Hi there. Nice to see you again.
You know, it’s really easy to just keep going: more and more, faster and faster, until your new “norm” is an endless loop of physical and cognitive activity that you don’t even realize you’re always partaking in.
So, in the spirit of taking a step back (which can often help you get a different perspective on things), today is a little different. I want to share something that I wrote for a Memoir class I’m taking. The assignment was to write about – okay, I’ll just share verbatim: “Describe yourself in transit – walking the dog, riding the bus to school, driving along a highway, etc. Describe what you notice, not in a factual way but in a way that reflects what’s on your mind. And describe it in your own distinctive way.” And, as always, I had to keep it at 800 words max. (As usual, I fell just shy of that – after multiple edits.)
I’m sharing this piece today because I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about feeling stuck. I’m pretty sure that no one really enjoys feeling any form of stuck, so it’s something that we can join forces on both out of empathy and in a round-table mastermind “Here’s what helps me” kind of way.
Stuckness isn’t typically a positive experience. However, this piece is about the good kind of stuck: the kind of stuck that forces you to do less. It's not the "ideal" blog post in that it doesn't have a super catchy title with promises to give you the 25 Mindblowing Facts No One Will Ever Tell You About Sea Turtles, or anything like that. But 1) I rarely end up with titles like that anyway, because I mostly just like to share stories, and 2) As a story of sorts, this post should fit well into the podcast sphere. So it might be a good one to listen to on iTunes. (Shameless plug for j.e.wolff podcast right here, folks.)
Okay, enough explanation. Here it is.
She sucks her teeth, trying to gauge whether or not she should go or wait. She decides to stop and, after a brief internal dialogue, reaches the inevitable regret: “I should have gone.”
We just picked up our rental car, in midtown. It’s Wednesday around noon, but it doesn’t matter: We’re driving through molasses. We’ve gone all of 10 blocks in the past 20 minutes, and it’s every car for itself. If you don’t push the limits, you don’t move.
“Yeah,” I say. “You kinda have to just push through and go for it.”
She purses her lips, nods slowly in agreement. “Yup. Okay. You’re right.”
“But you’re doing great! S’all good, Mama! S’all good. Killing it!”
I’m in full “on” mode, trying to walk that oh-so-delicate line between Braveheart and Mother Teresa: Brawny leader of brave warrior people meets tiny saintly healing woman. A ra-ra’ing spirit of hope. A cool summer breeze wafting through a sticky midtown intersection, if you will.
This is my happy place.
I know, it’s a little weird. You’re probably thinking, “I’m sorry, umm...What now? Midtown traffic is your happy place?! What in the Sam Hill is wrong with you?!” Or, if you’re more of my ilk – and less of the Yosemite Sam ilk – a simple and understated “What the fuck?” might suffice.
Either way, yes: This is my happy place. Because here, at one of a traveler’s most aggravating stucks, I don’t have to try to be calm: I just am. In this rare situation, I’m a little less Type A. For once, I’m the one who’s thinking less, who’s trying less, who’s chilling out. It’s like one of those magical pot-smoking movie scenes where animals wink and walls dance. It’s that glorious.
And the best part? I’m in this glorious place because that’s my job. Really, it’s the best of both worlds: I’m getting shit done while protecting my blood pressure.
I know that Mama is going to turn to me any second, with a taxed smile on her face, and say, almost believably, “I’m fine. I’m fine! Seriously. I’m fine.” But joke’s on her, because I’m her daughter. That means that I know how wicked fast those cognitive wheels of hers are turning right now, anticipating her next strategic street moves, her big brown doe eyes daring someone to catch her off-guard while silently praying for the scratch-free safety of our rental car.
Therefore, my Taskmaster kicks into high gear: Time to release Mama’s iron grip on the steering wheel and get some blood flowing back to those hands. I channel my soothing lullaby voice, crack a few self-deprecating jokes, and play the role of supportive co-pilot to stunning reviews.
But, eventually, that midtown madness digs its claw in deep, leaving us at a standstill.
So, because I have no tasks at the moment, I pocket my Power Ring and take a look around. Like many New Yorkers, I often forget to stop hustling, so I take full advantage of this opportunity to observe the world I don’t always see. I look at everything: Storefronts, window moldings, cornices, signage (thanks to my graphic designer, I scoff at most of them), and the motley walks of life that cross at every corner.
Crawling down 2nd Avenue, we pass Mimi’s, where, four years ago, I snapped a photo for Mama of her restaurant namesake on my way home from a date. From there, I float to a long taxi ride that same year, Mama laughing at me lost in reverie and telling me I should write a “Guide to NY” book based on my date spots.
Is that how I became the shameless conversation craver who perhaps shares a little too much because the words just bumble out of me uncontrollably? By putting myself out there over and over and over again?
Just as I start to follow this thread, the car unsticks. And, just like that, a thousand tiny moments, turns of the head, and webs of tangled words slide off my shoulders as we slowly roll forward, leaving them behind. My head swings to face forward, brain clicking back into gear.
“In three blocks, 37th. Take a left.”
“That’s the midtown tunnel?”
And we’re off.
What about you? When is the last time you were forced to slow down, because, well, there was nothing else to do but wait? (I mean, since there was nothing else to do but be.) When is the last time you were in a good kind of stuck? Share it on my Facebook page, j.e.wolff.
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.