There is a story that sometimes shows up in sermons about a man who is caught on a sinking ship and turns away all human resources sent to rescue him -- two boats and a helicopter -- because he insists that his faith is so great that "God himself (sic) will save me." Of course, the ship goes down and the man drowns, later showing up at the gates of heaven mad as a wet cat.
"I'm a little surprised to find myself here," he says. "I though God was going to save me!"
"We're a little surprised to see you here, too," says the angel at the gate. "We sent two boats and a helicopter!"
Looking back over my life, I am beginning to recognize all the boats and helicopterst I have turned away over the years -- not to save me from drowning, or from some dire predicament, unless you count poverty as a dire predicament, but to give me access to a better, richer life in so many ways. Hindsight is 20-20, they say, and I can vouch for that. I can see so many opportunities that I just ignored or walked away from or totally missed, it's ridiculous.
At 71, I just completed the first draft of a novel. What if I had written that when I was 20-something? I have a lifetime of learned skills since then, but my imagination was rich in those days and I could turn a word. But that's just the beginning.
I could sing and play piano and guitar. Did I ever do anything with that? Too shy, even though my jazz musician husband begged me to work as a duo with him, and even lined up gigs for us, in an era when folk-singers were all the rage. I could draw and paint, and sold my work in a gallery, but did not follow through with it when we moved to another town. I could design clothing and knitwear and do couture sewing. Did I ever do anything with those, beyond spending one year as a high-end jewelry designer or making clothes for my kids? Except for a little dressmaking on the side, and selling some of my jewelry in a shop in the Haight Ashbury, not at all. My landlord in San Francisco tried to sell me a Victorian four-plex for $1. It was a chancy neighborhood at the time, but it took off shortly after that and became a hot place to live. Did I take it? Nope. It would be worth about $4 million today, minimum -- not a bad return on investment.
Of course, timing is everything, and what seem like simple, easy answers today were not so easy then. If I had the resources I have now back in the day, I would have a very different life. I think the internet has given everyone with access to it unlimited opportunities.
But those boats and helicopters kept showing up, and I kept waving them away. Not because I was waiting for God to fix things, but because I was too dumb to recognize them for what they were.
This might seem like whining about missed opportunities, but I have had a fabulous life, even without taking advantage of the many extraordinary things that came my way. I don't really regret missing them a bit, because had I taken them, I would not have the life I have now. Somewhere in a parallel universe, another MaryAnn took one or more of those boats or helicopters and did something entirely different -- and right this minute, she is wondering what her life would have been like if she hadn't.
And right there on the horizon waits another boat, and a helicopter...