On Wednesday night, I trekked from Brooklyn to a cathedral on the lower edge of Harlem to see a talk given by the first guest I’d invite to a fictional fantasy dinner party: Krista Tippett. (I’d be cooking some sort of vegan curried eggplant, probably, and serving it alongside generous glugs of red wine. Krista would sit at the head of the table — or perhaps we’d all be spread on a blanket on the floor of my Brooklyn apartment, or squeezed together on the slatted stairs of my fire escape, me and Krista and Elizabeth Gilbert and Andy Warhol and a few special others.)
When I say that I “trekked” there, I mean it. The trip took an hour and a half, and it was neither pretty nor pleasant. One of the subway lines wasn’t running properly. I waited for fifteen minutes while the crowd gradually poured in around me on the platform, and then we all squeezed tight like chickpeas in the crammed can of the car, overheated and grumpy and tired and hungry for dinner.
The subway always seems to break down at the most inopportune moments, but I was running late even before its snafu. As we jostled along on our way uptown, I tried not to panic, craning my head to see the clock as the time ticked closer and closer to the start of the event. I worried that the cathedral would shut its doors at 7pm when the show was scheduled to begin. That I would get all the way there and be locked out. That I’d miss my one sacred opportunity to witness one of my most admired role models in person.
And so I did what I’ve been training myself to do over the course of the last year or two: I tried to breathe slower. I paid attention to my chest rising and falling, rising and falling, pulsing quietly and consistently despite the chaos around me. I reminded myself that the universe is not out to get me and that this unfunny comedy of errors was not some secret ploy to ruin my day, but just a random coincidence, out of my control. What I could control was the way I reacted to the the stress — and so I did my best to carry myself through the mess as lightly as I could.