I roll sleepily from bed, early morning light streaming through the slits of the bedroom blinds as I blink myself awake. I sit up and sigh heavily rubbing the sleep from my eyes and trying to wake up. Like an old cranky computer I sit, internals clicking and whirring and trying without hurry to boot up. Time to start another day. Mentally I go through the checklist of all the things I have to do, and everywhere I have to be. As each one ticked by me my mood sinks a little more. Already it is a bit overwhelming, and I haven’t even begun yet.
I pick up the little black plastic sphere next to the bed, shaking it hard.
“Will I have a good day today, 8 ball?” I ask.
The little white plastic die inside floats to the top through the thick blue liquid, bouncing against the little window before settling in with the answer. “Outlook not so good.”
Sighing I stand and make my way to the shower, thoughts weighing heavier and heavier on my mind. Appointments and engagements, long drives and scheduled meetings. Each taking a little nibble of my day. Time, the ultimate Pac-Man, gobbling up little chunks of my time incessantly. I find myself rooting for the ghosts.
I step from the shower, dry my hair, brush my teeth, finish up my bathroom trip with a slip and banging my knee into the cabinet. A curse through gritted teeth, then into the bedroom, dressing for my day.
Maybe a second chance will improve my day. I pick up the 8 ball again, shake it a little more vigorously this time. “Eight ball will anything good happen today?”
The window stays dark as the orb contemplates my question and then the answer floats through the inky darkness, spinning upward into and clicking into place against the plastic pane. “Cannot predict now.”
The rest of the morning flies by in a blur. Occasionally I ask my little 8 ball questions. “Should I go do this next?” I ask
The eight ball replies in the affirmative this time. “It is certain.”
On the way I blow a tire, and pull off to the side of the road, rolling up the sleeves on my white dress shirt, sighing heavily. “Why did you tell me to go this way 8 ball?”
The ball hesitates for a moment, then replies with a remorseless, “Better not tell you now.”
Ridiculous, isn’t it? A grown man being guided around by a silly novelty toy. His life and actions guided by random chance. His days decided numerical odds dictated by a tiny little icosahedral die floating in cerulean died alcohol.
But is this really any sillier than the way many of us go about our days? Random inputs from an hundreds of sources outside our control. What silly things we allow to dictate how we spend our days. The muttered curse of our spouse from the bathroom, the flat tire on the way to work, a news story on television, the burning of our breakfast.
What tiny little discomforts and insignificant little obstacles we allow to cloud our days.
“I am having a bad day.” I don’t know how many times I’ve said this. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it. One time was one time too many. Each time after that was the white flag waved in surrender as the merciless army of the ‘enemy’ swarmed through my weary and beaten ranks.
As Pogo the cartoon once said, I finally realized that the ‘enemy’ was my own thoughts, or as he put it:
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Truer words have never been spoken. If your day ends up on the rocks, if my day ends up foundering on some reef, then yes, perhaps one of those monumental storms came along and managed to wreck us, but those storms are rare. More likely we were asleep at the wheel. Or even worse, we allowed another to have the helm.
Is it really more silly to allow our days to be controlled by some silly toy than it is to allow it to be controlled by the ebbs and flows of the moods of people around us, the myriad of uncontrollable incidents that life brings us, or the tiny inconsequential things that we won’t remember a day from now?
“My reply is no,” I laugh, as I hurl the 8 ball against the wall, shattering it into a thousand pieces.