I told him I’d do it if we could gather a group of at least five participants. We both put the word out. He found two more people and I found three, all of whom were miraculously free on the same set of five consecutive Monday evenings. We agreed to start in mid-January.
Preparing for the first meeting, I was mildly anxious. I didn’t know any of the participants well and wasn’t certain of their level of commitment to their writing. I hoped they would all get along. I hoped none of them would begrudge the drive through the dense woods of Carlisle to get to my house, which is a little bit complicated at the best of times and can be downright vexing on a dark winter’s night. Mostly, I hoped they wouldn’t regret signing up for the class.
But the first meeting went beautifully. Everyone enjoyed getting to know one another, talking about their writing projects, setting goals for their work. I ended that two-hour session convinced that I’d made a good decision in agreeing to do this.
And then the following Sunday evening it started to snow. Snow fell all day on Monday. School was cancelled, and we all agreed by email that we’d have to cancel class as well. “See you next week,” I wrote to them, already anxious about breaking the momentum that had started to build on the first night.
The next Monday it snowed all day again. School was cancelled again. Once again, the emails started circulating in the late afternoon. I admitted that anyone who managed to make the drive to my house might not be able to get back out at the end of the night. We cancelled class again. “Definitely see you next week,” I concluded in my email. “Statistically, we can’t possibly have three Monday snowstorms in a row.”
But we did. The third Monday, which should have been our fourth class, it was snowing hard once again. Another set of school cancellations. Another set of emails. Another agreement that no one should be out driving.
That was when my anxiety set in. In early January, when we’d planned the class, we hadn’t seen snow since Thanksgiving. It somehow never occurred to me that we should include a contingency plan for snow cancellations and reserve an extra Monday or two at the end of the six-week stretch for make-up classes.
And it turned out people weren’t available on the Mondays that followed the storms. There were vacations, business trips, long-scheduled meetings, Presidents’ Day. We soon discovered the only series of Mondays on which even some of the class members could reconvene didn’t begin for another three weeks.
So after that one initial successful gathering, it was six weeks before we saw each other again. And that gave me plenty of time to reignite my anxiety about leading the group. It reminded me of how I used to feel as a kid when I stayed home sick from school: the more days I missed, the harder it became to go back.
My husband kept telling me that if I felt so apprehensive about leading this group, I never should have agreed to do it, and I realized it was the kind of thing he never would have done. He’ll agree to things he doesn’t really want to do if there’s a compelling reason to do it, like attend a funeral or go to a professional conference, but if the stakes were low and he felt as dubious about the outcome of a particular event as I felt about the class, he just wouldn’t commit to it in the first place. And he doesn’t understand why I seem to get myself into these situations fairly often, agreeing to do things that then provoke ongoing ambivalence.
As it turned out, the class was a joy. Although there was never another class after the first one that all five participants were able to attend, everyone made it to at least two more classes, and no one complained that they didn’t get their money’s worth. Or that I hadn’t done my part to make the class a worthwhile experience, Or even that they didn’t have a good time. In fact, by the last couple of classes, there were hugs all around as people put their coats on to leave.
The six weeks ended up extending over three months, which was not the plan. And I spent a fair amount of time during those three months worrying about whether it would all work out or not. And Rick is right; I could have avoided the whole situation by just not agreeing to do the class in the first place.
But it was so unquestionably worth it, in the end. All of the participants produced beautiful writing; all of us made new friends; all of us discovered new ideas.
Oh, and I learned something else as well. Never, ever schedule anything in New England in January without counting in the possibility of snow cancellations. Something I probably should have known already. Just as I should have known to trust the situation and not let my anxieties get the best of me. So it was a learning experience, as any good class should be.