true way to success in life. We keep climbing the caterpillar tower toward heaven, always finding that there is no place left to go but back down to the bottom.

I have discovered that faith can take a lot of different forms. Changing our lives took a leap of faith into the unknown, trust in ourselves, our instinct, to point us in the right direction. All in all, our faith has held true and guided us through a winding maze of difficult decisions and overwhelming paperwork. For that, I am humbly grateful.

So when you have doubts, any kind of doubts, pull yourself up by your gut-encrusted shoelaces and drive the forklift. You’ll be glad you did.

On the other hand, do you think they’d let me drive the…um…boa constrictor extractor?

6 thoughts on “Drive the Forklift

  1. The farther along I travel on this road, the more I learn about fear and bravery. As you say, not bravado! As I’m suddenly confronted with physical limits I never had before, I have more fears than I’ve ever had before– generally I have never been a fearful person (though hiking I like to stay on the trail and am a cautious person in some ways). But now I have to exercise judgement and courage in a new way. Thanks for this post. For me it was just getting on the rider mower!

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    1. I can take it one step farther, too. The fear doesn’t go away. It stays, but if you’re lucky you learn that it doesn’t matter and then you can let it go, or at least tuck it away where it can stay out of trouble. Maybe one of these days we could have a parade of forklift and mower drivers. Let’s see what else we can come up with!

      All these fears come with natural processes of aging so we get to deal with a double whammy, but I have faith in both of us. Or better said, I have faith that we will both make the best of whatever comes.

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  2. Drive the Forklift! This should become our new mantra for facing fear and limitation and taking a chance. I like it!

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    1. When we were getting ready to move, it was ‘Don’t pack the grapefruit spoon’ for not jumping the gun. I think we could do a lot with Drive the forklift! Maybe a banner at the entrance to our retirement community for crotchety women. Just a thought.

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