What’s the message in all of this?
The second week of November was a tough week—for chapter and verse, please see “It Could Be Worse….” I got through it, I coped, and I did what I could to move on. But even though I mark time via clocks and calendars, I can’t require a run of unfortunate circumstances to cease with the start of a new week. So the third week of November started out wobbly—I hate to confess, but I had a third driving incident, receiving another in-the-mail ticket for turning right on red in front of a camera without coming first to a complete stop.
At the risk of sounding like Rainman, I’m actually a very good driver. I’ve more than 30 years behind the wheel in all sorts of weather and traffic, four of them working my way through college driving a bus in a big city. But the evidence for this one was painfully clear: when the Big Brother camera nabs you, there’s a video of your violation available for you to view. And the video of my car turning right on red proves the ticket was warranted—I didn’t even do a credible job of slowing into the intersection. A speeding ticket, a near miss collision, and running a red? The message was obvious: slow the hell down.
I get the message. I’ve been racing around at breakneck speed. For my own safety and sanity and the safety of others, it’s time to be more cautious and take more time to get from point A to point B. I need to give my attention to the journey.
With those words I shift from being a careless driver to someone distracted and harried by life’s events. I need to give my attention to the journey. It’s not so different than the expected “stop and smell the roses,” but to me it has infinite meanings and offers the opening to slow down not only because it’s the legal, right, safe thing to do but because slowing down, paying attention, and staying present is a better way of living.
I now think it’s funny that when I was in college my mother used to tell people I was a bus driver in Washington, DC. I was, but I was also a student at Georgetown University. As a junior English major, I enrolled in a class co-taught by a literature professor and a drama teacher. With more than sixty people in the class, we were to be broken up into groups, each group responsible for a ten-minute one-act play. Everyone would be an actor, with the exception of twelve, six who applied and were accepted as directors and six who applied and were accepted as writers. The writers would work with the cast through a series of improv exercises to develop the play. Then, they would be required to stay at school during spring break and create a script for rehearsals to begin in earnest when everyone else returned. The class culminated in an evening of one-act plays.
I wanted desperately to be a writer. I had already purchased in the college bookstore and begun to read Louis Catron’s playwriting text. I was mesmerized by Catron’s assignment to write a Credo:
You should write a credo before you write your first play . . . A credo is, simply, a personal statement of convictions. A credo is the writer’s beliefs concerning topics he or she feels are highly important. It is focused most especially upon those portions of life that concern the writer most. It addresses topics about which the author has a deep emotional attitude, a burning anger, a scorn, an affection. It is, then, “This I believe . . .” It is uniquely your own.
My insurmountable joy at being accepted as a writer was dinged when I was paired with another student to co-author a play. I could see from the first moment that we weren’t suited to write together and in despair I went to see the professor who waved me off and assured me we’d do fine. We were not fine. We were completely unable to agree on any single matter for our play, so the other writer and I worked on two different plays while our actors didn’t know what themes to explore and our director was more interested in pursuing the leading lady from another group. I was hating the entire experience. Then, one of the other writers dropped out. Given the choice, with next to no time remaining before the spring break writing week to develop the concept for our script, I left my play and went to write for the writer-less group. I was spared, freed, and independent. I set to work on both script and credo, feeling completely reassured that this was how it was meant to be.
Today, I would say that the journey was rough for a reason—there was something I was meant to learn, a message, a take-away. It may have been patience—that when an authority figure makes a mistake, as the professor clearly did in pairing me with another writer and a directionless group, the situation will shift or unfold into something much better. Perhaps it was a character-building experience or I needed to meet the impossible co-author in order to find my own voice and authority when the opportunity arrived.
The whimsical play I wrote that spring break and we produced in May was set in a metro car—a love story between a tiger that had escaped from the Washington National Zoo and a woman coming home from a costume party dressed as a cat. I don’t know what I wrote in my credo—I was all of twenty, after all. But I do know that I held my convictions deeply and I thought them over thoroughly and carefully. It was the time I was beginning to learn to live a really reflective life. Being a writer gave me then and gives me now an opportunity to figure it out and write it down—this I do believe. Plus, it makes the journey so interesting, looking for and interpreting the messages of the events in our lives. Is it little more than spinning a story? Perhaps, but if being a writer means being the spin doctor of my own life, then sign me up.
It’s the fourth week of November now, and I noticed on Tuesday that in spite of the long list of Thanksgiving-oriented errands I needed to do, I wasn’t racing; I was easing through traffic and crowded stores, smiling and completing tasks sooner than I expected. On Wednesday I was the driver who maneuvered around another harried driver who wasn’t looking where she was going, preventing her van from hitting me. I walked into my yoga class and a student brought me an apple. Another presented me with money for the benefit class we would be holding later that night at the studio. Slow down, open up, look around, and both the journey and the message become so, so, so much better. This, too, I believe.
On this Thanksgiving morning, a new moon rising, I am ever so grateful for the writing life, for yoga, for my family and friends, and for you, dearest reader. Namaste, Rxo