Daily Prompt: Fear Factor
People are afraid of all kinds of things: spiders, the dark, or being enclosed in small spaces. Tell us about your greatest fear — rational or irrational.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us COURAGE.
I am afraid of success. There, it’s out. All my life I’ve been running away from it — the bogeyman of Achievement. Failure? Pooh, nothing to it. But success?! That’s a very scary creature, which could tie me up, inject me with paralytic poison and eat me alive.
Failure’s fine. You storm in, grab it by the balls, get knocked flat on your back and have a bit of a laugh afterwards — well, maybe a shaky snigger. But success scares me so much it’s been easy to keep my distance. Believe me, success is a white hot number that should be tiptoed around to avoid being scalded by the steam, burnt raw by the toxic fumes, or losing your eyesight in the glare.
Not that I’ve ever looked success in the eye myself. Far too risky. The closest I’ve got was a slight singe of the fingertips that shot my anxiety barometer into the ether. I couldn’t type for weeks afterwards. Plus people avoided me … from fear of infection? (One friend has never forgiven me to this day.)
So there’s nothing irrational about my fear of success. If you’re still in doubt, just look at all the lives that have been ruined by an excess of achievement: Caesar, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon … I could list a few film stars too, but don’t let’s go there (I was at school with one who’s not a particularly good example). I understand that she’s known as the bitch-goddess. I’m talking about Success, not the fairy queen from my drama class (who, in her mature years, has now morphed into the wicked witch). Oops! See how the mere mention of that rarefied atmosphere loosens the bowels of civility? I’m normally the very pink of politeness. (And you should see what success can do to morality.)
OK, here I go, taking all my courage in both hands. Let’s imagine that I’ve been infected by some terrible, life-changing virus of success. How would that affect me?
(1) For one thing — I could never show my face in polite society again, because success is the one unpardonable sin against humanity.
(2) I’d have to attend celebrity cocktail parties, wearing uncomfortable clothes, makeup and (heaven forbid) High Heels. And I’d have to read some of those scary news magazines I subscribe to, so that I could make Proper Conversation.
(3) No one would ever tell me any gossip ever again. I’d BE the gossip.
(4) I would be expected to REPEAT the performance that earned me the success. The pressure would be on.
(5) I could never be sure if people liked me for my homespun self or just wanted to breathe in the aroma of my toasty roasty success.
(6) I might be tempted to have a face lift to please the press. And anyone who’s watched a reality show knows what happens to people who have face lifts.
(7) I would have to stand up for my principles. No more going to ground to lick my wounds. It follows that I’d have to decide what my principles are. And give interviews. And go to meetings.
(8) I would have to employ brokers and personal trainers, and Staff. (On the upside, someone else would answer the phone.)
(9) I would never be alone again.
(10) Someone else would write my blog for me. Perhaps they’d even decide my likes and follows for me too. Aaaaaarghh!!!
Benjamin Franklin summed it up nicely: “Success has ruin’d many a man.” No matter. I will be fighting it off on the beaches. Bring on the spider!
Daily Prompt: To Boldly Go…
An impending new year gives rise to reflection and goal setting. What will your goals for 2014 be? It’s never to early to start thinking about self improvement!
Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONTEMPLATION.
In 2014 I will
reduce my intake of refined sugar
look before I leap
count my blessings (especially the little ones)
watch out for angels in disguise
listen more than I speak
keep a record of miracles
AND clean out the fridge regularly.
Daily Prompt: Simply Irresistible
Tell us about the favorite dish or food that you simply cannot turn down.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us TEMPTATION.
My something delicious
is marshmallow fishes —
those pink and white squishes
that bend to my wishes.
They dirty no dishes
(don’t even need tissues).
Look them up in Confucius,
who lists things auspicious.
They melt me like kisses
and dissolve sticky issues …
But they ain’t too nutritious.
Daily Prompt: Close Call
Tell us about a bullet you’re glad you dodged — when something awful almost happened, but didn’t.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us CLOSE.
Life is a series of close calls. The “something awful” still happens, only not to you. It shocks us when friends and family don’t get it. For them “almost” has no meaning — it’s as if it never happened. For us it’s a reminder of our mortality. There’s no “relief” that we dodged the bullet, no gladness, only sadness and a vague guilt.
On the morning of August 7, 1998, we left our Nairobi hotel and headed for the city centre. Someone needed the bank, as one does on the verge of a trip into the wilderness where there’s nothing to spend money on within 100 km. I remember being vaguely irritated. Why now, in rush hour? They should have drawn money the day before. I think we double parked. The US Embassy was right next door. When at last we headed out of town to Mount Kenya, it must have been some time after 09:00 but certainly before 10:30. I can’t remember the exact time. All I know now is that at 10:30, 900 kg of TNT was detonated in a truck in the parking area behind the US Embassy, killing over 200 people and injuring thousands. The bank and the embassy took the brunt of the blast.
At the time we knew nothing of this. When, after ten days away, we emerged from the sanctitude of a mountain paradise, the national flag at the information centre was at half mast. It was our first indication of the tragedy. The nation was in mourning. We returned to Nairobi to find the city centre still a no-go area. The chaos was unbelievable.
At our Nairobi hotel, life went on, hustlers, businessmen, tourists, the usual rubbish, but all now empty, dark and desperate, because irreplaceable lives, routines, careers, futures were destroyed.
Everyone in bed
except one TV watcher
snoring in his chair
Everyone on line
Since I can’t do my banking
I write poems instead
Everyone leaves town
Some folks stay home for Christmas
Just for that reason
“Everyone has one!”
Mom says that’s good reason why
I should go without.
Everyone who wins
is envied by millions who
did not even play
Daily Prompt: Playtime
Do you play in your daily life? What says “playtime” to you?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us PLAY.
For me, the best fun’s not found in playing with our pup
cycling through the Cradle of Mankind
walking the dogs down the drag
taking a horse for a hack
surviving Scrabble or
even swimming. For
me, nothing beats
We were looking for what we imagined was a country restaurant with a view. After a couple of U-turns and one kilometre too many eating dust behind cattle trucks, I finally spotted a sign: “The Lookout”.
Could that be it? A sturdy old gate with flaky white paint and a national monument badge on the gatepost hinted that it wasn’t. But we had come too far to be deterred by such minor details. Reluctantly my 93-year-old mother allowed herself to be unpacked from the car. The gate creaked in sympathy. As we carefully picked our way down the uneven, winding path, high bushes made it impossible to see more than a few meters ahead, so I went on alone to spy out the land.
I don’t know what I was expecting. Certainly not two graves, side by side: Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and his wife. And round the corner, Sir Percy’s bequest to the world — his favourite view of the Sundays River Valley, from this Lookout.
Today Fitzpatrick is remembered mainly for Jock of the Bushveld, which is based on the bedtime stories he told his four children. It was his friend, Rudyard Kipling, who persuaded him to publish them. Sadly Fitzpatrick’s eldest son died in France in 1917 and the other two died within a week of each other over Christmas 1927 – one in an accident in Johannesburg and the other of typhoid in Mexico. Only his daughter outlived him.
It was Sir Percy who prompted George V to proclaim at the end of World War I “that at the hour when the Armistice came into force, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, there may be for the brief space of two minutes a complete suspension of all our normal activities … so that in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”
But perhaps a man of Sir Percy’s sunny and optimistic nature would prefer to be remembered as a pioneer of South Africa’s citrus industry. I wonder if so many orchards of this sunshine fruit could be seen from his farm Amanzi in the 1920s.