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?

 

 

Go with the Flow

Go with The Flow

He thanked us for checking in on him. I think, with most folks, stopping along the shoulder (well away from a traffic lane) and making sure someone isn’t hurt and alone is “just the right thing to do.” He assured us his OnStar system had been activated on his work truck and that he’d already communicated with dispatch, so help was on the way.

Just moments earlier, we’d watched as the white work truck attempted to correct its course as it sped (with the rest of us) along the highway. OH, NO! Having missed the turn, he attempted to correct his course and turn right. TOO LATE! Aaaaahhhh!! The nose of his truck impacted the sturdy rebar-fortified, enormous concrete post helping to hold up the overpass. Parts of the truck’s panels flew off; the truck skidded to a sideways stop.

Like the worst hyperbolic advertisers, we sell ourselves a bill of goods:  One Time Only OpportunityLAST CHANCEThis opportunity will never come again! We’ve heard messages like this since childhood, and it’s hard to stop the adrenaline from revving, the stress hormone, cortisol, from pumping. That’s because these messages were invariably paired with another pattern: “What a loser!” and “Well, that’s that – you blew your chance… If only you’d paid more attention!” And it’s hard to stop the knee-jerk response to avoid ‘punishment’ in the form of being late, of appearing to be lost or receiving a reprimand. But let’s look at the cost to ourselves and others when we buy into the lie that a moment in time can define us to our detriment: what if the man ended up with permanent disabilities that impaired his ability to work, afford housing, provide for his family? What if other drivers had been unnecessarily harmed? What if the company he drove for was sued, putting employees at risk of their jobs? One thing’s for sure: he’s late to wherever it was he was trying too hard to get to.

Now a woman is waiting at a busy intersection. Go with The Flow 2 She’s waiting in a lane in which her only option will be to proceed straight ahead, but her left turn signal is on. The light turns green, and she sits. There’s a long line of cars that have no choice but to wait with her. When a cacophony of horns begin to sound, she finally begins moving forward. No doubt, she still got to her destination, even if she didn’t get there by the route she initially had in mind.

That’s more often the case than not in ‘real life.’ Some apparent opportunities aren’t for us. And that’s A-OK. So someone else got that promotion- perhaps that specific ‘turn’ wasn’t meant for you. Does someone have a talent or seeming surplus of good fortune – like they’re driving along in a Mozarratti while you’re driving a less awesome vehicle?  How does that stop you from arriving at the destination meant for you? Before you bemoan your supposed fate, consider the many stories of those who met with obstacles that kept them from the twin towers so that they lived and were able to share their almost-was-me stories.

Wherever you go, there you are.  Go with the flow!

 

By Any Other Name

God is the engine powering our lives. It's up to us to shift.
God is the engine powering our lives. It’s up to us to shift.

What does it mean to drive a VW Bug? A Bugatti Veyron? A Ford? Our cars are one of the biggest purchases most of us will ever make, so our choice means something.  Our choice is nuanced with what speaks to us. Whatever our choice, our fuel mobiles facilitate the flow in our lives. We rely on them for the small things and at critical junctures. The journeys we take in life are powered by our choice of vehicle and, likewise, our choice of vehicle impacts where we’re capable of going.

So it is with the belief systems we use to carry us through life.  When I learn of someone’s choice of faith, what does it mean about them any more?

Going back to our wheels, some of us stick with a certain brand- my grandpa felt great pride in his identity as a Ford Man, even after manufacturing went overseas and a cooperative agreement was made with a Russian auto manufacturer. While he would accuse others of not being amongst the truly faithful or loyal, I don’t believe we’re growing and evolving if we don’t remain open to change.  After all, we don’t have to leave something entirely; just step away to do some critical thinking about how now is different from then (like stepping out of your front door to take a walk and a deep breath or two to “clear our heads” or to “hear yourself think”).  We need to grasp the good that change can bring.

Grandpa stuck to his guns about driving only a Ford, but, in reality, the human species has always stepped in and out of traditions, faiths, attitudes and perspectives, just as we have with our rides. Perhaps being a child of a large, extended family of multiple faiths, I’ve grown up accustomed to finding the commonality amongst the various faith systems so that the rituals, vestments and specific wording is interchangeable. When family came together, we understood that faith is essentially the engine that powers whatever we choose to go forward in life with.  If the engine changes, it is, perhaps, just that our understanding of the dynamics behind propulsion is changing, growing.  So it is when God is kept foremost and at the nexus of our variations of faith.

