posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 0
California State Flag.
California State Flag. I arrived in Sacramento last night and this is as good an image for this post as any.

Over the past month or so, I have been able to see the possibility that exists all around me. By “possibility” I essentially mean “choices I could make.”

There is always possibility; it is always all around every one of us; it is always perched on the tips of our respective noses. But there also exists The Lull, and The Lull is a veil that gets dropped slowly, silently down over our faces until we can’t see those possibilities. The Lull isn’t a malevolent spirit, it’s just made of stuff that makes a strong piece of gauze: time, habit, inertia and fear. It’s the veil that weighs 6,000lbs.

But every once in awhile the veil lifts. Sometimes it lifts because something good happens (e.g., you win a baking contest and think, “Wait a minute… Do I want to be a professional baker???”) Sometimes it lifts because something terrible happens (e.g., your significant other breaks up with you and though you’re sad, you’re now a free agent and you no longer have to deal with his World of Warcraft obsession or anyone’s, ever, ever again.) Possibilities flood in when The Lull is disrupted. You suddenly see the world beyond the veil and wow, is it ever big and boy, were you ever thinking small.

You don’t have to wait for something to happen to you to lift the veil. That sounds like something a life coach would say, but I know from recent experience that it’s true. I recently asked myself, “Mary Fons, what do you want?” I wasn’t talking about handbags. I wasn’t talking about lunch. I just stopped what I was doing (eating lunch, alone) and faced myself. I run all over the place, I go 90-miles an hour, I’ve got this thing, I’ve got that thing… But what do I want? What is my heart’s delight? If money was no object, if nothing bad would happen, if no puppies would lose their lives, what possibilities that are consistently pushed away would I grab and make my Real Life?

And now, I’m super raw. The veil is up and it’s fun to see all this stuff. It’s also a mite overwhelming: the veil hides a lot of possibilities. I don’t have more possibilities than some because I don’t have a family or a spouse; I just have different ones. I don’t have fewer possibilities because I don’t have buckets of money like some people; I just have different ones.

Watch out for The Lull. Flap your hands over your face and see if you can move that veil out your eyes. I can’t be held responsible for what you see, but I don’t think you’ll regret it. And you can’t un-see things.

Subway Light Switch.

It's easy.
It’s so simple now.

There was a tiny shift in my brain a couple weeks ago that changed the way I see New York City. The shift will probably change the way I see a lot of things because it was so simple. The simplest concepts are the stickiest: work hard, take a jacket, crack is wack, etc. It’s slightly embarrassing to admit, but since it might help someone else, here goes:

You don’t have to learn the subway system in New York. You just need to figure out how to get where you need to go.

Let’s have that again:

You don’t have to learn the subway system in New York. You just need to figure out how to get where you need to go.

I’ve been coming to Manhattan with fair frequency since I was sixteen. Until three weeks ago, on every trip here, I operated under two subtle, negative assumptions: 1) to get around New York City properly (?) you need to know the subways and 2) figuring that out would mean seriously studying the system at length and doing the MTA equivalent of times tables or vocabulary drills. That was how I thought, and you can marvel at the weirdness of it, but I ask you to marvel with attendant compassion. I look at those assumptions and I think, “My goodness, who was in charge of this girl? Why on earth did she think she had to take graduate-level course work in the New York subway system? Poor thing, someone wrap her in a quilt and get her a piece of chocolate. No, the whole bar. The Ritter Sport. She likes the dark chocolate with hazelnu — yes, that’s it. Here you are, dear.”

(MARY eats chocolate, nods pathetically.)

All that business about being perpetually in the dark about the subway system ended the other day in a flash, don’t ask me why. You don’t have to know the trains. You don’t have to know where the A, C, E trains terminate. You don’t have to memorize the stops on the 6 from Fulton to 110th St. Not only do you not have to do that as a new New York person, you don’t ever have to do that. By osmosis and routine, you will naturally learn subway route details and shortcuts. But the vast majority of veteran New Yorkers don’t know when the 7 runs express to Queens and when it runs local and if you asked them about it, they’d say, “I don’t know, ask the ticket agent,” or “There’s a map over there, I don’t know, sorry.”

If you want to go somewhere, find your somewhere on the map, and then figure out which train will take you close to it. Thought I’ve done just that for years, I always came at it cock-eyed, as though the train system was my destination, not the Natural History Museum. There was this little, niggling voice that said, “You should know this by now,” and that voice distracted me from noticing what I was doing: getting around New York just fine.

Did any of that make a lick of sense?

It’s just a subway system, it’s just a map. It’s just a city, it’s just a person. But the shift in my head from “you’ll never get this” to “you already have this” has given me that singular feeling of “Oh, right. I’m not broken, I’m not wrong, I never was wrong, I was making it too hard, everything I need, I already have.”

Pretty good at $2.25/fare.