Part One — Looking
My wife, Heather, gave me an ultimatum: either get my shit together and book the world tour I’d been talking about for years, or shut up.
I’m a storyteller. We don’t do shut up very well.
When you’re young, leaping before looking is easy. You’ve never done anything before, so it’s all new. Over 50? Fear and inertia sink in. The stories you tell work. The routines are comfy. Expansion is something you fight because you don’t want to buy new trousers. (Insert rimshot here.)
But my son, Max was studying for a semester in Paris and I needed an excuse—or at least a tax-deductible way to justify visiting him.
I started by calling Tony Cranston, a London-based storytelling yoga and tai chi master. Decades ago, during a life crisis, Tony had stuck a pin in the map and ended up in Providence, where he and I became friends.
“I’ve got a group called the Bexley Bards,” he said. “When can I put you on our calendar?”
We settled on a date six months off, and now I really had to hustle. I began researching possibilities, and happened to connect with Batt Burns at the Sneem International Storytelling Festival at exactly the right moment. That’s how things seem to work; you get the right person in a good mood. After back and forth with emails and phone calls and links to YouTube videos, and more emails and phone calls and uploading of more videos, I was hired!
Now it was real. Batt put me in touch with the Dublin Yarnspinners. With more emails and a phone call, I nailed an afternoon at the American School in Paris.
And then everything ground to a halt as fear grabbed me by the throat and squeezed.
It had been more than 30 years since I’d traveled alone. Some airplane tickets had already been booked, but I still didn’t know where I was staying or how I was getting from place to place. Every time I logged onto the Internet to look at options, I froze.
This fear felt very real. The world has changed in 30 years. Were my stories any good abroad? Traveling is expensive. What was I going to do or see in between events?
I decided to spend an entire day living in fear. Not going to resist it, I was just going to be afraid. It was a damn long day. Too many cups of coffee and not enough sleep. By the end of the day, though, the fear…
It was still there. Just as strong and convincing.
I realized I had a choice. I could either cancel the tour and stop the fear or plow on and be afraid.
Imagine a story where the hero stepped out his front door, looked at the long road ahead and said, “Never mind…”
The world changes when you jump.
(to be continued…)