“What would happen if a Tsunami came here?” my youngest son asked as he brought over his latest creation. It was a drawing featuring a tiny mound of brown in the lower left-hand corner. A large blue backward C shape filled the rest of the page. I looked at the picture. I looked at my son. Clearly, the island was toast.
“Maybe it would be okay. They might have had advanced warning,” I suggested. “Or maybe there are boats that could help them float away?”
It was a slim excuse at best (I’ve seen what a Tsunami can do to a small boat), but I was going to go with it. My youngest is only five (for another week). Who wants to talk about a disaster from which there is no hope of escape with someone that age?
LT’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at his artwork. “I’ll be back.” He ran off to the other room.
He returned with another drawing of a giant wave. This one even larger than the one before. “How about now?”
I looked at the poor island in the picture. Then another feature caught my eye. Dark triangles poking out of the second wave’s curl. “Wait. Are those sharks?”
LT grinned. Both of my children are well aware of my, let’s say, lack of fondness, for Selachimorpha in all its variations and take an inordinate amount of joy in watching my reaction.
“You drew a Tsunami with sharks.”
LT’s eyes twinkled as he nodded. “What would happen, now?” he asked. “Would we die?”
I’m not sweating. “Maybe not. You could punch the sharks in the nose or use the Bat-shark repellent.” LT wants to be Batman, correction – The Batman Weatherman, when he grows up, so it should almost go without saying he’ll have a ready case of Bat-shark repellent on hand for just such an emergency.
“What if they were poison sharks?”
“Poison?! Umm… er… there might be an antidote-”
“What if they were zombies too?”
I blinked. I looked at my husband, was he hearing what I was? His grin matched that of our son’s. Yep. He shook his head at me as if to say, what are you gonna do? I turned back to our little creator of the next made-for-TV, cheesy creature feature. “Poisonous Zombie Sharks? In a Tsunami?”
Okay, I have to admit it’s a genius idea, but every now and then I have to wonder if there is something about that boy that just isn’t right.
LT was almost cackling with manic glee at this point. Delighted with his cleverness, but unable to speak, he could only nod again.
Seeing no alternative – no stick figure on the island representing a scientist who had up until this point been the laughing stock of his profession, but was now humanity’s last hope against the coming killer tide – I had to give up. “Well, I guess, then yeah, we would all probably die.”
Apparently, this was the answer LT was going for the whole time. Satisfied, he ran off to create additional masterpieces.
The same can be said about storytelling. It’s far easier to tell a joke if you know the punchline just as it is far easier to write a book if you know the ending.
But while having a goal in mind can keep you focused, it is also important to allow yourself the flexibility to deviate from the plan. I’m pretty sure that the inclusion of poison and zombies was a spur of the moment decision (though with LT one really never knows). All he wanted was for me to confirm that his island was a complete loss, but he allowed our conversation to detour, evolve, and refine until the end result was even better than the one he originally imagined.
Many of us made resolutions at the beginning of the year and many of us have already broken them once or twice. You don’t need my permission, but I want you to know that’s okay. Life happens. Zombie sharks may appear in waves.
The important thing is remembering the reason for the resolution in the first place. Ask yourself what is the underlying need and keep asking until you know the answer by heart and adjust your plan accordingly.
Who knows? When you finally reach your goal and look back, the path you wound up taking might prove even better than the one you first imagined.