No Exit Anywhere Until the End of This Road

The long stretch of interstate is straight and visible for miles ahead, with desert on either side. Going through a difficult stretch is inevitable at some point in everyone’s life. But, sometimes, it appears that there is nothing more to one’s life than lack of comfort, that there’s nowhere welcoming to safely rest and only a lack of assurances that all will be well because we’re not taking action to steer our lives along a better road. There are so many choices along the way of one’s life, accompanied by a small voice acting as a GPS system. It urges us to turn from the self-destructive course we are stubbornly pursuing, to think about the unhappinesses we are bringing to ourselves and others. The only surety is the inevitable dead end.

The grade isn’t too steep, but it’s slippery and the road ahead is only dimly seen.  Are you taking good care of yourself?  When one doesn’t know one’s self, can’t see one’s self because we’ve so many lies, rationalizations and other ways of guarding us from seeing the truth about ourselves, it’s easy to take one wrong turn after another. Self awareness doesn’t have to be, but it can be scary, so we slam on the brakes and deny the truths around us – about us.  But this only leads us to veer out of control.  Thing is, our life roads don’t need to be scary.  We just need to keep our eyes open and accept what is before we can change the course of our lives.  Not ‘put up and shut up,’ but just a knowing of our circumstances so that we’re targeting the right thing for constructive change or a dose of prevention.

Dappled sunlight on the road plays tricks with one’s eyes, so be careful and alert. Shadows and light, truth and lies, what’s wrong and what’s right are all intermingled as we encounter people at all levels of growth on life’s various byways. Their understandings and our understandings can either meld in a partnership of tolerance and compromise or clash in an arrogant assertion of having ‘the right.’ Sometimes, in the shifting light and shadow, we don’t see those who manipulate us, dividing us one against another. Too many times, we don’t seem to care that we’re willing believers in the propaganda and grab eagerly for a ‘we win, you lose’ course.

The road can present a beautiful and serene vista and, if we don’t allow our gaze to wander beyond our own situation, we need never see how things are for others on their paths.  We need never inconvenience ourselves, extend a hand. If you’re enjoying the scenic route, it’s likely a well-deserved locus you’ve arrived at. However, while everyone needs to travel their own road, a simple gesture (even a gesture of restraint and tolerance) can keep another fueled to get them where they need to go – or at least help to make their journeying a little easier and more pleasurable.

With no lasting permanency in any material thing we’ve accomplished when we arrive at our final destination, what imaginings were you pursuing when earthly material and social gains are not yours to keep?

 

 

Traffic Surfing

Traffic Surfing

It’s been a long day; I’d hit the ground running early on this Monday morning and I now find myself in the thick of a rush hour.  The traffic is stop and go – so its usual self.  Helpless as I am to do anything about my homeward commute, I relax while listening to a Tony Robbins interview.  He’s the current guest on a show featuring self-help and inspirational speakers.  The common theme between the guests is one of ‘positive thinking brings about positive results’ and ‘take the initiative and take charge of your life.’  As if on cue, a motorist in a hybrid speeds past me in the left shoulder.  This allows hybrid driver to bypass three lanes of bumper-to-bumper motorists playing by the rules.

I watch as the hybrid driver (now several cars ahead of me) makes way through a crack in the lane next to the shoulder.  Still not using a turn signal, the hybrid noses its way right into the middle lane and then into the right-most lane, which then allows an exit. I felt conflicted – tired, hot, wishing I hadn’t eaten that hot dog instead of a salad, end-of-the-day done. I wondered what Tony would say as I went to the dark side of the matter: Are the tolerant and the gracious amongst us really spineless drones who can only hope to witness another’s self-centered defiance of rush-hour traffic conditions? 

I turned on the air conditioning and “cooled off” enough to look at it in a more balanced way. The hybrid driver’s tactic worked, didn’t it? It didn’t harm anyone. So was this driver the clever, determined individual rising above the traffic-constipated moment, taking charge and triumphantly reaching the exit toward freedom? My focus also included the many individual drivers who chose to respond to this ‘me first’ behavior with gracious yielding.

When looking at two opposing yet valid perspectives, here’s the litmus test I use to resolve life’s duality:

1.) In gaining one’s objective, does another suffer an unfair / unjust loss?

2.) Were others to engage in the behavior of that one individual, would humankind be moved toward a greater good?

What was I going to take from this moment as the traffic began to loosen? Point #1 would argue that the hybrid driver was acting unlawfully. The shoulder was never meant to be a convenient shortcut. However, these tactics had no impact on any of the rest of us drivers, our commute or our ability to reach our various destinations.

