It was, of course, at this precise moment that my husband casually pointed out that I was driving on the wrong side of the road.
And by ‘other side’ I don’t mean I had just meandered a few inches over the dotted line; I was driving entirely on the other side of the golf cart path. A golf cart path that provides for two-way traffic- not just “Alison can drive wherever she wants” kind of traffic.
“Oh, puhlease!” I sputtered indignantly now, rolling my eyes for dramatic effect despite the fact it was pitch dark outside and Tommy wasn’t looking at me. (He was too busy clutching at the hang bar on our golf cart, shrieking that we were about to die.) “It’s not like anyone’s even coming this way,” I pointed out smugly, slowing down the cart so I could turn off onto the grass and reverse the cart. “So, just, ya know, calm down, dude.”
I mean, come on. My husband spent twenty years working in a profession in which he dealt with life and death situations every day. Seriously scary stuff. Hero stuff. Hardly was me and my cute little golf cart going off the road for, like, a nanosecond any reason to get all hysterical, right?
“It’s not like you can even tell which side is which in the dark,” I was stating even more smugly now as we continued down the path…in the wrong direction.
That’s when my husband pointed out the fact that our golf cart has headlights. Very bright headlights. Headlights that light up the road for a good, oh, quarter mile or so. (Whatever.)
“Well, my contacts are bothering me lately, ” I snipped back annoyed. “I can’t see.”
That’s when my husband pointed out that I was not wearing my contacts. I was wearing my new glasses. The new glasses about which I have been raving because “I can see so clearly in these beauties!” (Whatever.)
“Well,” I continue, still in defensive mode and still rolling my eyes, “whoever built this path should, like, have marked it way better than they did. You really can’t tell when you’re on the wrong side of the road.”
That’s when my husband pointed out the large median divider to our right. The one that was supposed to be to our left. The one that the designers of this golf cart path apparently added to certain points of the otherwise open path to alert commuters to the fact that there are two separate lanes of traffic.
Again, I roll my eyes, now adding a huffy huff for added effect. “Well, you can barely see that thing!”
That’s when my husband pointed out that the median is not only long enough, and wide enough, to accommodate several full-grown palm trees and bushes within its perimeter, but is also outfitted with myriad reflective devices. Reflective devices he claims are intended to discourage drivers like me from failing to see the median. (Whatever.)
“Well, it’s not like anyone is coming towards us,” I remarked casually. “We’re all alone.”
A comment my husband responded to with some murmuring about how that could ‘change at any time.’ That someone might come from the other direction. (Whatever.)
I was having none of it.
“Well, what can I say?” my voice now raised involuntarily to that slightly hysterical pitch that means I have lost the argument on paper, but am still fighting it hard-as-nails in my head. “I’ve got a lot on my mind. And the last thing I can be worried about is stupid traffic lanes.”
Although certainly not the response the Department of Motor Vehicles would want to hear, this was true. I did, in fact, have a lot on my mind.
Only ten days into the month of April and it’s been a whirlwind of activity and stress. Exactly a year has gone by since I was in the hospital. Pulmonary embolisms had sneaked into my lungs and threatened to take me out. Until now, I hadn’t ever really understood how much the whole almost dying thing can rattle a person’s psyche. The world looks different when you come lose to not being in it anymore. Yeesh. Close calls. And we’ve all had those close-calls. The only difference is, I was totally aware of mine at the time.
On top of that, all the longterm, personal writing projects I’ve been working on for the two years are finally coming to a state of finalization now. Which means I have to do the unthinkable: cease focusing on the creative writing (my strong suit and personal joy), and get to work mapping out marketing plans for each of them (so very not my strong suit and so very much not my personal joy.) It’s that time in the game when a writer no longer gets to say, “Oh, I’m still working on that project. Stay tuned.” The work is done, and now has to be pushed out and judged by the masses. (Or, in my case, the one person who will buy my books.)
Plus, I’m really, really disappointed with the season finale of “The Walking Dead.” Is Glenn still alive? Is Daryl dead? Does Alicia Florrick know that her new lover has a penchant for baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire? Not to mention how very weighed down I am by my failure to become fluent in French by the time my mother and I fly off to Paris this summer for a mother/daughter adventure. The best I can do right now is order un croissant. (And I’d probably mess that up by accidentally calling it a poisson.)
“Just get back into your lane please,” my husband, his voice now palpably testy, advised with an exhausted sigh.
It was the kind of exhausted sigh I hear him often. The one he lets out every time I break the kitchen garbage disposal by shoving artichoke leaves into it. The one he lets out when I decide to spray paint a piece of furniture in the house hot pink and accidentally end up spray painting parts of the house itself. The kind of exhausted sigh he lets out when I use the pointy ears of his full-size Yoda figure to dry my wet bras while doing laundry.
“Please…” my husband groans.
But I’m not ready to get back in my proper lane yet. Being on the wrong side, if only for a few seconds, feels good. I feel alive. Granted we’re traveling only 10 m/p/h, but it’s an exciting 10 m/p/h because it feels different. Defiant. Dangerous. Wild. For two years now I have been driving this golf cart of ours down the proper side of the road, following all the rules (well, except for that time I accidentally drove into the exit of a golf cart tunnel, but I digress.)
There are people in the world who don’t follow the rules. Ever. People who do precisely what they are not suppose to do. People who climb mountains they’re told not to climb. People who write books they’re told will never sell. People who instigate fights they’re told they can never win. People who take up causes everyone else deems futile. People who drink milk not just past its expiration date, but waaaaaaay past it.
As the golf cart keeps traveling the wrong way I do a quick mental check on where I stand among these people. Do I break the rules? Sometimes, yes. I can be just as impulsive as I can be practical. And, at least creatively, I am quite certain that I function way more out of the box than it in. And I like that. But sometimes I’m so busy functioning outside of the box that I have trouble finding my way back in it when it’s clearly time to grab hold. That sucks. Then again, sometimes I think I play it too safe. Way too safe. And people who play it safe don’t make history.
But then again, do I want to make history? Not so sure. If it’s making history because I do something important like save people’s lives or invent a cure for a disease or discover a new country, sure. However, with my luck, the only way I’ll ever ‘make history’ is by getting attacked by a Megalodon in a swimming pool. Making the 10 o’clock news for being the first victim to die in the mouth of a previously extinct shark- a shark that then dies of Salmonella poisoning after eating me because I had sucked down expired milk that morning. Well, call me crazy, but that’s not the kind of history I want to make.
I don’t exactly see my parents bragging at a dinner party about, “how very proud we are of our little Alison. Getting eaten by that historic shark in the kiddie pool at the Motel 6. (And yes, she’s even littler now haha!)”
Breaking rules is fun. But man, it’s hard to know which ones to break. Hell, do I even know what the rules are on any given day? I mean, when you’re in your 40s, it sort of feels like the rules are always changing and somehow staying exactly the same. Weird. It’s hard to know which rules are for breaking and which are for following. What to challenge and what to accept in life. Which dreams are worth pursuing and which should just be dumped on the shoulder of the road as we drift onto a familiar exit ramp.
I stayed in the wrong lane of that golf cart path for a tiny bit more, trying to come to terms with what kind of person I am when it comes to rules. I doodled along just long enough to enjoy the sensation of the wrong direction breeze in my hair and chuckle at the sideways, wrong direction expression on my husband’s face. I was laughing; he was not.
And then I freaked out and got back into the proper lane.
Tommy stopped clutching at his heart.
And we moved on…back on the right side of the road.