Monday, July 7, 2008

Only as far as your headlights.

For me, Anne Lamott always says it best.

For her, I guess E.L. Doctorow said it best because she quotes him in "Bird by Bird" which my Dad said was the best book on writing ever and I think I'd have to agree. In fact, it may just be the best book, period.

Anne, on E.L.:

"E.L. Doctorow once said that 'writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard."

Say it, Annie.

I wish, I wish like the dickens, I could take this advice.

I wish for near-sightedness. To only focus only on the next two or three feet. Instead, most days I am three miles down the road, sometimes because that's where I'm comfortable, planning the future, sometimes it's because the two square feet I'm planted in is filled with mud and poop and I'm wearing my good shoes.

Like today for instance.

Like most natural disasters, there was no warning. I came home and picked up a happy-go-lucky young Finn and attempted to put him in the car to go pick up Reese from school. For reasons I'm still not clear on, he was none too happy about my selection of events. Even though he adores Reese. Even though he adores her school. I don't know, maybe he had something against the Volvo, or the fact that the Volvo was ten billion degrees. Whatever it was, the entire neighborhood, perhaps the entire city of Sacramento, could attest to the unhappiness of my son at four this afternoon. The two of us were wrestling in his car seat, me trying to buckle him in, him trying to make me sweat my body weight in record time. The kid is like Ultimate Fighting Baby; I've never known anyone as strong. There he is: back arched, legs straight as arrows, face beet red, tears and snot flying. I was completely outmanned. I tried everything: negotiation, bribery, threats, begging. Nothing worked. Ultimately, it was trickery; I think I may have pointed at a passing car and said something like:

"Look, Elmo!"

And then fastened him, quick as a whistle, into his car seat.

Suffice it to say, we made it to school to pick up Reese and endured yet another fun battle to the death of getting him back in the car and then a debate broke out between the two of them over a small green sand toy that had been sitting in the back seat unnoticed for about two weeks.

Within five minutes of being home both of them were in time out and I was contemplating a run for the border. And I'm not talking Taco Bell.

These are the times I have a hard time living in the present. I wish I could just dig in and have the perspective that this is only temporary. This tantrum, this 100th "noooooooooooo", this "I don't want a bath/ponytail/that snack/this snack/whatever you want me to have" is only the particular two or three feet ahead of me and that leaning into the curve is OK. Instead I just want to fly through this, time traveler style and get to the next phase. Whatever phase that is not this phase. I need to know the destination and I am giving the journey the finger.

Yet I know, even as I'm doing it, that this is a mistake. I know that by taking my eyes off the road, by shooting ahead on the map instead of focusing in on this route, albeit a bumpy one, I'm also missing the thrill of the ride at times.

When I have the ability to see this, I grab my conciousness like a wayward dog and yank it by the scruff of its neck and force it to concentrate on now. And in doing so, I'm back. Just in time to hear my four-year old explain to me, just an hour after her horrific toddler tantrum, where exactly Earth is in the solar system and why Pluto is the coldest planet, 'cause it's the furthest from the sun.

1 comment:

Trace said...

Oh, I know of what you speak! I tell myself all the time to enjoy the moment becuase as sure as shinola, it will be gone in a blink of an eye and I will be mopping up my own tears over its passing.
This morning for example, the 2 year old not only turned his bowl of cereal over onto the floor, but then flung his brother's full cereal bowl across the floor and onto the window. I'm still trying to recupe!