I drove to San Francisco for a book reading the other day. It was a Monday; I’d just gotten back from two nights in the cities – San Francisco AND Oakland – the afternoon before, and I was tired. I’d gotten up at 5am to work the 6am shift so I could get some hours in, i.e. so my manager wouldn’t complain about my “lack of scheduling flexibility” again.
It was raining, and cold, and grey, and dumb. I realized yesterday while pondering how much I hate my current life schedule that lack of sleep gives me the exact same feelings of indifference, lack of motivation, and unbearable brain fog that hangovers do. So basically, I need to never drink and to sleep all of the time, and everything will be okay.
I considered bailing on the book reading. It was a Monday after all, and for chrissakes. But I sort of knew the woman reading because she is married to an old friend of mine, I’d eaten dinner at their house the summer before, and even though she is famous and probably couldn’t pick me out of a crowd, for some reason I thought it would be disrespectful to bail. I took a 25-minute disco nap, then hit the road.
On the drive, one of the great miracles of life happened: the sun started to come out. The further south I drove, the more perky the weather became, and by the time I was in the city, it was a goddam glorious day.
My mapping program took me through Golden Gate Park, and I rolled down my window to suck in the fresh, breezy air. I drove past hiking trails and thought “I could totally go walk on that trail!”, past fields and thought “I could park my car right here and go stand in that!” and finally, past a field of poppies, which made me think “ohhhhhh I want to go look a those.”
I had plenty of time; there were actual parking spaces nearby. But I kept driving. My tendency to stay buttoned up and en route lately is so strong that recently, my son asked me to take he and some friends to a beautiful grove of Redwoods, and I dropped them off, then sat in the car, reading.
Let me stop for a moment here to mention that I grew up in the country. My backyard was acres of abandoned, overgrown gravel pit, and there wasn’t a tree I wouldn’t climb, or a hill I wouldn’t master. My favorite times were walking with my dad in the forest, stopping to lay on a log and stare up, listening. I would sometimes walk out into the field of our front yard and just lay in the grass, for hours. I wore the grime of the well-used outdoors like a badge of honor.
Now, I stay in the car, and maybe admire from my rolled-up window. I can’t even tell you how disappointing this is.
But, I fought it. As my navigation app barked at me to keep going, I decided I could take a minute; just a minute. I did a U-turn and backtracked to the field of poppies. I parked the car, opened the door, and as soon as the sun and wind hit me, I started smiling.
I smiled while I walked over the grass toward the poppies. I smiled while I took deep breaths of air. Each patch of flowers needed my full attention, and I wandered from one to the other, oohing and aahing, grinning like I was touched, taking pictures. I smiled as I walked toward a bench, sat on it, and just looked at the flowers. The wind blew my hair into my face; I brushed it away. I pulled the book I was reading out of my purse and read a chapter, smiling, glancing up from time to time to once again admire the colors and delicate folds in the wide, rounded petals. Each flower was a delight. It was a perfect ten minutes.
When I finished my chapter, I put my book back, stood and stretched, walked another round among the garden plots, and then made my way back to the car, refreshed, and happy.
Who knew it could be so easy?