Okay, let me just say it: whatever faith you tell me you follow, it’s all the same to me. Whatever name your God(s) have, the universal truth to our human experience is that killing is wrong. Period. When a fellow human is crying out in misery, we can never claim that this is what God wanted. All faiths have compassion and love at the center.  The defining kernel for all is “Do no harm.”  Faiths, like cars, have to shift their outer, superficial trappings with local and global concerns intermingling and touching every part of the human journey. Otherwise, it’s like saying, “Okay, everyone driving a Subaru is honor-bound to drive straight at everyone driving a Hyundai and kill them” or “God’s chosen are those who only have male drivers – if there’s a female driver, throw acid in her face.” These are the fools and self-deluded who would say, “Let the dead and disfigured go before our God to make Him proud that I have willingly and with forethought done harm to his child.  Let me stand before the Almighty and pound my chest like an animal because, in my blindness, I can’t see how I am weak with intolerance and have debased myself.”

Change can be uncomfortable, but change can be a good indicator that what has been is no longer working in its current form, if at all.  Without this change toward love and inclusivity of all humanity, we’re idling in our lives; we’re spinning our wheels without really getting anywhere, except to wallow in the same ol’ waste of space we’ve been in.

Hint:  Should a God speak to you in loving approval for doing harm to another, RUN!

Hint Hint:  Should you do grievous harm to another and march proudly in mind and/or spirit to the Almighty, either to your place of worship or in the privacy of prayer….Look around…Really look around.  Who is it you see?  Did you really expect it to be God?

 

The Freedom of an Open Road

Independence Day 2016 (2)

Amongst my favorite memories are the family road trips I took as a kid. We traveled through the deserts and mountains of New Mexico, the redwood forests of California, the canyons of Utah, passed rivers and lakes through to New Hampshire.  What a sense of freedom!  Historically and in our contemporary times, one’s ability to move freely has been a prized luxury. The American right to drive from coast to coast, unimpeded, has been a signal feature of our country. Our truckers, then, are emblematic of our independence; the solitary figures of unrestrained liberty.

A blur of rest stops, brief calls at pay phones to check in with family and mix tapes was broken up with the occasional terrifying downpour. There! On the horizon! Is that speck a semi? We kept a beady eye on the ever enlarging form, hoping for another opportunity to signal a road warrior to honk the horn by hanging out of the windows and pumping our arms up and down. And there it was…that skull-rattling, heart-racing, thrilling-like-nothing-else semi-truck horn!!!

I realize now that mom and dad weren’t active, eager participants in our stalking of the road warrior riding a many-wheeled beast. In retrospect, the most important element of those road trips was how, unbeknownst to us children, our parents kept us safe on the road at night. This might be an unusual thing to say, but it’s true: we would look for a Flying J to get gas, stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat. I loved sidling up to a trucker on a bar stool. These guys would nearly always make me feel like a road comrade, talking with us about our journey and theirs, the food, the weather. After probably hundreds of truck stops, the thought of becoming a trucker when I “grew up” had settled in my mind as a possibility- it was my version of a cowboy riding out into the sunset.

I learned about the world and stopped romanticizing that lifestyle and group of people as I had. Still, they are their own breed: in my mind, it’s Americana. I miss those road trips and, especially, that certain feeling of pulling up to a Flying J and nestling in amongst 18-wheeled beasts waiting for their feed of diesel fuel. And every time I glance out my window and into the cab of a semi thundering down the highway beside me, I still feel the distinct urge to signal that trucker to blow their horn.

Thanks to all those truckers who were consistently kind to us kids. Thanks for indulging us and keeping it fun. Just another reason to cherish our independence and our open roads.

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.

 


 

In Memoriam and Gratitude

In Memoriam

My family is a military one – has been for generations. At one time, my grandfather (an inveterate veteran) declared, “If you’re from Texas and you’ve served your country, you’re an American, for sure!” He wasn’t from Texas, ‘nope, siree’ (as he would’ve said). But he did end up retiring in that great state. Sure he’d found God’s country, he adopted it.

For generations of our family, the terms “soldier” and “military” have never been equated with “anonymous.” It’s my shy and slender aunt who proudly sent back photos of her slight, feminine frame next to the towering military vehicles she drives. Inspired to join by stories of the patriotic WASPs, you can see how proud she is to be in charge of a vehicle so large a stepladder is required just to climb the huge tires to the driver’s seat. It’s Uncle Roy, who faithfully sent back his WWII paychecks to his orphaned siblings, who survived off his service. It’s our dear friend Dave, who is manning the local Buddy Poppy station in memory of all of our country’s fallen veterans this Memorial Day weekend, despite the physical and emotional scars he brought back from deployment.

