My typical commute is a five-minute walk (including stoplights) from my apartment to the Lowell National Historical Park visitor center in downtown Lowell. The most danger is trying not to get hit by a car at the merging of Dutton and Market Street.
This week, I am commuting to Boston. I chose to take the train, thinking it would be less stressful than the drive on a packed highway.
Two mornings and one evening later, I have decided that the train is no vacation. My mind and body get all crazy like until I am safely on the train and in a seat, my ticket in hand. I worry that I will leave my apartment too late and miss the train. Even when I see it sitting beneath the overhead walkway, I am imagining it pulling away from the station and leaving my behind.
What is that?
I have run through airports and sprinted to catch trains in Europe. I have not missed one yet. In fact, this morning I arrived nearly ten minutes early and have written an entire page before feeling rumbling, surging backward, and then a slow lurch forward toward Boston.
Having decided to take the train rather than drive, I have given myself 40 minutes to sit and think each morning and evening. During this time, I write.
Most of what has come to mind is how very out of place I continue to feel in this country and culture.
For as long as I have had my name, I have felt like an anomaly. It took nearly 30 years to figure out a simple way of explaining how to remember the correct pronunciation for “Marieke.” It is like Monica but with an “r” instead of an “n.” recently, I have begun offering the idea of thinking of pirate speak with regard to the stress on the first syllable “mar.” Think “arrrrrr.”
I listened to a woman on the phone tell an invisible person on the other end to watch a movie to get their mind off of things as I was writing about delving more deeply in. I will be the first to admit that I have watched many television series and drank my fair share of red wine, but in the past few years I have tried to move deep into whatever was causing my emotional discomfort and distress.
I read advertisements that could not have been designed for me. If they were, they have failed with shining colors.
For a bank (I had to study the advertisement to figure this out because the phrasing did not lead me to the natural conclusion):
“Value is like swagger.
You know when you have it.”
Do I have a swagger? I know I have value. I thought about this statement for a few minutes, attempting to decipher it and then decided it was not worth the trouble.
When I was in graduate school, I took a course called “Metaphor and Language in Environmental Discourse.” We spent the majority of the class studying and deconstructing metaphors used in the English language. Most were violent and antagonistic.
Break a leg.
Let’s go out and beat them today.
Play hard. Play rough.
I used to find it distressing, this state of anomaly in connection with my peers. Now, I find it oddly comforting. I am thankful that I am somehow unaffected by strange advertisements deciding my value for me. I would not say I am in a state of constant zen, but I am working to find peace with who I am and to go so far as to celebrate my self and identity.
I am learning to be witness but not prisoner to all of those messages out there telling me to be, feel, and define my self in ways that feel out of place with my inner voice.
Through this practice, I am creating a sustainable self and way of being in the one life I have the privilege to lead.
And in the wise words of Matthew Broderick, “Life moves pretty quick. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it.”