I’m wearing red lipstick and my boots with the high heels and the zippers up the back, and I am stuck in a bathroom. Not just any bathroom — a fancy bathroom in a trendy restaurant in a corner of the city where I don’t belong. I’ve curled my hair and twisted my face into a hostess’ mask and I’m ready to fake-it-til-I-make-it but instead I am locked in a bathroom. 

I have this tendency to go from “fine” straight to THE WORLD IS ENDING with no stops in between. I’m not stuck and then I’m stuck, and instead of stopping to think my situation through to try to find a solution, I charge ahead as though I can become unstuck by sheer force of will. It’s why I don’t do well with revolving doors or turnstiles. I’m incapable of taking a step back and reassessing. You don’t reassess when the world is ending. You plow forward and hope to survive. It doesn’t matter that sitting in an uncomfortable situation for a minute often helps me figure it out (for example, panicking when you try to squeeze through a too-tight spot between the sink and the door opening, instead of taking a step back to give the door room to open fully, sometimes results in you hitting the lock while you flail, ending in panic that could have been avoided with fifteen seconds of thinking.)

Later, after I’ve freed myself from my tiled prison and had a lovely evening celebrating the season with fizzy drinks and too much food, I drive home. It’s pouring rain and it’s late (or rather, it’s early, technically) so I’m paying more attention to the road signs than I usually do. I get on the highway and point my car toward Hope. I’ve read these signs my whole life. I’ve driven through Hope hundreds of times on the way to summers at the lake or baseball tournaments in the interior. Hope is just a place on the map but it makes me want to cry when I consider not exiting the highway and driving straight to Hope. What would happen if I charged ahead and literally and figuratively drove to Hope?

What would happen is I would end up in Hope, stuck between the side of a mountain and the river, on a strip of fast food restaurants and gas stations. Physically arriving in Hope will not make the heaviness I feel lately any lighter. Being in Hope will not change the sad to hopeful. I need to take a step back and reassess instead of plowing ahead and trying to force myself to feel happy. Fortunately, in the meantime, I’ve got good friends and red lipstick and just enough holiday joy to make the season bright.