"We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems."
Apparently Lee Iacocca said that. I vaguely remember Lee Iacocca as some kind of 1980s presence, an avuncular but untrustworthy corporate magnate, often confused in my pre-adolescent mind with John DeLorean. In any case, Lee had long been off my mind until he was brought back via Weight Watchers, when my leader recited the quote above. Each meeting has an "inspirational close," you see, and this one came early in my weight loss. Not very long afterwards, we moved upstate and I began commuting to my job in Manhattan.
Throughout the four years that I commuted via bus and train, two hours at a shot, toting a laptop, I tried to apply Lee's wisdom to that particular problem. Not just Lee's. Anyone's wisdom who would listen. My Twitter bio explains it: "I talk about commuting almost as much as I talk about not commuting." My cell phone was always handy to call a friend and complain. When the bus was too crowded to call, I'd whip open the laptop and write about it. And write letters to friends. And write personal essays. Do a little work. Look through old pictures. Listen to music. Outline novels. Begin humor books. Read. Nod off. Always in search of that elusive "opportunity" presented by an hour and a half trapped in a metal canister moving painfully slowly along New York's motorways or rails. What, oh what, was the hidden treasure inside this soul-sucking disguise?
With my new, shorter commute, I have noticed something: it's hard to write when you have so much more time. Time to sleep, at home, in your bed. Time to play with the kids. Time to help with the chores. Time to go to sleep, at a reasonable time, at home, in your bed.
This time, at least, I'm in no doubt as to my opportunities. They're not very well disguised.