Valentine’s Day 2016

I do not have a bucket list! There are too many fabulous things to do in this world that I made a decision some time ago to try to say yes whenever an opportunity arises.  This precept has taken me on many wonderful adventures, and quiet often with equally wonderful friends.

Today I went to a gun range with one of those friends; we have been talking about this for sometime and Valentine’s Day seemed as good a day as any other. This outing was a lark and not a statement but, with no malice intended, a particular tribute to where I am on the relationship side of my life.

In the spirit of full disclosure I did grow up in a house with guns, as many of my generation did. It was a time that you could ask for a pellet gun for Christmas, and have become a marksmen, the ability of Davey Crockett or Paladin, by the New Year. We understood gun safety and had great respect for their power, but in our home a gun was on the calibre of a hockey stick or a skipping rope and with only two exceptions their use was remarkably uneventful. Target practice, which occurred in our basement to avoid stray bullets through the neighbour’s bathroom window, lead to the first minor incident. The target was set up on the piano, as we had all long ago abandoned any hope of being concert pianists, and one stray BB of mine ricocheted off a brass hinge and hit my father in the forehead. My brother was not as lucky. The “boys” had convinced him that stuffing the air rifle with bubble gum and then shooting directly into his foot would not hurt at all. My usually stoic brother crumbled in pain and had to have the gum surgically removed concluding that contrary to consensus, it would and did hurt. I have shot since, though nothing more that a few tin cans out in the bush; but I stray.

Back to the range. After an informative and entertaining training session, I donned my safety glasses and headgear and entered the range with the 19 other newbies who also considered this most romantic of holidays the best to begin target practice. While I do not remember the make or model of our firearms, we were to be given an opportunity to fire a pistol, handgun, rifle and shotgun. I was pumped and ready, or is it locked and loaded? The noise was, despite wearing state of the art earmuffs, jolting, persistent and set off the adrenalin in my system. When it was my turn, and I began with the handgun, I took aim and fired. The first of my ten shots were steady and landed dead centre, again full disclosure the target was only 5 feet away. I continued to fire my round but at some point I realized that I was not filled with adrenalin, but an odd feeling that I could not identify I just new that I was done. I passed on the rest of the firearms but watched while the remainder of the group shot and inspected their target sheets. I adjusted to the noise and stopped flinching with every crack, pop and boom, but that indescribable feeling did not leave me.

Fast-forward to a therapeutic plate of fries, and an even more therapeutic friend I realized that the   feeling I had was one of anxiety. Holding that gun, and taking those shots were so disquieting to me that I could not continue. I am not an anxious person, and I realized that over of the past five years I had made a point of doing my best to manage, I want to say avoid but I won’t, situations and people that bring any unease into my life, and that is what I learned today. I have a superpower that I didn’t even realize. I have the power to recognize an emotion I don’t like in myself, and control my mind and surroundings enough to bring myself back to a grounded centre. I was not born with this  superpower; I expect that along the way I was exposed to a toxic pathogen or two, which lead me to this skill.  Of course I do have my kryptonite, but I will keep that little secret to myself, for now.   I am no better of person because of this experience. I am satisfied in the knowledge that am my strongest, and most positive self. The transition into the next part of my life will be reminiscent of the one that began when I was 16. That was the point in my life when the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ morphed into a soul searching, life altering quest. Now we ask ourselves, knowing what I know at this moment, if I had to do it all over again how would I? Well guess what   friends we do have the chance! Go ahead, start over, make new choices, new mistakes because 61 is   the new 16!

I must postscript the fact that I am not going to make judgment today with regard to the use of guns, despite my social responsibility to do so. While I am outraged by the kind of gun violence perpetrated by the mentally unbalanced, I am aware of a proportionate number of Canadians who rely on guns to feed and sustain their families. Please do not judge me on this point, I cannot or should not be expected to come to a better conclusion than the leaders of our country or that of my American family.

Have a Goodie!! G