Here’s a lesson I learned yesterday: if you’re the nervous type, buying insurance is probably NOT going to be a fun experience. For ages, I’ve been meaning to get an umbrella policy set up, which is basically something that covers beyond your homeowners and car insurance in case of various disasters. One of my friends told me he had one, and said it was relatively cheap, and since you can’t be too careful, off I went to set it up. All good and easy, right? Until the woman at the insurance place—who was very nice and knowledgeable, and just doing her job—began to tell me all the reasons why I should have done this years ago. “Just imagine,” she said, “someone falls on your steps and gets really hurt. They sue you for more than your mortgage insurance, and then what? You lose your house?” What? I’m thinking. Good Lord. And don’t even get me started on the boat insurance we also need, even though my husband’s boat hasn’t left our yard in over a year. “What if,” she said, “you’re out on the water and hit a stump and someone goes flying overboard? Then they sue you and…” We lose the house. Everything seems to end with losing the house. When I pointed out the whole landlocked thing, she said, “Okay. But suppose you’re out of town, and some neighbor kids are crawling around on your boat in your yard. One of them falls off, and gets hurt. The parents sue you. And then…” Well, by now you probably know where this is going. Suffice to say, by the time I left I was a nervous wreck, scared to even pull out into traffic. God, the world is just so DANGEROUS! I didn’t even know!
Actually, I did. I do. But I prefer not to think about it on a constant basis, because I know from experience that only leads to total insanity. Lucky for me, I don’t sell insurance for a living. If I had to think about all this risk all the time I’d probably spend all my time in the fetal position under my desk. (As opposed to being a writer, when this is only necessary during the finish of a first draft, or during particularly tough patches of revising.) It’s so easy to get scared, you know? And so much harder to get fearless again. But I’m working on it. Maybe we all are.
I was thinking all this when I left the office, which is very near a rental house I used to live in many, many years ago. So I decided to swing by and take a look at it, for old time’s sake. (Also to avoid major intersections, at least until I calmed down.) There’s something both odd and soothing about being able to so easily revisit your past: a few turns, a couple of blocks, and there it was the house we lived in when I was finishing up at UNC. My dog Elwood was still alive, Scout was just a puppy, and I, as an English major, could quote major British poets without effort. (Ah, memories.) I pulled up at the curb, just looking it, thinking how much had changed since I’d lived there. So many years, so much danger both encountered and avoided. But just as I thought this, I looked closer at the mailbox and saw, there, a small group of grape hyacinth flowers, as well as a couple of daffodils. And I realized: I planted those flowers. All those years ago, they were the first bulbs I EVER planted, in fact, in that exact same spot. I knew they were mine because I’d followed the directions so carefully, putting them far apart from each other: now, I know it’s okay to group them close, in clumps. Anyway, after all that fear, there was something strangely assuring knowing those flowers were still coming up, a good fourteen years or so later. Like with all there is to be afraid of, there are still some things that just keep on, one way or another, season after season, day by day.