Perfect timing helped me secure a seat for the Sherman Alexie reading at UNM a few weeks ago. He’s possibly the most entertaining reader you’ll ever see in person. In his opening monologue, he explained a circuitous route a cabbie took him through the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota. I couldn’t begin to do the story justice, but the wisdom of the story comes into focus when the Somalian driver says, “People think you can only go one way to get somewhere, but there are thousands of ways.”
I’ve been turning this over and over in my mind since the reading thinking of all the things I try to force into my one-way mentality.
Take my lunch. I have eaten the same thing for lunch for over five years (Seriously, hummus on pita, fruit (sometimes), maybe chicken, if we have leftovers, and when I’m feeling healthy, baby carrots. Otherwise, I’ll have chips). I once read that Jennifer Anniston ate a Cobb salad for lunch everyday she was on the set of “Friends.” With this information, I’ve decided I get a few more years before I have to reconsider this habit.
I can also be completely inflexible, which I like to call disciplined. At times, it’s a little unreasonable. It’s not that I’m perfectionistic, it’s just I think certain things like walking through the grocery store should be done the same way. Even if I only need cereal, I make my way through the entire store in the same back and forth pattern to be sure I don’t forget something. (You’re thinking, “But you just needed cereal?” I know. I know.)
Sometimes I get tripped up on things that can’t be tamed, like a classroom full of teenagers or twin 4-year old boys. There are times when I want to cram them into my little box of how things should go and that does nothing but make me want to pull out my hair and drink. . .a lot. I start thinking that I’m the worst teacher ever and that I’m the worst possible mother, and why can’t I just be like ___________ (insert a name of a person who does everything better—a cross between Jaime Escalante, Clair Huxtable, and Mother Teresa—but not in appearance, that would just be weird.)
And then the Somalian taxi driver’s words smack me in the face: “. . .there are thousands of ways.” So, I back myself away from the ledge, take a deep breath, and try to think my way around another way of being, another way of interacting with the world. Mostly, I do okay, but then I find myself teetering precariously close to the lip of my rut (while eating hummus on pita bread.)
Yet, I don’t think I’m the only one. When I look around and see the headlines about the “fiscal cliff,” “troubles in the Middle East,” and “education reform,” doesn’t it seem like everyone is driving down the same dead-end street that didn’t get us anywhere in the first place? Couldn’t we step out of ourselves and try to see things from different angles instead of head-down, straight ahead at whatever the cost? What if we just tried something completely different, once in a while, just to see what happens? What if I had a hamburger for lunch?
What do you look at as a one-way street?