417 reasons to wake up NOW


Today was a bit of a wash.

Literally, for many people: we had thundamous rain here in L.A., which is quite the novelty and mayhem-maker in these parts, especially the hilly parts that have just been scorched by fire and deluged with toads. (Oh, wait, no toads. Yet. I'm pretty sure the Third Horseman brings those with him in his man-bag.)

I don't mind rain, myself, provided I'm dressed for it (if I'm going out) or have no need of venturing out into it in the first place. Sunshine can become as relentlessly monotonous and tiresome as any other condition, the hot kind being especially wearying. After a year like this one, where summer started in April and kicked our collective asses steadily until November, I am a-okay with the water.

Today, however, was one of those days where adding water royally screwed up the works, from the sodden morning walk with Arno J to the tire I blew on a rain-masked curb to the six hours and three hundred bucks I lost to a new set of front tires, realignment and other assorted forms of asshole tax I very rightfully was made to pay because of my stubborn, or perhaps cavalier, refusal to adapt to changing circumstances.

It was raining, you see, when I woke up, or rather, when Arno J dutifully woke me up as part of his daily contribution towards our special time together. Raining in L.A., where the hills are steep and the sidewalks shitty under the driest of circumstances. Add water and you have swirling surprise eddys of dank, cold mess at every turn, and on most of the straightaways.

Poor Arnie, who is part terrier, part A Whole Bunch of Other Stuff and zero parts labrador retriever, did his level best to get us once around the loop with minimal water damage, but it was impossible: by the time we got home, I was soaked in gritty water from toes to hips, the rest of me lightly misted over from Arnie's repeated attempts to "shake it off" en route.

Now, I had STUFF TO DO, so after getting Arnie dry and breakfasted, and The BF his first cuppa, I grabbed the only dry spares I had, shorts and thin, beachy sneakers, and hightailed it outta there. No breakfast. No...pants. An empty tummy and shorts, in wet, 50-degree weather, because WHAT COULD HAPPEN? I lived a mere five-point-two miles away, and all I had to do on the way home was to stop for gas.

I told you the part about the raging water and the hidden curb and the blowout, right? Did I tell you the part about knowing instantly what happened and cursing myself? How about the part where I got out of the car (in my shorts, in my thin, summery shoes, in the rain) and looked at it (YUP, IT'S FLAT, ASSHOLE) and cursed myself some more? No?

Did I tell you about the bit where I realized with bitter irony that I had done this in an actual gas station, one with no garage (and cursed myself, and modernization)? Or the part about where I realized that I, a 47-year-old woman with no idea of how to change a tire, wasn't sure whether to call AAA, The BF or find some other, more obvious course of action I was probably missing because I was cold and hungry and wet and dressed inappropriately?


Well, how about if I tell you the part where I saw a tire place across the street, and cursed myself for being afraid they'd rip me off because I knew nothing about tires, or where I went in and asked the gas station cashier if they were any good, these tire people, and cursed myself for having to even ask? I did a helluva lot of cursing trying to find a pedestrian crosswalk to get me across the street (raging rivers! drivers not looking out for pedestrians! shorts! in December!), and more when the tire guy said he couldn't send a guy ACROSS THE STREET to help me because of insurance (stupid fucking insurance! stupid fucking entire corpomegalopoly, while we're at it!), and more when I had to cross the street/raging river again.

And there was the embarrassing call to AAA, and the embarrassing call for help to The BF, and the embarrassing call to my repair guys (how many times do I have to tell this embarrassing story...in SHORTS!? in THE RAIN?!).

All in all, an angry-making, mood-killing, sumbitch morning that would make anyone mad at the world.

Or, more specifically, that would make me mad at the world.

Here's the thing, though. I've done a little time, I have, thinking about all of this Anger stuff and this Woe Is Me stuff and this Goddammit, This Fucking Sucks stuff. Some thinking and a whole lot of processing. And I'm here to tell you, if you do the thinking and you do the processing and you stay awake and you don't resist...

...and you get some help...

...and, let's be honest, here, you get some luck...

...you can come out the other side of it wet, cold, disheveled, even humiliated, even a little bit angry, and still feel good. Where "good" is even-keeled. Where "good" is appreciative or (dare I say it?) happy.

I got a small glimpse of what it might be like on the other side of enlightenment, people, and I'm here to say, that is some goooooood shit.

Because while you are cold and wet and cursing yourself for the lack of foresight in having the appropriate clothes handy with which to greet changed circumstances, you are also noting yourself having learned this lesson, and figuring out how you will do it better next time.

While you are being pulled around the course by your wet, wet dog, one frozen claw of a hand clutching an umbrella, the other the lead, switching the bag of poop between them and hoping you do not all slip and fall into god-knows-what kind of dank, nasty mess of a slime-filled pothole, you are also noticing with great, great love in your heart how your poor, wet terrier-dog is walking so valiantly, is so unhappy with the cold and wet while at the same time so grateful to be out in it, and you are glad, too.

When you have Well and Truly Fucked Your Right Front Tire and your beloved calls back offering help, and good coffee from the Cubans, you are (in your shorts, in your flimsy shoes) bowled over by this humbling, crushing, all-encompassing gratitude for the love in your life. Hell, when the AAA guy shows up, happy, wet, changing your tire in the cold, you are blown away by how tremendous people are, how unexpected things can be, how lousy one minute and wondrous the next, or better, how simultaneously awesome-in-the-good-way and awesome-in-the-bad.

When you are on your way with your little donut and you are suddenly not doing anything suddenly, because you must pay attention, because you cannot ride the freeways on your donut, how grateful you are for attention, and for donuts, and for enough breathing room to see that sweet jesus, in all the commotion you didn't get gas and now you are bone dry and lo! another gas station. They're WONDERFUL, all these gas stations; cities are WONDERFUL and gasoline is wonderful and having the money with which to buy gasoline? Beyond wonderful.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Last night, at the most recent installment of a little gathering some lovely friends have been putting on regularly for some time, someone told the story of 417, of an acquaintance who has been seeing the number "417" in various ways and places for her entire life. The storyteller, having been told the story of 417, started seeing them, too, on license plates, signs, clocks. We discussed it amongst ourselves, destiny or pattern-seeking, Messages from Beyond vs. Yellow Volkswagen Syndrome.

I say, who cares? The point of all of this, these breakdowns, these slowdowns, these numbers, this examination, is to stay awake. To be in the moment. To Be Here, Now. If thinking of the number 417 helps you to Be Here Now, use it. If a tragedy, minor or major, helps you to Be Here Now, use it. If reading my silly, rambling story about a crazy, mixed-up, "useless" day helps you to Be Here Now, use it. (And if it inspires you to tell a story, please do tell it, and then tell me. Really.)

But let's do it, shall we? Let's Be Here Now, whenever and however we can. It goes so fast, and then it's gone. And there are no do-overs. There is only, as I recently heard it put in a lovely bit of writing, "the big dirt-nap."

Wake up now, before your nap.

Cold or wet or out of gas. Broke or flush or dumped or in love.

Wake the hell up, everyone. And if you see me dozing off, wake me the hell up, too, would you?


Image by Burning Image via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.