George said, “Why don’t you ask her?” Staring at the floor Fred replied, “Because I’m afraid to know the answer.” And thus began Fred’s running away years, running from what he didn’t want to know. He deliberately failed to call his doctor back about the results of the test, thinking in his heart that what he didn’t know about didn’t exist. But what didn’t exist landed him in the emergency room when he couldn’t breathe. Pinned to the bed by weakness, he heard the doctor say, “… cancer… lungs… too far…” Laying in bed Fred gasped to the nurse, “I never imagined my life would end like this,” but of course what could she say to that?!
Where we end up is the result of not only where we start but also the sum of the choices that we make along the way, and some of those self-destructive choices can be as addictive as meth. Take, for instance, the choice to not-know. At first not wanting to know can seem so inconsequential, but when not knowing becomes a habit it takes control of our life: Of a relationship, of a test result, of all of the unknowns that we come across. And it is possible for us to so slowly become dysfunctional that gradually our dysfunctionality comes to seem normal to us, at which point we are oblivious to the danger of the cliff for which our life is headed.
How many times have we heard someone say, “Try it, you might like it!” And therein, I think, lies the hopeful key: The willingness to take a little chance, to take just a little bite of courage. Sometimes we discover that whereas we previously did not like Brussels Sprouts… now we do and we wonder: “When did that happen?” We can train ourselves to engage the unknown if we do so in little bites, in the little events that make up life. And having learned to not run from the little unknowns we can be better prepared to hear what we really don’t want to know about… our end-of-life issues. Sometimes we only become aware of what we love when we lose it… but what a terrible thing it would be to discover, at the end, that we had been so preoccupied with running away from life’s unknowns that we had never really lived life itself. And why? Because of fear!
How about if we let fear have less of a role in our life? I watched a movie, whose title I don’t remember, in which the 75 year old man being interviewed opened his walk-in closet for the camera and revealed that it was chock-full of women’s dresses, shoes, jewelry, hats, and handbags. The man then turned towards the camera and admitted, “I only wear them in the house, I’d never have the courage to wear them outside and let people know the secret me; I’m too afraid.” The end of the film shows him, indeed, walking down the street in his lady-clothes! How did that happen?! Is being known one of those things from which we run? How about if we take a little bite of courage; who knows, maybe we’ll like it! How about if we go out into the world in our secret clothes, whatever they may be, and let ourselves be known; who knows, maybe being known will free us to know ourselves?!