My wife and I enjoy taking evening walks through our neighborhood. While I abhor winters in Cleveland, I feel fortunate to live in an older, inner-ring suburb that has tree-lined streets and sidewalks—a throwback to when people used to talk to their neighbors. In real life.
We started down the sidewalk heading north, as we always do, when we approached a tree lawn that hadn’t been mowed in weeks. For those of you who don’t live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, a tree lawn is the small strip of grass separating the street from the sidewalk.
I was wearing my favorite walking shoes, a classic pair of black Chuck Taylor high-tops. My 14-year-old daughter owns the exact same pair, so it seems if you don’t chase fashion, it’ll eventually come back around to you.
As we passed the overgrown tree lawn, I felt a pinch right beneath where I’d tied my laces—that little opening at the top of the tongue. The pinch became a sudden burn, and in the next moment, I was hopping around on one foot, slapping at my shoe like some kind of middle-aged break-dancer stuck in 1982.
“It stung me!”
I looked down to see a yellow jacket stuck inside the top of my shoe. I reached in with two fingers and flung the wasp away. I’m not sure if it was still alive or not. I didn’t care. I had to get that damn thing out of there.
When I caught my breath, I looked up to see my wife standing on the sidewalk with her hands in front of her mouth. Time had seemed to slow down when the wasp stung me, as if I could feel the stinger slowly plunging into my flesh. And now, time remained sluggish, based on my wife’s movements—or lack of them.
She slowly moved her hands away, and I could immediately see the tears forming in her eyes—tears of laughter. She took a step back, laughing so hard that I thought the neighbors of that house would come out to see if we were laughing at the sorry state of their overgrown tree lawn.
Well, they didn’t. But she kept laughing.
I stood up and felt the words taxiing down the runway of my tongue. I was about to deliver a barrage of profanity-laced phrases, some of which would include the most mature line of, “How would you like it if a wasp stung you and all I did was stand there laughing?”
And then I thought, that’s exactly what I would do. If I looked over and saw my wife dancing around on one leg because a yellow jacket was stuck in her shoe, I’d be literally LMAO.
Once I started laughing, she started laughing even more. I’d almost forgotten that my foot was on fire and swelling up because we were having such a good time at my expense.
Strangely enough, this wasn’t the first time I’d been stung. Since I began my writing career a decade ago, I’ve been stung more times than I can remember. Each time, it hurt. Usually, a lot. I can’t say that I’ve always laughed off a sting. A few times, I responded with the how-would-you-like-it approach, and that always seemed to make things worse.
You’re going to get stung. Hands down, without a doubt. And sometimes, the pain will be so bad that you’ll barely be able to breathe, let alone laugh. But having a breakdown, losing your temper, or wallowing in a lake of self-pity never takes the sting away—it only makes you focus on it for longer.
The neighbor has since mowed that tree lawn, and I now wear jeans when we walk. Sting me once, shame on you. Sting me twice…
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