Oprah wants us to live our best life, whatever that means. Dave Ramsey wants us to quit throwing our money at every shiny object we see. Bob Harper from Biggest Loser wants us to be fit and healthy. (Bob had a heart attack recently so I guess you could make a case for staying fat and lazy but his .01% body fat probably kept him alive.) Jon Acuff writes a book about every fifteen minutes telling us to quit the job we hate and find the job we love but don’t quit your day job till you find the love-job and hustle up about it. Preachers are the original people-improvers but they fall into a unique category. Technically the good ones aren’t trying to get you to improve yourself, they’re trying to get you to let God improve you.
I can’t keep up! I can’t be as good as everyone seems to think I should be. I’ve had to unfollow some very smart, deep people on Twitter because they were making me feel bad. But as lazy and unmotivated as I am about leaving my Comfort Zone—and my Comfort Zone is even smaller than my Motivation Zone and nowhere near the size of my Junk Food Eating Zone--even I am occasionally sparked to make a personal improvement. And each time it goes horribly wrong.
But I’m a slow learner. So last week when the nurse I work for was having one of those days when you need a clone in order to get everything done (because she was preparing to go on a MISSION TRIP, which I could NEVER be good enough to do), I offered to help. She had left her coat in another building on our college campus. I can’t do nurse stuff but I can certainly hoof it across campus to pick up a coat. So I ditched the office and took a walk across campus in the sunshine (because even my “good” motives are selfish), found the right room, and saw her gray coat lying on the floor in the back. But there was a class going on in that room. And the doors were locked. A student saw me fiddling with the door and came over to open it for me. (Later it turned out that the door wasn’t even locked). I bravely tippy-toed over to the coat, snatched it up off the floor, and tippy-toed out. I tried to be as invisible as possible. I made eye contact with no one. But I paused out in the hallway because the coat was heavier than I expected. So I looked in the pockets. One pocket had a headband. Never saw it before but it could be hers. Checked the other pocket. It had a cell phone which was definitely not hers. Definitely. I froze. I’m pretty sure I just stood there looking stupid for a long time.
I STOLE A COAT. On behalf of someone else. Trying to be “nice.” There was only one thing to do—put the coat back on the floor and act as if a grown woman hadn’t just boldly marched into a classroom, stolen some poor college girl’s coat and phone, and marched out.
Growing up I experienced constant, paralyzing shyness in most public places. Even now my fight-or-flight response has a hair trigger. Walking back into the scene of the crime was sort of an out-of-body experience. Some of my senses definitely shut down, starting with my hearing and possibly some vision, or maybe I was just staring at the floor too hard. This time a girl opened the door. I think she might have whispered something like, “that’s mine” but I’m not entirely sure because of my panic-deafness. And I didn’t look right at her. I didn’t even hand her the coat, I just went back across the room and left it where I found it. I whispered something back to her on my way out but I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t hear what I was saying and also my mouth wasn’t working right. It might not have been actual words.
So, once again, life tried to teach me to be myself. I’ve gone as far as I can go. This is who I am. Good luck to the rest of you.