Have you ever found yourself heading in the wrong direction down a one-way street?
That happened to my mother when she was driving me to a late rehearsal in Manhattan. It was the first rehearsal, and she was unsure of the best route to our destination, so she made a wrong turn.
I was nine, and I remember exactly three things about that turn: the volume of rush hour traffic heading toward us; my mother’s curses in three different languages; and the speed with which she spun the car around and got us off the road.
She was a good driver, my mother—focused and assured, with marvelous instincts and steady nerves, and loved to be behind the wheel. In all her years of driving, she never had an accident.
But that’s beside the point.
She knew, as soon as she made that turn, she would have to change course.
The times we should do that are not always so clear. We rationalize away warning signs, and tolerate unpleasant treatment and sometimes dangerous conditions telling ourselves we’re exaggerating, misinterpreting, being silly, or even at fault. And we tell ourselves things will get better, because, occasionally, they do. We get a small raise or a little praise. There’s that one night pizza doesn’t make us sick, and nuts do not cause a rash. Or, the phone call from a lover, who’s broken our hearts more often than not, comes after six months of silence.
It gives us all the reasons we need to doubt the truth…
…until the boss goes back to being a greedy, unappreciative, or abusive lout; or there’s a sleepless night dealing with indigestion and hives, or worse; or the lover acts like an entitled, condescending ass before disappearing again.
That’s when it’s time to change course and get off.
We can rationalize creative wrong turns, too.
I did it for fifteen years—working on a book, and writing it in ten different ways before I admitted I had turned down ten one-way streets going in the wrong direction.
That was when I decided to forget it, change course.
And a miraculous thing happened: a new route emerged, a fresh point of view…
…from a character who had been begging to speak.
I spent all those years crafting strained and ludicrous narratives for characters in his orbit who didn’t have his eloquence, awareness, depth, or passion.
What a waste…when the truth was in front of me the whole time.
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