Don’t Play on the Catapult

One thing I can tell you from my brief experience writing about catapults is that there are no decent pictures of catapults that truly depict the risk involved in messing around with one.

The phrase “don’t play on the catapult” has been playing in my head all day.

At first, I thought, well, how many times did I say things just like that to my kids when they were growing up. Don’t climb on the roof. Don’t stand in the canoe. Don’t sleep that close to the campfire. Don’t play on the catapult. So maybe, I thought, the phrase was running through my head so I’d write about the gosh-darn, unbelievable exploits of kids growing up, their incredible bravado, their fearlessness, their absolute belief in immortality. I could draw lessons from it like how all of us too tightly wound adults should pare down our caution and play with the catapult now and then, you know, carefully.

But then, I thought maybe what I’m really thinking is that we can’t underestimate the power of people’s secret catapults and how quickly someone in the early stages of dire straits can be flung into an abyss without any of us onlookers really seeing or understanding that the catapult is in place, is fearsome and is ready to hurl giant rocks and disaster. “Are you feeling suicidal?” I ask that question now. Sometimes it surprises me that I do. What the question really asks is this: are you in that place where you feel no hope and you are exhausted? Are you about to play on the catapult?

Then, last, I thought maybe the question all day is about me. I am feeling the tiny motes of depression floating around me, the sense of time running out, of not having accomplished enough, of not being well-read, of being dependent on head gear and batteries to hear people, of glowing discontent, of wanting to be permanently on the road, watching scenery change from the passenger window. Don’t let yourself go there, I say to myself. Don’t climb up on that catapult and spend the next several weeks of spring seeding regret and unhappiness. Just stop it. Dismantle the catapult and go take a good walk. You can do that. Take a good walk. You know how.

So I think it’s ‘all of the above.’ The sentence dropped in my pocket by a stranger gave me places to go and things to think all day long. Don’t play on the catapult. It sounds simple enough, but, man, there are a lot of angles to it.

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