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?

 

Windows with a View

At any given moment, rush hour traffic can introduce one of two components for the hapless driving captive: stress or boredom. Either one makes for a good reason to look around for more than the piece of the road immediately in front of us. Just be prepared to get what you asked for – and what you didn’t.

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

“Maya Angelou.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2016. 7 August 2016. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mayaangelo578841.html

Walking to the car, I marvel at the surreal colors of the cloudscape above me and, driving through a residential area before joining rush hour traffic, I take the opportunity to appreciate the flowering trees lining the road and the widely varying landscaping of the homes I’m passing. I’m fortunate my drive takes me through this lovely patch.

I join with rush hour traffic. It’s a day of good flow. No one’s bullying into someone else’s lane during merging; no one’s refusing to allow drivers from the merging lane through and creating a traffic clump. I exit onto a busy street in the business sector and hit a red light at the first intersection.

Hwuh! I jumped at the sound of a man’s loud and angry voice. Looking out of my open passenger window, I see a frightened young woman gripping the steering wheel, resolutely looking straight ahead. The man was leaning out of the driver’s side of a large white van, edging the van within inches of her passenger door. Although she had the right of way, he was angry she hadn’t let him turn in front of her.  He yelled foul, demeaning explicatives at her – one after the other. I put my hand on my cell phone in case he got out of the van. The young woman was in a turn lane, so traffic allowed her to move forward, and the van turned in behind her. On the side of the van was a logo advertising a Christian church.

George Hodan http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=171235&picture=dark-stormy-sky
George Hodan
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=171235&picture=dark-stormy-sky

Several miles later and seeing landmarks of home, I stop at another red light. I wonder what’s caught the attention of the other drivers. I turn my head in the same direction. There’s a little boy crying on the sidewalk. What’s the practically-a-toddler doing alone on a sidewalk next to three lanes of traffic? I spotted his mother pushing her infant in a stroller too far ahead of the little boy for my comfort. For the comfort of the other motorists as well because heads were swiveling. It was a zeitgeist moment: there’s a crying practically-a-toddler on the sidewalk and the horrific was all too possible. It was obvious he was tired and badly in need of mommy backtracking to pick him up. She turned back to look at her crying baby and called to him. Frickin’ woman!! Walk back to your left-too-far-behind baby! Geez, I would have settled for just having him appropriately next to her but would dearly have loved it if she’d shown some inclination to comfort the itty-bitty. Was it just me or did three lanes of traffic just agree that we were going to miss the green light in a show of support for the little tyke if his mommy didn’t do the right thing? A door opened. Mommy started walking back to her little one. The door closed. Mommy continued walking to her baby, who didn’t show any signs of moving into the full street. The light turned green. Three lanes hesitated without anyone honking. Mommy and the small one were walking toward one another. Traffic flowed forward.

 CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/cloud-sky-yellow-radius-sunshine-143152/
CC0 Public Domain
https://pixabay.com/en/cloud-sky-yellow-radius-sunshine-143152/

Wherever there is choice, there is dichotomy. Because we have use of free will, there are always choices to be made. The homebound vignettes stayed with me as I pulled into my driveway, evaporating only as the front door opened and my own little one called to me. He was happy. He was safe. I couldn’t wait to hold him in my arms. My personal vignette assuaged the whisper trail of sadness within me. I held my precious child and walked into my home.

 

 

 

Kicking it Down the Road

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?

-Confucious

Passing scenery is a metaphor for our lives streaming along the time continuum:  we’re constantly viewing the road ahead while contemplating what we’ve left in the past – and what we face in our present.  Our vehicular journeying leads us to pivotal moments of contemplation, our thoughts cascading like dominos.

