I like to think I’m considered to be pretty flexible among my friends. I can usually be convinced to meet up anywhere, to do almost anything – to the point where I think it annoys people sometimes that I don’t have a preference, so I’ve recently been trying to give an opinion even if I don’t feel strongly about it, and simply follow that with a genuine “but you know I’m flexi.” It’s the same with my family: when we arrange a get-together I’m almost always the easiest in terms of scheduling. My job is usually flexible, my social life is pretty last-minute so I don’t have a lot of pre-scheduled events, and I’m unfussy about locations and cuisines and all that jazz. I pride myself on my ability to roll with the punches, but this past week has really challenged me on that.
First there was the earthquake – I happened to be sleeping over at my friend Kelsey’s apartment, which is just under five miles from the epicenter. We woke up in her bed at 3:30am, screaming and clutching at each other as if the world were ending, because that’s how it felt. I’ve been in a lot of earthquakes in my day, having grown up almost exclusively in California, and I’ve never been so scared in my life. My first thought was “it’s the apocalypse”; my second was “no, it’s an earthquake, but you’re still going to die in it.” Luckily, we were both unharmed aside from a few cuts and bruises (her tall standing mirror gave me a good wallop on the arm when it fell), but her apartment was a disaster; nearly all of her dishes broke, and half her wine fell out of her extensive rack, the broken bottles seeping a deep red across the floor in an eerily Hitchcockian manner, mingling with the water from her upstairs neighbor’s broken boiler and dyeing the rug and an awful lot of clothing a deep bruised purple. It was terrifying, the whole damned thing. The aftershocks didn’t help, nor did the power outage, which lasted through the rest of that already-scary-enough night and well into the next day. I cancelled all my plans that day to help Kelsey clean up, and while that was completely fine (and not something I would ever do differently), the last-minute rearrangement of minor things like drinks with other friends added an extra layer of uncertainty to my already-shaken view of my world.
Two days later, still exhausted from the lack of sleep that crazy night, I was walking down my parents’ very steep hill on my way to work when I stumbled, but instead of catching myself as I nearly always do I fell, badly hurting my right foot and scraping too many layers off my left knee. The pain was acute enough that I went for an x-ray, and while the foot isn’t broken it is very badly sprained – badly enough that I postposed my trip to Italy by three weeks to give it time to heal fully before I go climbing cobblestoned hills every day. Of course, an hour after I got off the phone with the airline my foot started to feel better and I immediately regretted changing the dates, but logically I know it’s better I changed it without needing to rather than keeping the date and risking being injured during the flight and my first week in a new place.
I’m still shaken. All my carefully laid plans have been badly disrupted recently, by unusual and very unexpected events beyond my control. As flexi as I like to think I am, I’ve struggled with my disappointment and frustration at these changes – I’m far too logical of a person to fully believe in signs or fate, but it’s difficult not to feel like something is trying to upend my attempt to regain control over my life.
Still, fuck that something. I’m doing it. I’m going to Italy for three months (I moved back the return date too), I’m going to write this goddamn book, and I’m going to push through the loneliness and emotionally draining writing with yoga and long walks (hence the need for my foot to heal properly). In fact, all this may just make me more determined and effective; nothing like a little extra resistance to get me to push even harder on a door I want to open. And don’t worry, I checked: the sign says push, not pull.