The Bell

My mother has started using the phrase “you can’t unring that bell.” She spouts it frequently in our monthly-or-so phone calls – always in context of something she needs to do or wants to say to someone, but fears the consequences of that action. I don’t know where she picked it up, and it annoys the shit out of me, but it has become a repetitive part of her monologues and so I have to live with it. And, let me be clear here- I am not one of those “accept the things we cannot change” yahoos. I will bulldoze those things I cannot accept, but I am also of the “pick your battles” mentality and so I do little more than roll my eyes when she blurts out this boring little phrase (you didn’t know how many cliches you were in for with this post, did you? It’s cool- I’ll note them for you with this little star ★ from here).

But, I have made it a practice to investigate those things that irritate me. Why does this saying get under my skin★? And for those of you thinking “well, also, parents just tend to get on our nerves in general”- I concede you that point. As a parent myself, I can unequivocally attest to the fact that we are obnoxious. It’s part of the job description. But I digress★.

Mom & Me, 1978. Maybe the only time we ever looked in the same direction.

So, anyway. The phrase “can’t unring the bell” means you cannot undo a thing that has been done. And that’s true. But here’s the thing: you can’t live life in fear of consequences.

Let me restate that. 

Every action has results. Some are good, some are not. And, sure, paralysis is an option too. You can absolutely do nothing- tiptoe around★ every bell, but that also comes with consequences. By avoiding one action, you are taking another. We’re all just ringing bells all over the place, all the time. Life is a cacophony of bells. At least ring the tune you really want to ring.

Look. I’ve been told “that’s easy for you to say★”. I know that I am naturally a risk-taker. I am accustomed to discomfort. That doesn’t mean that it’s any easier for me than anyone else. I am, at my core, a terribly anxious person. I, too, am a person that lays down at night and replays every embarrassing thing I have ever done. And it’s a LOT. I am a troubling character, full of mischief and thus many, many humiliations. Let’s put a positive spin on that and say that I have developed a practice of stress inoculation. The more you practice fear, the easier it is to overcome.
Three years ago today, I landed my family in a strange country on literally the other side of the planet from everything we knew. It was scary. It was the scariest damn thing I have ever done and I’m no slouch★ when it comes to terror. There were moments, of course there were, where I changed my mind- the fear of the unexpected★ was a lot- but I always changed it back. I threw myself off the cliff ★.

First day in Australia. Scared as hell, but happy.

Some days, I still experience what I call “the fuckits” and want to throw in the towel★. Immigration is hard. It is a gruelling and thankless task★. Going back to the States feels like it would be easier some days. But I know that really it wouldn’t be at all. It would not be returning to what we left (at the VERY least, we left in early 2016 before the whole political machine went ass-up★). The context is different, and we are different.

This post started with my mother and I will round it out by returning to her (how very Freudian). Our conversations have developed a cadence. She talks, I listen. She talks about work, about my sister, and then she finally asks me – every time – what my “plans” are. What she is really asking is when we are moving back to North Carolina. She asks me this every. single. time we talk. As though the answer will have changed if she just asks one more time. Or another. Maybe now. But no. My answer is always the same. And it disappoints her, but she’s allowed to be disappointed. Our entire relationship has been built on disappointment. It doesn’t change my feelings.

I rang the bell. And we love the sound it made.

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