Because it’s inherent in the very makeup of our genome, each culture has a tradition around the passing of life. Time is in the driver’s seat and Death is the passenger. So, the saying It’s not the destination so much as the journey has always rung true for me. We’re all travelers on a profound quest for experience and knowledge. And, while we don’t actively move ourselves toward that final destination, Death is one of only two shared primal commonalities – the other primal commonality being Life.

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Life is the supremely awesome journey. To that serviceman and that servicewoman who has given life up so that others might continue with theirs – or begin it – our inexpressible gratitude. To those whose own lives were forcibly shunted toward that final destination, even if your name isn’t on a tribute to your service, you live through us. Without you, the rest of us around the globe, of different nationalities and creeds, those of us who hold faithfully to the concepts of free will and the freedom of self expression, we might have ended up living only the basest of lives – one of bodily survival – if it weren’t for you.

We worry about where nations’ elected leaders are steering us to.  We worry that humans around the globe continue to be used as pawns for narrow-minded and selfish ends having so little to do, really, with self-defense.  So, on this Memorial Day, may the rest of us, world-wide, remember our own most basic duty to fight as civilians against any government’s abuse of its most precious resource: our loved ones.

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.

 

Vicariously

R: 136 G: 255 B: 198 X:39852 Y: 0 S: 422 Zs: 0 Zp: 0 F: 782 I: 0 ImgVer:08.05.07.23

My position is that we’re not just lookie-loos enjoying the spectacle of someone else’s misfortune.  I’m not naïve enough to discount that this behavior is probably a part of some human’s nature; I’m just saying it’s also an important learning behavior as well.  Another aspect of the human’s being is the fact that we’re able to learn from watching, listening as others go through an experience.  We don’t have to have that first-hand, personal encounter in order to determine “good for us” or “bad for us”; pull this into my life or avoid.

The sight of something going awry immediately connects us with a sense of place-holding: I’m here.  That’s happening there.  A part of me is also there just by my thinking about it.  In my consideration of what I’ve become aware of, an emotion is engaged.  I’ve just had a vicarious experience.

Vicariously

Thoughts and emotions act as a barometer of our state of being.  And, while they reflect who we are back to ourselves, they’re only meant to give us our baseline on an issue (a starting point).  They are not responsible, alone, for our behavior.  There is something unique about the human being in our ability to…pause.  We have a conscious choice, rather than just instinct (i.e., The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results).

So, what’s your first thought when you see a fellow motorist acting badly?Are you able to self-reflect on what you just thought and encourage yourself to make any necessary changes so that you don’t act on a knee-jerk reaction to do harm?  When you see a motorist in distress?  What are you thinking, feeling when you pass a scene replete with police cruisers, a fire truck and ambulance?  Do you avoid any conscious thought, which is a form of self-neglect?  Do you avoid the inner mirror we are all born with?

We’re having experiences all the time, and we’re having thoughts and emotions about those experiences.  Tuning into ourselves is like pulling up our own GPS that tells us where we are in our personal growth process.  However, some of us are so out of touch with ourselves that we unconsciously depend on what’s happening outside of our own persons to experience learning – being alive.  Turn within.  Listen.  The truth of you is there to guide, instruct and keep you safe.

 

 

 

It Was All in the Wave

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Ever call a friend to share?  Ever e-mail and use an emoticon to let someone you trust in on a momentously important something?  The earliest and most constant form of therapy was ever the good friend, the trusted family member.  It’s that hand holding yours in a hospital corridor while waiting to hear.  It’s the ages-old healing connection that occurs when sharing.

Only another human being can bring a person to the completion of a cycle of healing.  This is because, when sharing, we invite compassion.  When sharing, our connectedness in the moment births empathy.

Historically, story tellers (i.e., Mark Twain, Hans Christian Andersen), bards (song writers and musicians) and the compassionate amongst us have played the role of healers.  When we hear a song, we’re connecting with either the artist, the melody, the lyrics or everything all at once and our being releases or awakens an emotion (joy, sorrow, bittersweet acceptance).

Historically, banishment and isolation have been viewed as grievous punishments.  We aren’t meant to be alone in body, mind or in our hearts.  We are so connected, a faceless stranger can create a marked change for the better in our day.  When I slowed to make room for a pickup truck from a lane merging into mine (despite the rush hour and that traffic was bumper to bumper), a hand rose from the driver side’s window and waved from side to side in a gesture of ‘thank you.’  He shared an acknowledgement of our nonverbal connection- that I had acted on his behalf.

I don’t think we credit these small gestures for what they can mean in somebody’s day.  My hope is that this blog serves as that wave to you at the end of your day.