“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” ~Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller

My January made me think about both these quotes, which I realize is a strange and unexpected pairing. I bet you never thought you’d see Dickens and Bueller quoted side by side! And what does this have to do with The Wiz? Trust me, I’m getting there.

My life moves pretty fast. Part of me knows that it would serve me better to slow down, learn to be more quiet and still and contemplative, and I’m working on that. Yet another (still bigger) part of me loves the pace I set. I grew up with this go-go-go mindset. When my dad took us to an amusement park, we were there at opening, would literally run from ride to ride, and stay until the park closed. My husband jokes that my Dries family-of-origin motto is “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth beating into the ground.”

The past two weeks were like that for me, in the most wonderful, familiar way. First, my sister came to California to surprise my brother for his birthday and go see The Wiz together. I already posted about that, so won’t go into it all again, but it was fun and meaningful and amazing! And the tornado image of the play from the album and playbill cover made me think of my colorful, dizzying month.

After working for a few very busy days the week after Keri’s visit, I proceeded to jump on a plane for a last-minute trip to Florida to see my niece in a play. Not just in a play, actually, starring as Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web! She was terrific! Then home on Sunday and back to a busy work week on Monday.

So that all speaks to the Ferris quote. Now, for where his wisdom overlaps with Dickens…

The day before I left for Florida, I learned that my nephew had the flu. Then that my sister’s cats had fleas. I called an audible and booked a hotel room for the first night of my stay, to give my sister’s house a chance to air out a bit. The next day, I hung out with my son and got to know his girlfriend (love her!). Then went to my cousin’s son’s amazing production of Into the Woods. Then went to my sister’s. A few minutes before we were about to leave for Eliza’s play, Patrick fell off his scooter and broke his wrist. So some of us went to the play and others went to the ER. I left the next morning, after saying a final goodbye to my sister’s twenty-something-year-old cat, who she was putting down the next day.

It was the best of times and the worst of times. And not really the worst of times, because flu and fleas and a fracture aren’t the worst, but bad enough that the quote still came to me on the flight home.

Do you know the next few lines from A Tale of Two Cities? I didn’t, until I looked it up for this blog, to make sure I got it right. The complete quote is this: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” That was published in 1859 and still feels true today, which in my mind speaks to intrinsic truth, yet not my point here.

The point is it comes back around to wisdom, my word of the year, and the idea that wisdom is inherently about the messy middle, the complexity in life. The constant “and.”

Which naturally brings me to Into the Woods. Ha! Look at how much I’m smooshing together in this blog (which is the point of this blog!). The baker’s wife sings a beautiful song to try and make sense of her moment in the woods with the prince. She comes to the conclusion that the woods are to blame for what has happened to her and that it is time to leave the woods. But of course, all of life is what happens in the woods. There is only one way to leave the woods, and very few of us are ready for that.

Life is only moments, and those moments are often crazy and complicated and whizzing by at warp speed. They are the best of times and the worst of times. They are swirling around us always, so we really have to keep our eyes open, look around once in a while, and let out an “ooh” and an “ahh.”