“Write about five days you would like to do over,” Maureen says. We’ve arrived for our Monday night writing workshop. The room still buzzes, takes time to quiet. (This was the kind of thing I couldn’t tolerate when I was new to teaching and taught face-to-face.) Maureen is patient, though. She sits, quiet, tells us again. My mind begins counting my regrets before my black Pentel touches paper. But she goes on. “You might choose to write about things you’d like to do differently,” she says, “or you might want to write about days you would like to live over again.” I pause, pen poised to begin. Is my mouth hanging open? For a moment, I am incapacitated. I don’t think it would have occurred to me to choose my best days, my sweetest moments. It shocks me, this harsh focus of mine I have lugged around for years. Relive that last exquisite day in Hopland with Joe? No question. That January afternoon in 1989 in the bathhouse at Wilbur when the snow was falling? My heart pounds. Yes, and yes. I decide to choose three regrets and two re-livings for our 15-minute freewrite. I don’t finish, but I go deep, scribble fast. I have to force myself to put down my pen, minutes after Maureen has called the time. I surface enough to know David is reading his work, and I need to listen. I wonder if I would have kept writing if it was someone else reading, ignore my responsibility to deliver feedback, risk being rude. Later, I tell Maureen how much I loved the writing prompt. “I think I could do that one fifty times,” I say.
“Maybe fifty blog posts?” she asks. “Fifty-four?” She smiles, raises her eyebrows, tilts her head. I look back at her, wordless. My mind lurches to catch up.
It feels big. Maybe, I think. Maybe fifty-four posts while I’m fifty-four, or maybe I’ll do this one when I’m fifty-five. I know I want to write about Mexico. I know I want to write my dreams. Now I know I want to write about moments and days I’d like to “do over” if I could. I don’t know what I’ll choose for my next year of posts, and I tense a little at the thought. My birthday is hurtling toward me. I need to decide, need to know. So I pray. I pray to know. I reach for trust. I’m grateful to be faced with the dilemma of choosing. It is a richer debate, a sweeter anguish, to be mired in choices. If I had no ideas, I know their absence would be agony. I should always be plagued by a plethora of possibilities, I think. “You should be so lucky,” I hear, a soft voice, a Yiddish accent. I almost laugh. I wonder what I’ll choose. And then I wonder if it will choose me.