I spent 5 days in Las Vegas last week, breaking my own “no more than three days in Vegas” rule. I made that rule in my 20s, and now in my 30s, it’s a lot harder to get into trouble, so five days was totally doable.
When Bear and I grabbed a taxi from the airport to the hotel, my first question to our very cool cab driver was, “How’s Vegas? Where were you when it happened?”
He told me the story of being only a block away from Mandalay Bay that night, wondering what kind of sound he was hearing. He said it was too much, too fast to be gun shots. And when he realized it was, in fact, gun shots, he didn’t know what to do but get in his cab and drive around.
Eventually, he drove close enough to the chaos that he was able to use his cab to shuttle people away from the scene of the crime as Las Vegas went on lockdown. Instead of driving away from it all, he drove right into the mess and tried to help clean it up. He said the city was quiet, eerie, strange for a few days after that. But once the smoke cleared, he remarked on how resilient the city is. “We don’t back down. Vegas is our life and we weren’t going to sit down and wait for it to be safe again. We went back to work.”
If there’s one thing that my divorce and second marriage (creating a blended family) has taught me, it’s that you can’t run away if you want to grow. This past week, I ironically encountered a lot of people running away from discomfort. People saying their feelings were hurt, that they didn’t feel safe, they were offended…they ran in the other direction instead of running towards the discomfort like our taxi cab driver in Vegas did. And I realized that the brave ones are the ones who actually show up to sit in all the muck and messy life that is friendship and relationships and parenthood. They sit down and stay there until some of it gets cleaned up, and at least some of the rest of it gets acknowledged. It’s never a perfect story and it rarely ends in a crisp, clean happy ending. But showing up to the mess is probably the only way I’ve ever found to avoid running into that same mess again somewhere else. Cleaning it up feels like death, until it’s over and you realized you survived. Then it feels like victory.
Showing up sometimes looks like knowing when to say when. Sometimes it’s a white flag. Sometimes it’s a physical fight. Sometimes it’s a loud voice and curse words. Sometimes it’s . taxi cab driving towards gunshots in Vegas. There’s no formula, no single one way to show up in the face of discomfort. Not everyone is a hero and not everyone knows how to apologize, which is why we all get the opportunity over and over and over again to show up and learn all the different ways to run towards the chaos. Because the chaos gets a little less chaotic each time you do it. Sitting in the mess feels less…messy after a while.
I thought about it for hours after our cab ride: Would I drive my cab TOWARDS the gun shots? The answer, still, is a resounding no. Maybe in a year or two I’d be brave enough to consider it (if he even considered it before he did it). I tip my hat to Vegas (I don’t wear hats but you know what I mean) for being a city that ran towards the chaos and then went back to work. The metaphor in all that tragedy wasn’t lost on me.