On January 1st, my friend Kimberly and I started a twelve-week program called The Artist's Way, a workshop centered on recovering your creativity from a variety of blocks "including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity." I'm sure it sounds a little bit new-agey, and it is, but damn if some of the stuff in this book isn't spot-on and helping me in a big way.
There are several components to this program, including daily journaling and a weekly writing task list that correlates to what we're working on. Another piece of the workshop is called the Artist Date. Each week, you're supposed to take your creative self out on an artist date, just the two of you - no company - to do something creative and stimulating. You get to choose what the dates look like, and Julia Cameron, the author of the workshop, says that for many people, the artist dates are the hardest thing to stick to.
I've always been a person who enjoys time alone, and I love doing things like going to the movies or a coffeeshop by myself. Since I'm an avid reader, writer and knitter, it's pretty easy to entertain myself on my own. But Cameron is so right - it's really easy to make a date with yourself but not all that easy to keep said date. I figured out what I wanted to do for my first artist date immediately, but I kept putting it off all week and then realized I wouldn't be able to do it at all, given my schedule. So that idea is on for week 2, but for week 1, I decided to finally hit up the Seattle Public Library.
I'm a little embarrassed to confess that I've lived here almost three years and hadn't stepped foot inside the SPL, which is kind of a landmark building. It's won some architecture awards and it's progressively green. Tourists often take a swing through the building to check out the nifty views and lofty spaces. In addition to the cool-factor of the building, I really needed to establish my library card and start borrowing books again. I've been a library lover all my life, and in Charlotte I used the library all the time. Now that I'm mostly reading on my Kindle, I have gotten LAZY and just bought most of the books I want to read. I should at least try and borrow them, right?
So Monday night, I left work a few minutes early to beat traffic and headed downtown to the central branch building. I headed straight to the desk to get my library card, and a very nice lady helped me and set me up (I'd already filled out the application online). She also gave me a laminated card that would self-tour me through the building. Sweet. I headed out to explore and spent the next 40 minutes learning the lay of the land.
I'd just climbed all the way up to the 10th floor to take in the awesome view when drama struck. Behind me, I heard shouting and the squeak of sneakers on the floor. Two men were running through the building, one chasing the other and shouting obscenities. The hunter was shirtless, with odd symbols painted on his chest in black and his hair long and wild around his head. He had a knife tucked through his belt. I saw that knife gleaming against his filthy cargo pants and leathery skin and my heart leaped into my throat. The man being chased was younger, African-American, and I couldn't make out much detail about him because he was, you know, RUNNING FROM A GUY WITH A KNIFE.
I tried to breathe normally and I made my way up the ramp (the entire building sort of curls up in gradual inclines and from the 10th floor, there's really no way out except the escalator) toward the guy who was working the 10th floor desk. He was about my age, and he was not looking as calm as I'd have liked. I tried to keep the chase in my line of sight, but in order to feel safe I'd sort of put myself on the other side of an enclosed area. I could hear them, though, running around maybe 10 yards away from me. The guy with the knife was screaming at the top of his lungs, "Come out, you f*cking coward! Be a man! Get out here and face me, asshole! I'm gonna kill you! I'm gonna kill you!" People on the 10th floor were shouting for security. The desk-operator guy was on his walkie-talkie, probably trying to figure out where the hell the security guards were.
I wasn't sure what to do. Everyone was freaking out, and the only way out was to pass the crazy guy (who thankfully seemed pretty focused on the guy he was chasing and nothing else) or to take the elevator. I started inching toward the elevators, which were taking forever, and I had this realization. I live in a big city.
I know - duh. Seattle is a big city. Charlotte was also a fairly big city. But I grew up in small towns, some of them tiny towns, and I can tell you I've never experienced fear at the library before. Growing up in little old Oberlin, Ohio and Meadville, PA, the library was about the safest place I could think of. Even though libraries are open to the public and your random homeless people will wander in, in my small-town life, the numbers were just so small. Not enough crazy to really even register.
I stood there on the 10th floor elevator landing, waiting, waiting, hoping the crazy dude with the knife would be apprehended or the elevator would come, and I realized "I live in a big city, with a ton of crazy-ass mofos running around. And I wouldn't trade it for the world." Maybe that's the craziest thing about the whole date with myself, eh?