Now let’s look at point #2: If others were engaging in that same behavior, it would undoubtedly snarl the snarl of rush hour. thFWMT2T3R

Finally, let’s not underestimate how well my fellow commuters supported Hybrid driver in reaching traffic Nirvana (the exit lane). I don’t think we give credit to how kind we are and how gracious we can be. It took nothing from us to accommodate the hybrid. Sometimes we can allow without reproach or regret.

 

 

 

 

 

Lateralization

Lateralization of ar interior

Lateralization of brain function means that there are certain mental processes that are mainly specialized in either the left or the right hemisphere. For fluid physical and cognitive activity, we depend on the cooperation of both sides of our brain.  For fluidity in our driving lives, we likewise benefit from an implicit agreement of equitable give-and-take in our relationships because, where there’s room for more than a driver, our mode of transportation is also lateralized:  driver’s side and passenger’s side.  And, just as with the brain, which has specific functions located in the front or in the rear, there are front seats and back seats.

When a passenger, with whom are we following along?  Who are we entrusting with power?  To some extent, whenever we’re a passenger, we are at the mercy of someone else’s choices.  We don’t always acknowledge to ourselves that we’ve given over a portion of our power to someone else when we’re in the passenger seat, but it only takes that one time – like when it’s obvious the driver is not open to our input.  Our adrenaline revs in its output, which drives the point home:  no steering wheel, no power.  It can be an innocuous moment, such as teaching a newbie how to drive (Aaaagh! You’re going too fast!  Slow down or you’re going to hit them!).  You realize how impossible it is to get your own leg to the driver’s side and stomp down on the brake, forcing the nightmare to end. You could always open your passenger door and bail to save yourself, but the newbie – who might be a loved one – could suffer harm or inadvertently bring the law down upon you.  You shakily get out of the car after assuring the newbie “you did great”Lateralization ~ Wobbly Man

Then there’s the more serious side of passengerhood:  the driver isn’t taking you where you had mutually agreed to go (figuratively and literally).  Ominous music, called anxiety – maybe fear – is playing in your body.  Lateralization ~ Scared Woman

As drivers, when we take on passengers, who have we invited into a moment of our lives?  Whose company are we regularly keeping?  Even with the steering wheel firmly in our hands, are we too frequently acting as taxi (meeting other peoples’ agendas) and not making sure we’re meeting our own needs as well?giphy (1)

When you’ve a moment to self-reflect:  Is your destination one that is beneficial for you and/or your loved ones?  Is your driving a means of realizing a positive accomplishment or are you usually driving away from something or someone (driving as a means of avoidance or escapism)?

To assess aspects of your life, you don’t necessarily need a mirror – Just look over at your driveway.

 

*Fellow Travelers:  Just for fun, take a peek at this site  (if your brain went, “Whaaah?  So did mine.  No worries, ’cause it’s all in our minds.

 


 

No Good Deed…

It’s dusk on a fairly lonely stretch of highway, and I see a stranded motorist several miles ahead. As I approach, my headlights show me a guy whose hood’s up.  He has flares and assorted things around him, so he’ll be okay – right? As happenstance drivers, we’re rarely able to guess with a fair amount of certainty what the problem might be. And me? I’m always conflicted when I: don’t slow down and inquire because the hapless could be dangerous; don’t know how I’d pull over without posing a potential traffic hazard; or, when I reach for my phone and hope it will be enough.  Technology enables us to not stop and extend our persons to the stranded motorist.  It frees us from a sense of the obligatory:  I don’t need to stop and have a conversation, I’ve made the phone call letting someone know of the existence of a stranded motorist.  Help is on the way.  (Give myself a mental pat on the back.)

No Good Deed

Sometimes, when we want to help someone, we worry. After all, there are good reasons the Good Samaritan Law came into being – in summary, ‘No good deed goes unpunished’.  Am I guilty of having overextended myself when I’m asked to give the vehicularly-challenged a ride to a destination that’s not in the direction of my own?  What am I taking on when there are children involved?  If I find myself alone in a car with a stranger that might be high, intoxicated, mentally ill or emotionally unstable?  Even before the internet, drivers had been made much more aware of the “diversity” out there.

Maybe our decision to actually physically stop or not stop is not a matter of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Maybe it’s just a matter of personal judgement that makes sense for the situation and that moment.  Still, without having taken the time for a one-to-one connection, have I erred on the side of omission?  Will the motorist I now see in my rearview mirror suffer because of my neglect?  Am I my brother’s keeper?

