One day long ago I was chatting with a dear friend about some new device or other one of us was trying to figure out in the absence of a quick start guide—you know: the leaflet, or nowadays often DVD, that comes with a new gadget or gizmo and allows the impulsive among us to start using the new thingummie stat. I mean, as if anybody actually had time to sit down and read an entire instruction manual.
Funny thing is, at that point in my life—and my friend’s—we really did not have time for trivialities like reading instruction manuals. I was parenting an incredibly challenging youngster, and she three of them, including a pair of twins. Quick Start Guide became shorthand between us to refer to any urgent situation life might have thrown our way and for which we needed wisdom, immediately.
I did not have a Quick Start Guide for my life’s reboot last August. Nor an instruction manual. I did have a Garmin, however, and it has saved my neck on several occasions when I’ve been in the middle of nowhere—which describes most of the state of Vermont—trying to find something. You can’t miss it, the locals often quip when you ask for directions. I am here to tell you as a newbie that you can indeed miss it, and are in fact likely to until you really get the lay of the land.
Like the day I was to meet my two colleagues at a rural gas station from which we would convoy to the home of our brilliant piano accompanist to discuss music for our spring performance. I was in a hurry and did not bother using the Garmin; mercifully, this time the conventional you-can’t-miss-it directive proved true, and I did find the gas station. I was running a few minutes late to our rendezvous, however, and in no time my cell started ringing. A somewhat annoyed ballet school director wanted to know where I was. In the beautiful Vermont countryside, I replied. (This was the truth.) With some irritation in her voice she continued, No, I mean, what are you near? A barn. With some outbuildings. (This was also the truth.)
No useful landmarks, no navigation device, no quick start guides. That more or less describes where I am just now, in this particular chapter. It’s all good, as they say, at least for the time being. I left behind a life characterized by noise and chaos and urgency and now find myself in relative quiet where time can even appear to stand still. It is restorative. It is what I needed, even if it has meant taking a vow of poverty, of sorts.
But before too much longer I will require a plan. Perhaps not so much a quick start guide, but a more comprehensive instruction manual. Many people in my life have assured me that this is what will come to pass when I truly need it.
I just hope the instructions are clear and offer more landmarks than a barn and a few outbuildings; it may possibly be time for some billboards—big ones with loud colors and huge text: QUICK START GUIDE JUST AHEAD ON LEFT. I will take all the navigational help I can get.