A flood in a New York hotel in St Patricks Day week and then a booking made by a travel website in a hotel that didn’t have a room led to me wandering the streets between midnight and 2.30am with my suitcase and nowhere to go.
Even as I was wandering I could see my mind ramping itself up
Part of it was creating the future: Will I have to sleep on the street? Is this where I die or get mugged? I imagined myself sleeping in a doorway and the terrible things that could happen. By 2.00am, 24 hours after I had left England, the future creator part of my mind was imaging myself into a total failure of my coaching practice which meant that my whole family would be out on the streets in the next few years. Full on technicolor drama.
Another part of my mind was in the past and on mistakes in my planning which of course were not just mistakes but flaws in my personality. Why was I so stupid to think that I could pay $400 for 5 nights in Manhatten on one of the biggest celebrations of the year and not have something go wrong. Why was I trying to save money? Why do I have a problem with spending? Why wasn’t I earning enough that it didn’t matter how much I spent (which looped neatly into future-horror scenario)?
Interestingly, alongside the fear and blame, another part of my mind was creating the story. If I were miraculously to survive, how I would I recount this to my family, to the fellow students on the course I was attending the following day, to Facebook. The story where I was a victim of the hotel, of St Patricks Day. The story in which everyone felt sorry for me or admired my ability to find a solution. Even though I was scared and angry at myself, I started to think that a picture or two might be a good idea.
Then there was another small, quiet part of my mind where I knew I was just walking, with my case, at 2am, in New York.
Where there was no past, no future, no story that involved me in anyway except as a witness.
This quiet place could observe the beauty of it all – the late night delivery men hoisting boxes into storerooms, the street cleaners hosing the sidewalks, a homeless man helping his disabled friend to lower himself down from his crutches, the merry tourists.
It could even observe the beauty of a human mind that takes itself into a frightening future or into a place of self-blame or into the desire to share the story in the most entertaining way.