It’s a beautiful summer morning.  Being a morning person, I give thanks for the season, the way the air smells this early in the morning and for bird song.  I glance about, pop my gear shift into reverse and realize there’s a father holding a small child in his arms too close to the rear of my car.  He’s slowly walking and is now glaring at me as I mouth, “Sorry!”  Did I mention all of me, myself and I were in the car?  So, of course, there begins a dialogue of “Why are you apologizing, he saw you get in the car – heard the engine running – he shouldn’t have been walking practically up against the car.”

The father continues to glare at me as I mouth another “Sorry!”  “Well,” the internal dialogue continues, “I’m not going to slit my wrists for something that didn’t happen, that I took accountability for and for which you also have some accountability.”  I glanced about again and backed out of my driveway, the young father still glaring back at me for what might have been – but wasn’t.

SAMSUNG

I used to play skipping stones with my uncle at a pond near his house.  He’d also take my siblings and I in tow with his own brood along the dirt roads for a treat, joining in as we kicked a stone down the road.  As I grew older, I’d hear him say that a thought could get kicked down the road so that one thing leads to another; and it happened to me that morning. The young father’s animosity kept him in focus: He was of a different culture – He had a son in his arms which, perhaps, has given the child more value to him than if it had been female – I am, perhaps, a materialistic American who has a pricier car – I am female and, perhaps, I had been admonished for daring to possibly bring even the slight intimation of harm to him and his male child.

In my imaginings, I was no longer just a woman taking pleasure in my simple morning routine of fueling up for tomorrow’s Monday and getting my morning cuppa.  I was a nation of Americans – I was without a nation because I was a lowly female always meant to be at the service of – I was a lone individual in a world huge and violent, where the slightest of slights to someone’s ego could result in a glare resonant of a will to assault another.

Then I reasserted my wiser self, realizing I had momentarily been caught in fearful assumptions of another I know nothing about.  As I turned into the intersection, I took a deep breath.  I can only live my own life to the best of my ability.  By the time I turned back into my residential community, my thoughts were on all of us who do not will to harm another.  We who, around the world, live under religious, political and national identities that pull us into maelstroms of willful misunderstandings and power mongering.  In my smallness, I listen to the happy bird song, freely given.  As humanity has done throughout history, I tap into hope and courage and I smile.  A shadow follows me.

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

EXIF_JPEG_T422

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.

Signals

Signals

We are social creatures one and all. Contact with one another is a hard-wired condition of our well being. On the road, we use a myriad of signals: horn honks, brake taps, a flash of headlights. Signals give clues as to our intentions… but signals may mislead.

So, is the white F150 going to switch lanes or not? Unsure, I slow to make room. However, within mileage, it seemed a fair bet that the F150 was telling me not what the driver intended to do via the turn signal but what had already been done. Was the driver being deceptive? More likely, the driver didn’t have anyone in mind outside of whoever was in the cab.  Thoughtless self-absorption in motion. And, for the time it takes to finally be clear about what’s really happening, there’s uncertainty. I never knew what the driver looked like and likely was never even noted by the F150’s driver, but our interaction was real nonetheless.

Most often in our dealings with one another, when people send out conflicting signals, it’s because they’re not aware they’re doing so. There’s an unawareness of the bigger picture outside of themselves due to denial. Or they’re engaging in sheer childish willfulness. Like when you’re in a roundabout with two lanes and four exits, and the driver in the inner lane suddenly switches to the outer to make an exit, endangering others. When drivers are not keeping to the rules of an interaction, there’s anxiety. An understanding, a promise, is not being kept. It’s clear your welfare isn’t a consideration. But, if they are not acting to keep you safe, they’re not acting in their own best interest either. That fact rarely occurs to them.

The ability to safely reach one’s destination depends on knowing what another person is going to do or not do. We thrive on communication with one another but sometimes there’s a disconnect. If you are being endangered, the driver is also inflicting danger upon their own person. The disconnect is more often within the driver than a willful act against you.

Yield when it matters too much to the other.  Bless and let them go their way.  Give thanks you get to go yours, despite the disconnected drivers.