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Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter Follies

Readers, it’s January, a new year, and I feel a metaphor coming on. God help me, I do. A clichéd metaphor about cars and drivers. I apologize. I am helpless before it. All I can do is put it out there for us all.

So this is it. It’s snowy out. It’s lovely and sunny and crisp and a bright day as I write; but I am thinking about our last snow, all the way back in last year. That snow happened to start late on a Saturday afternoon, just before a performance the 11 year old was in. That day even The Egg, our UFO shaped performance venue in Albany, cancelled its evening programs; but not the RPI Young Actors Guild. The Winter Follies were to go on, and since the 11 year old was in several sketches, she needed to be there. That venue is twenty minutes north on the highway. The roads were getting bad when we left, and they would be really awful on the return trip. The husband was on call, and when he’s on call, I drive. Otherwise, usually I do take the passenger seat, because he prefers to drive and I don’t care.

That day I was nervous about the weather. For a moment, I thought I would just let the husband drive. Probably he wouldn’t get paged, and it seemed easier if he drove. I wouldn’t have to worry about slipping and skidding on the road. I almost suggested it. Then it struck me that turning over that responsibility wasn’t going to help me, really, because I would be sitting in the car either way. And I thought, Now why do I assume I’ll be or feel safer with him at the wheel? I’ve driven in all kinds of conditions. I’ve had no accident since I was a teenager. I am perfectly competent to drive. Furthermore, because I am competent to drive, I might as well take on the responsibility in a situation that could be bad or dangerous. I will handle it as well as he will, and I will actually be more in control if I drive than if I don’t.

Look, it may not seem like much; but it was a Moment for me. Why not take charge? Why assume I’ll be better off if someone else does? No more waiting for someone else to tell me how to do it; no more thinking someone else knows how to do it better. I am in charge.

I suppose I ought to be ashamed to admit this. I suppose I ought to ashamed for coming to this realization so late. In my 50th year. But I saw all those times I’ve wanted someone else to be in charge, and all the times I’ve allowed someone else to take responsibility. It was a Bingo! Ding! Ding! Ding! moment of seeing that I’m the one in charge of my own life. As much as that is possible.

As we’d feared, the roads were awful by the time we left the theater, which is on top of a big hill. The trip down from the hilltop in Troy was white-knuckle. There was skidding and fishtailing. When we got down, the plows hadn’t gotten to the highway yet.  There were no lane markings visible. There were no lanes. It was dark and snow blew at the windshield unrelentingly. I wished heartily that we could just pull over until morning, but I drove on, slowly, carefully, thinking that I knew in my heart this was not my time to die, and therefore that we would make it home.  In this manner, I proceeded, pretending to believe in fate, pretending to be in control, managing as best I could, knowing that while driving was hard, it had to happen. 

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