This week I listened to Kristen Bell talk about her beliefs and how she has grown and changed in a podcast I’m still enjoying. Even as I admired her wisdom, I couldn’t help but think about how I missed my chance to meet her over an overflowing toilet.
It all started when my mother and I went to listen to her husband Rob Bell discuss his book How to be Here Now. It was a smaller event with only about a hundred people attending. We sat up close and could raise our hands to ask him questions, and I loved listening to Rob give the spontaneous talk. He somehow used his skills to keep us engaged for six hours.
The only downside was the bathroom situation. The wooden-floored dance hall in Portland had two toilets for a hundred people so the line snaked around during every break. When I finally made it to the commode, it had handled more than it could bear. The thing was beginning to overflow.
I can’t remember what I did. There might have been a plunger to use.
But I do remember walking out of the restroom and looking for someone to tell. A brunette about my age sat on a bench outside the restroom talking to people who looked like the staff. I waved my arms and babbled something about the toilet. She gave me a small smile and said she would let someone know.
As I walked away, I realized I had just spoken to Kristen Bell. And I’d just babbled about a toilet. I missed my chance to shake her hand and maybe even laugh for a moment about how ridiculous it was to meet someone that way.
That wasn’t the first or last time I missed an opportunity. In December, I saw that Ira Glass was coming to the Rialto in Tacoma in June of 2018 to speak on the art of storytelling. The tickets were 40 dollars and I knew right then I wanted to go. But I waited to buy those tickets, always thinking I would do it tomorrow. Next weekend. The next.
It’s March now. The tickets are now over a hundred dollars and I won’t be able to go.
It’s painful to think about these things, so I often don’t but as I considered what to write this week, Kristen and Ira popped into my head and refused to go away.
Here’s a thing I’ve learned from writing that helps a smidgen:
Every time I write or revise something, I work to make it better. Not perfect. Not even super good. Just a bit better.
This takes the sting out of that feeling that I will never get it right. Maybe I won’t. But when I aim for it, I find making it better within my reach. (I didn’t come up with this myself. I learned it from Dan Blank, a creative coach and teacher.)
It’s a little like the rock climbing I once did where I focused on each and every move one at a time, looking for a place that would hold me rather than the one perfect answer.
And so it goes in life, too. I will again miss my chance to meet someone over a toilet or some other crazy thing, I’m sure. But I won’t stop trying to recognize my opportunities the moment I see them and make life better one handhold at a time.