One of my favorite TV shows, Arrested Development, dropped a new season on Netflix today. Zany, bizarre, full of imminently weird characters who bounce off each other like pinballs, this show is epic. It’s both binge-worthy and cringe-worthy. Most of all, it’s endlessly quotable. One of the best things about it is the memes, which pop up over and again. Little sayings such as…There’s money in the banana stand! * You can say goodbye to these. * I’m a monster. * Illusion, Michael! * Her?

By far, my favorite recurring line spoken by many of the characters is “I’ve made a huge mistake!” Oldest son, G.O.B. (pronounced johb, like the Job in the Bible, short for George Oscar Bluth II), repeats these words most often.

One of the reasons I love this line, other than the fact that it occurs at some very hilarious moments in the show, is that it’s so functional in real life…

…I finished painting this whole room, and now I realize…I’ve made a huge mistake!
…I texted the wrong guy…I’ve made a huge mistake!
…I didn’t educate myself enough about the local election and now I’m standing before the voting booth paralyzed about making the wrong decision…I’ve made a huge mistake!

When I was in my twenties, I knew a young man, Jay, whose father had died tragically. While jogging on the side of the road, a truck’s mirror struck Jay’s father in the head, spinning him around and causing him to fall under and be crushed by the truck’s wheels. Because their parents had recently divorced, Jay and his brother inherited all of the father’s money. This was right as Jay was graduating from college. Imagine being on the cusp of adulthood and having a giant inheritance dumped on your head, along with a pile of grief. Jay found himself in the position of not having to work for the better part of the next decade.

He also had a lot of buried anger.

Jay’s dad was actually an amateur triathlete. That’s what he was doing when he died, gearing up for the next major competition. As Jay wandered through his twenties, he decided to dedicate himself to training for triathlons in his father’s memory. Pushing his body to incredible extremes, in some ways, was the perfect use of Jay’s time. For one, he had a lot of physical intelligence. I’ve frankly never seen anything like it. He could climb poles and do flips off walls. He easily could have been in the circus. The other reason training was good for Jay was he could sublimate his feelings through the physical endurance. Truth was, Jay had a death wish. He wasn’t just trying to live in honor of his father’s dream, it seemed at times he wanted to die in a similar way.

Anger came out in such surprising ways for Jay, as often happens when we think we’re not angry. One time, a truck drove a little too fast and close to him and his friends as they walked through a parking lot. He chased after the truck, yelling and screaming. Even threw a rock at it.

sellwood-bridge-01Time moved on. Jay moved to a new city. He joined a new running group as he wanted to cultivate more of a social sense in the sport. One morning, Jay started to goof off to impress his new friends while they were running on a bridge. He swung out on the poles of the bridge, over the river, and then back onto the concrete surface, never missing a step. He did this several times until…

Jay was wearing a running belt, which carried several water bottles for hydration. Swinging out on one of the poles, his belt rode up high, jolting from his waist nearly to his chest. For a moment, his physical intelligence left him. Rather than catch the pole, at the last minute, his hands moved to push the belt back down.

Wile-E-CoyoteNow, imagine this moment. Everything stopped. Time stopped. Jay felt like Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff, who before he fell, had time to hold up a sign of commentary. Because of his flirtations with death, he was afraid his friends would think his jump off the bridge was intentional. So, in that frozen mid-air hang time, he looked them fervently in the eyes and yelled, “I made a mistake!”

They all converged on the rail to watch as Jay fell down, down, down into the river, but then as he swam! Past bone-shattering boulders and limbs and such, he swam with all his might. Meanwhile, many of the group were already scrambling along the ravine, trying to figure out where he would come out to help him the rest of the way to shore.

I’ve lost track of Jay these many years hence, but the last I heard, that day was the beginning of the end of Jay’s romantic notions of an early demise. I like to think of it that way at least. A brush with death can certainly tip you one way or another.

A few evenings ago, I got up off the couch after having sat for too long. I found that I was limping. It seems that a death wish and stifled anger can present in a variety of ways, both through physical exertion and in complete inertia. As I hobbled my way through the house, I muttered…I’ve made a huge mistake!