In the late 1970s, actor Dick Van Dyke was in a public service announcement to inform people the steps to take when in a house fire. Stop, drop to the floor, and roll, roll, roll. The public service announcement continued airing long after the 1970s. I can’t remember when I first saw it. But his words “stop, drop, and roll” saved me more than once. Yet, I’ve never been in a house fire.
Stop, drop, and roll takes on a different meaning in my life. As I am writing this, I don’t really know if you will understand how it helps keep my sanity and not feel overwhelmed when those around me are figuratively screaming, “fire!” So here goes!
There are times when I am happy in my own bubble, working on my goals, laughing with others, and feeling unstoppable. When all of a sudden, life throws me a twisted spiking ball ready take me down like bowling pins in a fierce competition. I feel like I am swirling down a black hole. Which fire do I put out first?
Or when I feel as if I am suspended in nothing. Nothing is moving in my life. Everything feels like a rut. No movement in any direction. Simply blah.
That’s when Stop, Drop, and Roll become my mantra. My blueprint. My map in life.
For example, there are times when my goals are dragging because of factors I can and can’t control. I have bills to pay, my body is crying for attention, perhaps I need to seek medical attention, or there’s drama in my real life when it should be in a soap opera.
That’s when I remember Dick Van Dyke and his words, “Stop, drop, roll!” I stop everything. I stop people in their tracks if they aren’t there to be supportive. I stop any complainers or whiners in my life who prefer to keep me with them in their misery. I stop scrolling the internet because I’ve learned that half of what I see is fake. I stop communicating with people who are professional excuse makers because “excusitis” can be contagious. Who needs that in life? I stop the bleeding of fear, negativity, and unexplained worry.
I replace my stops with starts. I start speaking to my mentors. People who want to see me succeed. People who have succeeded in the same areas. If it’s financial, I will speak to Suze Orman or my accountant. If it’s medical, I will reach out to health experts. If it’s related to my disability, I will go to the OI forum and OI medical experts. If it’s writing, I reach out to the circle of writers in my life. A little shout out to Sisters in Crime for their support.
After working on my starts, I will drop everything that doesn’t help me in all areas of life. It’s not easy to do at all. In my 20s, I had to drop several people from my life. They weren’t bad people. They simply weren’t going in my direction. They wanted to continue to party every night, sleep during the day, and had no concern for working. They used their disability as an excuse to not improve their circumstances. They were comfortable living that way. I had goals. I wanted to live on my own, drive my own car, not have to worry about money everywhere I went.
I learned to drop negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. Drop negative words like “never going to happen” or “not people like me.” And by people like me, I didn’t mean disabled people only. Sometimes teachers would say that it was easier to give up than deal with parents, school board members or superintendents. But not me. I learned to drop that thinking faster than a hot potato in my hands.
So I picked up new habits and along the way, I met new people. I picked up books to educate myself on finances, networking, writing, and goal setting. I picked up mentors, healthy routines, and supportive friends. Because of these new actions, I started AudacityMagazine.com. It won 3rd place in the Miami Herald Business Plan contest. I became one of the 50 Savviest Singles of The New Times Miami. I was working full time as a teacher and publishing AudacityMagazine articles from physically disabled writers around the world.
Once I dropped negative thoughts, negative people, or negative environments, I had more room for positive people, thoughts, and places. Yes, negativity takes up space. Decluttering was the way to go!
The last action was to roll. I learned to roll away. I roll away from drama. I roll away from hypocrisy, negativity, and hate. I roll away from people who want more from me than I am willing to give to them. I roll away from situations that go against my morals and principles. I roll away from people who choose to live in ignorance when education is offered, people who choose to see the glass totally empty even when it’s overflowing, people who prefer to hate others who are different.
The pandemic taught me that I can choose the direction I roll. These choices are made in our habits, our routines, and our actions when we are backed into a corner.
I realized that once I was on a roll, I was unstoppable. My sisters would probably attest to that. While visiting New York City, my sister, Ingrid told me that the guy ahead of us on the sidewalk was Nate Berkus, the famous interior designer. I told her, I knew him! I saw him on the Oprah Winfrey Show! And I took off! My sister didn’t want to be embarrassed and tried to stop me. But as much as she tried, I kept rolling forward. I got to meet him. Sweet and friendly.
Another time I was having breakfast with my sister at a nearby cafe in New York City when she told me that Michael C. Hall was the guy at the cashier paying his bill. She looked at me with a Don’t You Dare go after him. She said he was the star of Dexter. DEXTER! That was my brother’s favorite show! (I hadn’t seen the show at the time. I recognized him from Six Feet Under. Don’t worry, I saw Dexter when I got home.) So you know what I did? Yes! I rolled towards him. He was about to leave and had head phones on. Once he reached the door, it would be too late because there was a step to get down. I waved my hands in the air to get his attention. YES! I did it.
He had a cap on, glasses, and head phones. I guess I didn’t get the message that he wanted to be left alone. But it was my brother’s favorite actor! So I told him. Then I said please! A quick pic! He obliged.
Stop, Drop, and Roll
I am a firm believer that many of my successes including that picture with Michael C. Hall (Thanks again!) were due to Dick Van Dyke’s words of wisdom. Had I not learned to stop, drop, and roll when things were getting hot, I wouldn’t have accomplished so much in life. And the best part is I know that I can roll away from situations and roll towards my goals and dreams without guilt because Dick Van Dyke taught me that it’s important to care for myself.
Don’t wait for a house fire to apply those three words into your life. Stop procrastinating, drop all excess baggage, and roll into your future. I did.
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