Back in the ‘70s, when the world and I were much younger, a writer named Richard Bach penned Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. I can’t say I was a Bach fan (I was one of about three people in all of America who loathed Jonathan Livingston Seagull,) but one of the quotes from Illusions has stuck with me all these years:
Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.
That is such a treacherous little word, “but.” It’s a great big mental stumbling block. It is the mountain that Hannibal with his thousand elephants can’t cross. It’s the word that didn’t launch a thousand ships. It’s the chock on a million wheels, the sand in in a trillion machines, the frozen brakes on a zillion dreams.
It’s a word that argues for limitations.
This morning, a friend posted on Facebook that she’d run 22 miles this week and felt like she could do anything. I had to confess a stab of jealousy. I couldn’t run 22 feet at this point, and feel like almost everything is out of reach. That can’t be right. I have osteoarthritis in my right hip. It hurts. Some days it hurts worse than others, but every step has a certain amount of “ouch” built in. That hip, at the moment, has become “but.”
And the fundamental question is, how limited am I, really? How much of my limitation is genuine pathology, and how much is the power of “but” in my mind? I don’t have any patience with any of the “pat” answers people tend to give when you ask questions like this. It’s not all in my mind; a smug jerk of an orthopedic surgeon looked at my x-rays and said (a year and four months ago) that I’d have to have the hip replaced within six to twelve months. But it’s not all in my hip, either. Some days I barely notice it’s there; since I don’t take pain medication, my brain is involved.
That brings us to Floyd Fest. I LOVE Floyd Fest. It’s soooo much fun. I have a ticket waiting at the will-call, a tent with my Beloved near the Dreaming Creek Stage, and three people I adore already there. Tonight I can hear New Monsoon, one of my favorite bands, and tomorrow the ever-fabulous Carolina Chocolate Drops have two shows. In between, there’s Old Crow Medicine Show, Toubab Krewe, and Sam Bush. How can I not go? How can I let the “but” come between me and some righteous jams?
I hope no one’s expecting some random seagull poop about not letting anything stand in the way, damn-the-torpedoes, blah blah blah. Truth is, I’m not feeling all that brave. I have a hard time walking from one end of my yard to the other on a bad day, and to go to Floyd Fest is to walk miles on uneven ground, in the heat, carrying a bunch of things I’ll need to survive.
But I’m going, dammit. It’s not brave, it’s not stubborn, it’s not anything worth noticing on a cosmic scale. It’s just that I think Richard Bach was right, and that’s an argument I can afford to lose.