The Gift of Taking It

The setting? Summer, 1970 in rural America.  Between the influence of several Looney Tunes scenes, Mary Poppins and some cockamamie scheming, my brother and I devised a childhood plan.

We would gather a bed sheet and an umbrella, climb to the top of the chicken house, leap off the roof and float down to the ground with the aid of our “flight tool” of choice.We both ended up with similar injuries.

We jumped off the twelve foot high roof at the same time, sped toward earth and landed with a thud. Upon impact our knees bent, our body continued toward the ground and then Quentin’s knees gave him a black eye while my knees knocked me silly by whacking the bottom of my jaw.

We laid there, stunned. Hurting. Exhilarated. Sheepish because we both realized the idea was ridiculous as soon as we jumped off the roof. And..laughing as hard as we could because it was SO MUCH FUN!

(This memory may be a bit distorted, but let’s just go with it for right now…)

My brother and I grew up on a farm and part of our social education was this: Don’t hesitate – Just Do It.

For example, if a neighbor called reporting one of our cows were out my mother could be occupied with the pressure cooker, while my father could have been out on the tractor cutting hay. So the message to us could have then been, “Go get the cow back into the pasture.” And we would go.

There wasn’t time to ask questions of “how” or “why.” We knew the why, and we were expected to figure out the how. This is just how things happened on farms – on ours and both my grandparents’. People had to problem solve, act, think for themselves and “go!”

I was reminded of this gift my family gave me tonight when I heard a sketch on an NPR story I hadn’t thought of in years.

I’ve found the video for you just for fun.  If you’ll watch at least the first forty-five seconds or so, you’ll understand the point. Actually, the whole song is pretty great. I present to you, The Smothers Brothers singing “Boil That Cabbage Down.”

In this particular sketch, the joke was all in the, “I don’t want to take it.”  The back and forth, give and take between the Smothers Brothers made them famous in a time when the U.S. was in social upheaval.  Much of the nation was fearful.  Fearful that the Vietnam war wouldn’t end. Fearful that too much change was happening too fast. And probably many of those watching that night laughed extra hard because they completely understood the feeling of “not wanting to take it.”

But, taking it is within me. And, it’s within you too.  Let me demonstrate that with a second video.  Please allow me to introduce you to the wonderful, the one and the only, Mr. Bobby McFerrin.

If you watched to the end, you heard McFerrin say that, “…no matter where [he] goes, people get [the pentatonic scale].”  Those in his audience, whether it’s scientists or children in various countries, are so intrigued by watching McFerrin’s body lead them into singing the next note they’re not thinking, “I can’t.”  They’re simply doing what came without a thought and enjoying the hell out of it.

So my point is this.  When I “take it,” I feel like I can fly even if I knock my jaw silly.  When I over think, hesitate, shrink within myself, or become fearful of risking a vulnerable moment in relation to those around me, I get locked down. I feel stuck, staid, stunted and trapped.

That’s why I am so grateful for the gift of “taking it” when I’m able to enjoy it, and hope to be reminded that the gift IS inside me and can flow freely if I’ll just enjoy the hell out of what I’m doing.

And, I hope that for you too.