Verbal Drive-By’s and a Happy Mother’s Day

VICARIOUSLY

A tired-looking young mother holding an infant and her toddler’s hand slows her pace to look around as she exits a store. It’s plain she intends to guide her babies through the busy parking garage.  The head of a teddy bear is visible through an opening of the diaper bag she carries over one shoulder.  She’d just reached her car and was attempting to carefully negotiate the placing of all within when a woman in a jeep came to a nose-dipping stop, rolled down the window and shouted: “OH!  MY GOD!  AND WITH A BABY?!!!”

The mother had not walked carelessly in front of the jeep.  She’d done nothing to endanger the lives of her young family.  The driver of the jeep had been driving too fast for a busy parking garage – and it’s a fairly sure bet she’d been on her phone, instead of paying the attention all pedestrians deserve of drivers.  In all likelihood, the driver had looked up just in time to avoid hitting the young mother.

I was already watching this vignette; however, the volume and anger in the woman’s voice stopped several shoppers mid-step.  Now close to the young mother, I saw the moment of startled confusion turn to embarrassment – then hurt – then protective anger.  She resumed caring for her family and purchases, but it was evident she’d been shaken.
I think few of us have been spared an aggressive “drive by.”  It’s an inevitable part of living that, at some point, something will come completely out of left field and leave us reeling.  This was several months ago, and I still remember the effect of the negligent driver’s verbal onslaught on that young woman’s face.

Listening to a recent episode of the One Bad Mother podcast, this particular memory came swiftly back to me. Today, I want to echo a pivotal message ~ recent Episode 149 includes a “Fail,” where a mom had an upsetting, startling moment with her young baby, to which co-host Biz responds: “Don’t turn this into ‘everybody’s doing something wrong, everybody’s out to get somebody’. You go up and you tell somebody they’re doing a good job, and you’re here, and it’s okay, and they’re fine.”  The caller shared what it meant to her “They took care of me, so I could take care of my baby.”  For the human species, this is the be-all, end-all of why we have got to be supportive of one other.

I didn’t approach the young mother.  Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me that she might welcome a gesture of kind support.  If she didn’t in the moment, it still would have been a good thing to do.  Just a quick check in of support.  This is a failure I continue to regret.  So on this day, I want to send out a message of love and encouragement especially to moms.  In whatever capacity you have mothered, to anyone who has used the feminine self to care for another, I thank you.  I cherish you and the role of motherhood on behalf of our precious young.

Happy Mother's DayHappiest of Mother’s Days

As the ladies of One Bad Mother would say- “You’re doing a great job.”

Who’s On… ?

Who's On...

Defensive driving really is the way to go. You never know if it’s a “who” or “what” behind the wheel. In other words, the caution to “drive defensively” is just another way of saying watch out for drivers under the influence.

While I’ve written about self-regulation of one’s thoughts and emotions when behind a moving vehicle, we must remember that we are sharing the road with drivers who are unable to self-regulate due to circumstances largely beyond their control in the moment OR those who have chosen to step away from the responsibility to self-regulate through unwise choices.

What…?

We are amazing creatures. Our bodies are profoundly wonderful! Nonetheless, there are limits we have to respect. We are all working with whatever condition our body is operating at any given moment. The brains of our young are still developing through their early twenties. And (while it’s true that many adults never learn to), our young are still learning to restrain their impulses (for example, texting while driving). There are drivers who are insulin-dependent diabetics, those with poor night vision, and so on. We have to be responsible for recognizing our own limits and thereby hold ourselves accountable for the care of not only ourselves but others. It’s like the driver who follows too closely and rear-ends the one in front due to convulsive sneezing.  There’s no intent to do harm.  What we’re dealing with here is a failure to respect our human condition.

Who’s on…?

Conversely, if another driver is being unwise (or aggressive, arrogant, inconsiderate – whatever term comes to mind with their behavior), remember that you may not be “arguing” with a driver capable of having a constructive vehicular discussion. What’s really pressing the accelerator? Steering the wheel? Remember, there’s no arguing with a drunk nor with those otherwise influenced. With the changing laws around the use of alcohol, spice, marijuana, and the new-becoming-old phenomenon of prescription drug misuse, sober drivers are under a whole other kind of threat – we would do well to remember this.

How many addicts would honestly respond to “Are you an addict who regularly gets behind the wheel while impaired?” When we take a driver’s test, our limitations are often only addressed on a somewhat superficial level: Our night vision isn’t tested, impulse regulation isn’t assessed, neither is a driver’s IQ when it comes to making wise choices.

Drivers who endanger others are not as well synched as the vehicles they’re driving.  Don’t wait until you’ve lost a loved one, until you’re hearing the bad news from a hospital bed or having a frustrating (even frightening) discussion with an insurance company before realizing that making an argument of another driver’s incompetence or that seeking to “even the score” is driving on STUPID.