On Keeping It Together When You Mess Everything Up

I almost had a public meltdown on Saturday but somehow I pulled myself together. Here's how -- sorta.

Jun 25, 2012 at 3:12pm | Leave a comment

You know that saying, "If you wanna hear God laugh, tell her about your plans?" Well if you want to see God practically piss herself, then show her the gag reel that was my life on Saturday. 

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Me replacing ballerina Misty Copeland at the Saturday matinee performance of the American Ballet Theatre.


The "plan" was pretty darn simple. Head up to New York in the morning just in time to catch the American Ballet Theatre's two o'clock matinee performance of "Firebird" featuring fellow brown girl Misty Copeland. Afterwards I'd have tea and scones with my god kids ages Almost 10, 7-and-a-half and just-turned 3. Then it was sushi and wine with my bestie and off to Penn Station for the 8 p.m. train back home. Done and done. 

My alarm went off at 7:15 in the a.m. That left me a whole hour and 30 minutes to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and make it to the Chinatown bus. To me that sounds like a lot of time. All to my credit all those things happened but not how they were supposed to.

I lingered under the hot water in the shower too long, then watched some Bill Maher while pushing eggs around my plate, then my cab came late and on top of that he had the gall to not know his way around DC. 

Failing to hide how annoyed I was, I still managed to direct Mr. Cab Driver, Sir to the bus pick-up lot 10 minutes (without traffic) from my house. I'm border-line low functioning when it comes to directions. So, of course, I got lost in my own city. A city where knowing the alphabet and how to count to 30 should get you just about anywhere. 

Before my cabbie could come to even a rolling stop across the street from the Chinatown pickup lot, I kicked open the passenger door and dashed into oncoming traffic just in time to leap onto the bus before its automatic doors wooshed closed behind me. Yes, it was that dramatic. And yes, I do this all the time. 

Because I'm ridiculous, I always plan things down to the very last second, giving myself maybe 10 minutes of wiggle room if I'm feeling generous and never accounting for the odds to ever not be in my favor. What happened next finally availed me of that failed theory.

In short: The bus left 15 minutes late, the driver was new, I had to change into my fancy clothes in the bathroom, we got to New York a full hour late, I had 10 minutes to get from 34th Street to 65th, it took that long just to hail a cab.

A call from my boyfriend comes in. He has to work that weekend from his office, which is about 20 miles from our apartment.

"Hey, can you check to see if you grabbed my keys by mistake?" he asks.

Of course, I took his keys. The keys he needs to get into a locked office building without a doorman to do work that's both time sensitive and important. Of course. 

"Ugh," was all I could muster. Somehow I haven't broken down yet. 

It's exactly two o'clock when I rush to Will Call to pick up the box seat ticket I sprung for. The woman at the window in front of me is exasperated about something, but I'm too flustered to eavesdrop. 

When my turn finally comes, the cashier can't find my ticket. "H-e-l-e-n-a?" I ask. "A-n-d-r-e-w-s?" She looks in another box and nods her head in an "aha" moment. I'm relieved until she turns to me with the news, "You bought a ticket to the 8 p.m. show," she says matter-of-factly.

"So I won't even get to see Misty Copeland today?"

"Oh, Misty's not dancing at all," the cashier explained. "She's injured."

That's when I took a metaphorical knee. And laughed. 

I live for these kind of moments. The times in life when nothing goes right and all you can do is look up and say "Fuck it." Too often we get lulled into the myth that everything is in our control, when in reality absolutely nothing is in your control. You can steer the ship but you can't predict the wind. So why not just let it jostle you around a bit from time to time?

Taking pity on me, the cashier switched my ticket with a wink and nod, just before adding, "But the program's already started so you have to wait an hour until intermission before you can go in." I laughed again. 

On a lark, I showed my ticket to a woman near the entrance to see how far my "luck" could stretch. "You're in a box," she said. "Go right in." 

For the next hour-and-a-half, I let myself go while watching artistic athletes kick ass in tights. It was beautiful and it was worth it. At least that's the mantra I adopted for the day. This all has to be worth it -- otherwise my life doesn't work.

So whenever a thought bubbled up like, "Why didn't you leave the house earlier, dumbo?" or "How could you grab the wrong keys, genius?" I let it float away so I could be present at the ballet, present for my goddaughters who I haven't seen in almost a year and present for myself when I reflected back on the day's event over a quick glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

On the train ride back (I made it with close to 30 seconds to spare. Shut up), I slept most of the way, dreaming about ballerinas and fairy wings and being as free as an almost 10-year-old when tiny mistakes like grabbing the wrong keys and getting up a hair too late don't linger; they melt away at the end of day.