Saturday, May 15, 2010


One of my coworkers was complaining last week that she needed yet another new set of tires, because her tires seemed to give out every 19,000 miles. She was bemoaning the inconvenience, the expense, and especially the problem of no guarantee on the particular tires she had been purchasing.

I buy products all the time that disillusion me. After I get one home and unpack it from its box or impenetrable plastic shrink wrap, I note in the accompanying brochure that there is a guarantee of ONE YEAR. Instead of being reassured, I am frustrated. One year? This product that the company is advertising as reliant, safe, exceptionally well made, is so bad that they can only guarantee that it will work for ONE YEAR? That's a guarantee? Sounds like a warning to me!

I've always been a guarantee-desiring person. Back in college, I wanted to join the show choir. However, you couldn't just join - you had to audition, the process of which was frightening to me. My professor, Dr. Fleming, director of show choir (I was a music major) asked me to try out. I told him I was too scared because I thought I wouldn't make it. He persisted and did everything in his power to persuade me to audition - everything, of course, except guarantee my acceptance, which would not have been an ethical move. My fear of failure, minuscule as it was, won the day, and I never did try out. Of course, today I can look back and realize that I am sure I would have been chosen, and I also realize my professor had the confidence that I wouldn't have a problem - but my fearful nature got the best of me.

Although I've done my share of stupid things in my life, I don't consider myself a huge risk-taker. Without a guarantee of safety and/or success, I just get intimidated. That is one of the most challenging life lessons I have had to learn. Life has no guarantees. You aren't guaranteed you're marrying the right person, aren't guaranteed your children will be healthy and intelligent, aren't guaranteed your pet will live a long life free from problems, aren't guaranteed you will always have your job, your house, or your health. You aren't guaranteed that if you perform in public, you won't mess up. You aren't guaranteed that your book you submit will be published (well, unless you're Stephen King, and then in the beginning he was rejected too). You aren't guaranteed a new diet will work or the new haircut will be what you envisioned. You aren't guaranteed that you'll see whales on a whale watch or moose on a drive through northern Maine. You aren't guaranteed that during the simplification process, that book or coat you are giving away is not something you may need a few months down the road. You aren't guaranteed that the dress you are sewing will look like the picture on the pattern. You can't even start a quilt and be guaranteed that all the seams will match up perfectly. (Well, on that latter one, you can pretty well be guaranteed that they won't match up perfectly.) Some of these things we have more control of than others, but despite our best efforts, there still is no guarantee of a favorable outcome.

The key to all this is to know that every choice in life has risks, some big, some small, and when the time comes that the end result is failure or humiliation or just frustrating inconvenience, we pick ourselves up and move on. Really, life would be boring if we had a guarantee of success in everything we attempted. At least that's what I keep saying to myself when things don't work out as planned.

Meanwhile, I thank Dr. Fleming for not guaranteeing me a spot in the show choir. Maybe it helped me grow up a little. I've had to spend the rest of my life working on my fears, and I know fear of failure has been a big one. That was a good first step to my realizing I had a problem.

Now on to my halfway-finished highly imperfect crib quilt I'm making for my grandson due to be born in July. The seams are not all ideally matched, but something tells me he really won't care.

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