Yesterday the town decided it was time to pave the cross street to our subdivision. The road has been in horrible shape for years, not to mention that it is narrow and has no shoulder. It’s a road I know by heart not just from driving on it but from running on it. I know where the blind spots are. I know where the dips and bends are. I know the hills and the curves. I also know the potholes.
Our subdivision is nearly sixty years old and is comprised of two parallel streets and a newer cul de sac lollipopped on at the end. The only way out is on the street they were paving. Throughout the day if you wanted to leave by car, you were stopped at the end of the road and made to wait. I’m pretty sure they just wanted us to stay put. Honestly, I felt a little bit trapped which is not a way I like to feel. Feeling trapped brings out the worst in me.
I got it in my head that if I tried to go for my run, they would stop me and tell me I couldn’t. This was, of course, a ridiculous thought. I easily escaped through the barricades. I went on a run I haven’t done in a while. The roads are not quite as familiar as my normal loops which is why I like it. Back on the road home, I stopped and watched the river for a bit. It’s a small river and yet it used to power a grist mill. The mills are all gone now but the river remains. I kept the river in my mind all day.
At night I left my house to go into town to teach. It was strange to drive out with the paved road beneath my tires. I was used to anticipating the bumps and dips and to being alert for cars veering into my lane to avoid the huge potholes. This was just smooth and easy. The machines and workers gone. We were no longer trapped.
Coming home by the light of the moon and with the peepers loudly making themselves known, I hesitated as I turned on the newly paved road. I’m used to knowing this road by heart. I’m used to letting my body find its way home. I had to force myself to stay in my lane and not avoid the potholes that were no longer there. I had to force myself to acknowledge this new road.
When I turned onto my street I realized that the new road had led me back to where I started and that while it felt different, it also felt good.
Yesterday, I started on another new road. One in which I committed to certain decisions about my writing life. One in which I chose one path for my writing, instead of another. This path is newer and requires me to use my brain instead of letting my instinct do the work. This path is me breaking through the barricades and pushing myself out to where I can acknowledge my own abilities instead of relying on what is easiest for me.
All this is to say that as long as we are allowed choice, we are not trapped. If we have access to choice we can set out into unfamiliar territory and trust in ourselves and our ability.
The writing life need not be about staying still.
I want you to trust in yourself. I want you to stop avoiding the potholes and accept the freshly paved road. I want you to learn that road by heart and then I want you to choose another road to learn again and so on and so on.
I want you to find your way home. And when you do, I will meet you there.