the spin room at the jcc has those fabulous windows I've written about, huge and western facing, allowing me the views I so love. what I haven't written about is a repetitive phenomenon that I watch, at times, as I'm spinning away, my heart pounding and my legs wanting to do nothing more than slow down, slow way, way down, to a gentler, easier pace.
I first discovered this during power camp two years ago. we were doing some long and difficult practice that I have pushed outside my memory, and I was searching for a mental trick to ease the discomfort. I always sat so that I could look out the windows, but this time the relatively static tableau in front of me wasn't providing the necessary focal point to keep me from either screaming in frustration or quitting. until I discovered something that changed in a regular pattern, a consistent pattern, something I could probably even time and find to be completely, reliably predictable: a stoplight.
in the far left, lower corner of the southernmost window, my view of it partially hidden by the protective wall around the pool and a few stately pines, was the stoplight at the intersection of North Campus Drive and Mario Capecchi Drive (formerly Medical Drive, as it was named when I first glommed onto the stoplight trick). I discovered that the light changed from green, to yellow, to red, at regular intervals, and that I could trick my mind into letting my body work intensely for the time needed for a complete cycle of light colors, and then one more cycle, and then one more cycle . . .
I could not do what I do if it weren't for little mental games.
red, to green, to yellow, and then repeat.
I have used this trick a number of times during the many classes I've taken in that room, and basically this is what I tell myself: I can make it through five more cycles, then this part of the drill will be over. four more, then I'm sure we'll be moving on to something else. okay, three more. yep, two, and I'm still okay. one to go . . .
and whether I was correct in my time approximation or not, I kept going. I didn't scream, quit, or fail.
what came to me this morning, however, was not the rhythm of the changing colors, nor the length of cycle time, but the pause between red and green. there is a significant pause there, when north-south traffic has a red, and east-west traffic does, as well. a pause, a gap, a time of no man's land, a time without movement.
this morning I thought of a term used in the UK, gap year: a time off between secondary education and higher learning, often used to travel or to otherwise gain non-classroom experience.
I've felt for quite a while that I've been living in a gap. that my life was sailing along, green light, work, work, kids, family, keep it all going, all the balls in the air, green, green, green.
and then came just a moment of yellow, and then a screaming red.
and now I am in the gap. the pause.
the green is coming, I can feel it itching to turn itself on, energy prickling and snapping in the background, ready to power those green bulbs. but the fixture still shows red. the pause, the gap.
for the stoplight, this gap, this no man's land, lasts just about 1.5 seconds. which can nonetheless feel interminable, when one is in a hurry to get somewhere.
for me, this gap is lasting quite a bit longer than 1.5 seconds. and it, at times, feels interminable, because yes, I am somewhat in a hurry to get somewhere.
but I suppose in the big scheme of things, when I look back upon my life from the vantage point of time and distance, I will realize that my gap was not quite so long, after all.