Growing A Spine ~ One Vertebrae At A Time

The drink that nearly caused me a stroke.

Yesterday I wrote about a big risk I’ve decided to take. But, as I was thinking this morning about the steps to becoming a braver, better me, I was confronted by the stark reality that it is honestly easier for me to take a big or foolish risk than it is for me to take a small and relatively painless one. Allow me to elucidate. This morning, I went for an inline skate. After about 9 miles on my wheels, I was hot, tired, and in need of a pick-me-up. I decided a trip to Starbucks was in order. I got back into my car and began rifling through my wallet to see how much cash I had. That’s when I saw it. A gold star card for a free drink. I looked into my crystal ball and spied a Venti Cool Lime Refresher in my immediate future. Come to mama, you green coffee goodness. Then, I flipped the card over. It expired on May 15th. Dammit.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right for thinking it. You’re thinking So what? Ask if you can use it anyway. Right? But, I am a rule follower, and I’m averse to small and completely harmless risks. Need someone to stand on a broken swivel chair on a concrete floor to retrieve a crate of broken glass on a high shelf? That I would do for you without a second thought because I’m not a worrier. I stand on swivel chairs all the time. (Sorry, Officer Buckle.) But, ask the clerk at Chipotle if they’d be willing to donate to the school’s annual silent auction? I’d get the cold sweats before breaking out in hives. Merely to attempt something like that I would need to consume several shots of high-quality vodka, and I’m not sure that’s the right way for a mom to go about asking for donations for a Christian academy’s silent auction.

I attribute this paralyzing fear of small risks to my parents who taught me not to be a bother. I can’t tell you how many times while growing up I was informed that “Children should be seen and not heard.” I was a good kid. I listened to them. I never questioned authority. I never broke a rule. I didn’t even ditch on Senior Ditch Day. You know that squeaky wheel? I was not it. I’m still that way, although I wish I wasn’t.

I sat staring at the card in my hand. Over three months expired. Not a day or two but THREE long months. I found a $10 bill in my wallet and an unused Starbucks gift card. I didn’t need to risk the humiliation of having a clerk tell me they couldn’t accept my free drink coupon. I would just pay for it. End of story. I started my car and put it in drive. Then I thought about Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “Do the thing you think you cannot do.” I’d never asked anyone before if I could use an expired coupon. It seemed so brazen. Could I do it? The internal struggle between my rule-following brain and my wanna-be brave soul reached a deafening crescendo in my head.

Finally, I decided. I would not let Eleanor down. I needed to look my fear, sad and stupid as it might seem, in the face. I went to Starbucks, ordered my drink, and handed the gal my expired coupon. I’d thought about going into a long explanation about how I’d just found it buried under a pile of papers in my house and could I please use it even thought it was expired, but decided instead just to hand it to her as if it were no big deal. Sure enough. It was no big deal. She handed me my drink, told me to have a nice day, and I pulled away from the drive-thru window feeling like Bonnie minus Clyde. I know that you must think I am certifiable. You have a fair case. Just remember that everyone has their demons to face. Mine are small and silly, and I think I prefer them that way.

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