That saying. You know the one that says, “The toothpaste is out of the tube.” How about that. It’s a wing dinger. It’s kind of the go-to these days. It says, “the damage is done and you can’t go back.” “How does this knowledge affect my personality from here on out? Things surely can’t go back to being hidden from view.”
Like when I was in Bali, and a monkey crawled onto my shoulders and started fishing through my hair for bugs. I was petrified with fear, because I was told the monkeys could hurt me. But I was flushed with excitement because I had never had an experience similar. When I slowly bent down after three or four minutes to let her crawl off my back, I looked at Tina who was holding a video camera and said, “How will I ever live my life the same again?”
Or how will I put the toothpaste back in the tube?
But here I am, 10 years later, another tube of toothpaste sits half full on my bathroom sink. I’ll go through some 10 or 20 more tubes this year. More next. And hopefully more the next.
Or I’d argue that there’s still more toothpaste in the tube. So let’s brush our teeth and figure out what work we should do today.
I recently learned that someone whom I love dearly is forever tainted because I called him out for a lack of excellence in repeating unfounded conspiracy theories. This target of my anger was a compounding of years of mean sarcasm used to hurt and maim. Something that I looked past for years, accepted and forgave, because, you know, fidelity.
These words weren’t just directed toward me. They were directed at ex-girlfriends. My wife Tina. His loved ones, including his mom, dad and sister. He’s a super nice guy, but a tendency toward a level of nonchalant backhandedness that will send your eyes spinning.
Regardless, if you told me that the toothpaste is out of the tube and you can’t put it back. I’d wonder if there’s more toothpaste still in the tube, and what it looks like. Because if you didn’t like the toothpaste so far, what’s left is going to make your stomach explode like the mushroom cloud in Beirut the other day.
This whole single episode was detonated because of an off-handed comment repeated from a radio news host. And when I called him out on it, the guy not only claimed ownership of the thought, but that it was true, despite a slew of evidence to the contrary. And when I point this out, he not so much as wrote it off as a passing glance toward my liberal tendencies and anger management failures.
But in my head it was a betrayal of our tacit agreement that with our foundation, we practice the art of pursuing excellence. What we say has meaning. And truth is the ultimate gift we can give ourselves, our loved ones and strangers. Not owning up to the failure of excellence disparaged the unwritten contract or who we are as men. As citizens. As leaders and as Americans. I don’t care what anyone’s politics are. Truth should live on the top shelf of everyone’s goals.
And when we fail our fellow humans, we own up. We admit. And we move on. But this failure of admission is and was not in his vocabulary. And it hurt. So I hurt back.
So the rift is deep and wide, like that crater left in Beirut. The protest that exists if only in my head is like the one on the streets of Beirut, demanding justice for stupidity in leadership, of self-righteousness and societal-level malfeasance.
When one values the one-directional panderings of any one person whom one has never met over the 39-year life-long history of “being thereism”, it’s a downright travesty of human failure, of myopic regard, of ignorant dumbassery.
Because chances are, the madman on the radio waves dies before the basket case with a shitty temper.
Chances are, the lunatic on the radio will never offer a hand, a dollar, a roof or a hug, but the fury of a friend will dissipate like a rain storm and there could be another 39-year drought before another storm, if there ever were another one.
Chances are the maniac on the radio will never offer an ear, a shoulder, or an open armed hug, but the dyspepsia of a psychotic episode is a belch in the night.
A psychotic episode or a psycho on the radio is a crop-dusting fart on the enormity of time.
Chances are clearly in favor of the 39-year tradition. Chances are resolutely smiling on the hand that is tangible, the hand that has been held and the one that has been extended.
But some people are gamblers.
And some people are not.
I, dear reader, am not.
And if the toothpaste is out of the tube, isn’t the best thing to do is just brush your teeth, start your day and go to work?
Forgiveness ain’t just a number followed by eight letters. It’s a thing that is doable. It just takes tact, humanity, grace, mercy and a pinch of bravery.
(if the poetic licensed joke gets my privileges revoked, “4giveness” is a number followed by eight letters. I know. Stupid.)