The Unique and The Common

I'm only one full week into this November writing project and I'm already fighting against the desire to quit.

Here's the truth friends, lately I just want to crawl in my shell. I don't want to put myself out there. I don't want to create. I don't want to open my heart. I don't want to be involved in things. I just want to crawl in my shell and hide.

I'm trying to give myself grace for that feeling, trying to acknowledge what is valid and necessary in that feeling, while also not letting it rule and reign. So today, I'm trying for small steps. I'm showing up to write even though I want to run and hide. I might spend the rest of the day hiding, but for this small moment I'm choosing to create.

If you're curious to know more about my November writing project, click here.

Remember these are all unedited pieces, and all are strictly fiction. 

Here's what I have for November 9th:

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The snow was coming down hard now, but I was prepared. My umbrella kept most of it from clinging to my eye lashes and blurring my vision, but it couldn’t keep out the wind. I marveled at the women I past on the street in their high heels and short skirts. Didn’t they know it was winter? Were they made of some stronger material than skin?

As for me, my boots were thick and my coat thicker. I’d lived in New York for years now and knew how to handle the cold. I didn’t wear my high heels in the snow anymore. I carried mine in a bag slung over my shoulder, but I still carried them.

I turned the corner and headed straight into the wind. It whipped at my face and made me feel awake despite the exhaustion that had filled my body for most of the day. The city felt quieter in the middle of a snow storm, perhaps the snow acted as insulation for the noise. Perhaps it was just that less people were out in the middle of it. I could have taken a taxi, but I always walked home during the first snow storm of the year. It had become my ritual, my tradition. My way of taking note of time passing, and differentiating the seasons that seemed to get smudged and smeared together.

I liked to watch the little snow drops fight for my attention. I knew they were each unique and individual, but in this moment each one seemed nothing more than a part of the whole.  They could only be seen as unique when surrounded by space, seen up close. There was never any space. Not here. In the middle of the city, in the middle of the storm, they weren’t each unique snow flakes, they were just snowflakes. A mass of ambiguity held together by quantity. I thought of the people I passed on the street, the people I worked with, I thought of myself. If someone could take a microscope to our lives I’m sure that we would each be stunningly unique, but, here in the city, we were just a mass of ambiguity held together by quantity.

Each snow flake may be unique, but when you view a storm of snow flakes you see that they are really all the same. Each person may be unique also, but when you view a city full of people, they feel pretty much the same too.

I pulled my coat a little closer around my body, and shifted the case I carried full of contracts and obligations in my hand. At the cross walk I pushed the button and waited for the light to turn. It felt even colder when standing still. Where the roads crossed there was no protection from the buildings and the wind was free to rule the night. I watched as the cars moved past. It seemed the drivers were even crazier than normal. I saw a taxi cab cut narrowly in front of another car to make a turn they hadn’t originally planned. I was glad I had chosen to walk.

The light turned and I started across the street with purpose. I only had one more block until I reached home. The lights from the cars acted like spotlights for the snow. It fell at a steady pace, no one flake getting too much time in the spotlight, each looking exactly the same as all the others even in the light. But, the light did make them sparkle and glow, a bit like diamonds for a moment and then simple white and neutral again as they fell out of the light. I like them better in the dark, I thought. Less striving, more just being what they are, all unique and yet the same too. They were held in the tension of the special and the ordinary. The invaluable and the cheap.

I reached my apartment and paused on the front step. My bags were heavy and my shoulder’s ached, I wanted to get inside, but I stopped and turned around. Standing on the step I looked back at the snow falling onto the street. It would soon turn to mush and mud, but for this moment it was beautiful. Peaceful and calm, content in it’s commonness.

I turned again towards the door, pushed my key into the lock, and went inside. The warmth engulfed me and left me sweating. Before I had made it up the stairs to my door I had removed my scarf and coat, shedding layers with each step. When I got inside my small corner of the city I left everything by the door and walked straight to the window. I pulled the old lounge chair my father had passed down to me close to the window and took a seat. These little drops of frozen water deserved an audience and I was going to give them one. Their beauty, uniqueness and commonness all needed to be recognized, at least for tonight, at least in this small corner of the city. I would be their audience, they could tell me their stories. I sat and watched and listened.

(The picture that inspired this piece)

writingBethany Stedman