On a Tuesday three weeks ago, I was in a very dark place. My writing was not going well. The demons were dancing in my head. I sat at my computer screen, mentally listing all my perceived creative failures — one in particular that had stalled last summer and I naturally assumed was my fault — convincing myself I was never going to finish the book and if I did it would be subpar. You get the picture.
On Wednesday, I met with my prayer partner — we’re both members of the same church. Three years ago, we got together to pray about a particular issue and liked the experience so much we’ve been meeting once a week ever since. It works for me.
My partner is training to be a spiritual director and she’s always able to use just the right words. She prayed I would be lifted out of my self doubt and instilled with a sense of giftedness. As the day wore on, I impatiently looked at my watch thinking, hurry up God. I still feel like crap and I’ve got deadlines to meet.
On Thursday afternoon about 4:15, as I was laboring over my manuscript, I receive a text from a Moth producer. They were having a Moth Mainstage in Boston (this is several days before the Marathon bombing). The show was sold out weeks in advance and there was no way to get a ticket. The producer had told me if anything came up she would let me know. The text says one seat had come available, $65, in the upper balcony. It was mine if I wanted it. Doors open at 7; show starts at 8; I live two hours away.
I hem and haw and think no, I should stay here and write. That if I was a “real writer,” whatever that means, I wouldn’t be distracted by other events and I’d have focus. Where were my priorities? Plus, I had a two-hour drive ahead of me to a part of Boston — Somerville — I’d never driven to before. Was it wise to put my fragile artist sensibility through that stress? It might ruin the next day for writing. The whole trip seemed fraught with the potential for disaster. But I knew it would be a great show. I call my husband for advice. He says, “Get in the car and go.”
I print out the maps to get to Somerville. I put on some lipstick, because everything is better with lipstick. I start the car and say, “Okay, God, I don’t even know if I should be going, but I am, so please bless this trip.” I pray a lot, not always gracefully.
I’m actually looking at the map, which is telling me a new and better way to get to Somerville than the one I imagined. But while I am looking straight at this map that offers the best directions, I can’t visualize them. I am still seeing my own way to get there — I’m still planning to take the route I thought of, even though it will take much longer and be more difficult. Talk about metaphor.
And somehow, just outside of Boston, something clicks. I actually do visualize the better directions, just in time to take the proper exit. The theater, which I thought would be buried in a maze of Somerville streets, appears in front of me. I think, that was easy, but I know the parking will be a disaster, as it always is anywhere in Boston. A woman honks her horn, rattling me, as I look for the public parking lot. I think, gosh darnit now I’ve missed the parking lot. Then I look up and voila! The parking lot! It’s packed with cars, all trying to find a spot. None are available. I think, here we go. I’ve made it safely to Somerville, but now I’ll miss the show because I can’t find a place to park. I roll down the window and ask a man if he knows of another lot. He tells me good luck, there are no more parking lots around here. At that moment, a woman, who is walking near my car says, “I’m leaving. You can have my space.”
So now I have a coveted parking space two blocks from the theater. I go inside to purchase my ticket. I tell the box office person I need to purchase the remaining $65 ticket in the upper balcony. She gives me a comp ticket in the orchestra section. I’m confused, but thrilled.
I find my seat. A lovely woman joins me saying, “I can’t believe I get to sit next to you. I saw you tell your story here last year and I loved it — I’ve been thinking about it ever since.”
This story just goes on and on. I know three of the five Moth storytellers that night and it’s like old home week. The shot of creative adrenaline I receive from my fellow tribe members is invaluable and inspiring. And as it turns out, a run into a person involved with last summer’s stalled creative project — the one I was convinced I’d ruined — who could not have been nicer, still filled with enthusiasm for the project and praise for my storytelling capabilities. The project timing was just off — nothing more — and there’s a good chance we’ll work together in the future.
As I leave to drive back to New Hampshire, I realize I have no idea how to get out of Somerville. I can’t go back the way I came as I drove a series of one way streets and I think, I knew it, this is where the evening will crash and burn. I’ll spend an hour trying to find my way out of Somerville, ruining an otherwise fabulous evening. I ask a theater attendant for directions to the interstate. Turns out I’m two blocks away. Literally, it was my smoothest trip to Boston in years.
Not surprisingly, my work is back on track. So much for all the disaster I was anticipating — instead, I received an amazing kind of grace. Here’ s hoping I actually remember this lesson, but knowing me, I’ll have to learn it all over again.
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