I like the word “veer.” It means, simply, to change the direction of movement, and the suggestion, to me, anyway, is that it happens without noticeable change in velocity. And it’s not a reversal of direction, like a bouncing ball, but rather a going off at an angle. Think of a car’s changing lanes on the expressway, or of a sailboat’s shift to adjust to the wind.
But I’m not talking about physics.
You can veer in the direction of your life – something I have not done often or easily, teaching English at the same high school for 32 years. I probably would have stayed in my first marriage had my wife not seen that it was time to end it. And I probably would not have thrown out my old blue jeans without Kim’s encouragement. I am reminded of something that my friend Mark said about attitudes toward change when I worked with him to implement some changes at Pfizer’s Ann Arbor facility: “I’m in favor of change, as long as I don’t have to do anything differently.” Amen.
In fact, Kim is responsible for much of the veering in my life, mainly because her restless creativity has led us to move nine times since we’ve been married – unless I’m missing a move or two. The moves have been to different situations – house in the woods, apartment in the city, downtown in a small town, condo in an old mental institution, etc. – and each situation meant a veering into a new role. Now, in the woods we are enhancing on the shore of a lake, I have become yard-man, dealing with mulch and weeds, raking the beach, watering our new trees, bushes and flowers. I’m still far from a gardener – that change would require more than a simple veering – but I sense the difference. It’s like using new muscles, which I also am doing. Kim is also helping me veer into a world where I actually notice things outside my head. I, in turn, are helping her veer into a world where it is OK to fart.
“Veering” usually connotes an element of risk, as in the familiar phrase, “veering off course.” This, of course, conveniently ignores the risk of staying on course, as with the Titanic or, perhaps, my first marriage. On the more mundane level, the risk is going stale. My solution is to marry Kim, who keeps me off-balance.
In other words, when Kim says, “I have an idea,” I say, “I’d better sit down to hear it.”
Veering can be deliberate, or not. People decide to quit a job, sell a business, end a marriage, smoke pot, go on a “health kick” through diet and exercise, marry a friend, take a class, or move to a place where you’ve always wanted to live. Your life veers off in a new direction. You have veered off course. I recall a student who was, with encouragement from his father, on course for law school. He veered off that course when he realized that he really wanted to be a writer, a career which has become a great success for him.
Veering can also play a part in writing. When I was teaching, many of my students came to me having learned to write following the formula of “The Five-Paragraph Theme.” You know, introduction and conclusion with three paragraphs of development sandwiched in between. As my college English professor wrote on several of my efforts, “Ho-hum.” I tried to teach my students to veer, to include some surprises that somehow fit. Readers of this blog may notice that I practice this veering from time to time.
But sometimes the veering is forced upon you, as with a diagnosis of cancer. A friend recently veered away from his planned retirement trip out west in a camper with his dog when he received the diagnosis. And as I write this, Kim and I are awaiting Friday’s appointment with the oncologist to discuss the results of last week’s CT scan, bone scan, and blood tests. More veering ahead?