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.

IT’S FATHER’S DAY!

                   Happy Father’s Day !       

          A very happy FATHER’S DAY to all our fathers worldwide ~

Father's Day No Video

Father's Day2

Flag Day

Flag Day

~ Piotr Mlodozeniec
http://coexistcampaign.com/pages/coexist-faq

In response to the mass shooting in Orlando early this morning, President Obama asked us to consider: “And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.” Let’s consider this.

This Tuesday the 14th will be Flag Day. I don’t worry that we’ll ever have to contend with one global (monstrous) governing body – human beings are too diverse for that.  And, with humans being as we are, we speak up about our differences.  Throughout history, we’ve spoken out about our differences, verbally and through our actions, even with our lives on the line.  It would be like expecting South America’s Amazon to suddenly be another Wulingyuan National Park of China or a New Zealand Tongariro National Park.  Each of these naturally beautiful and distinct places are their own, unique selves.  And so are we.  In America’s national recognition of the importance of a unified identity, I think also of the fifty states and five (inhabited) territories that fly a flag of individual identity under Old Glory.

Our differences range along many lines and our flags speak for us as a visual representation of our national / ethnic pride and in protest.  donetsk-ukraine-23rd-apr-2014-about-20-cars-paraded-today-in-donetsk-DYP3AM (Donetsk, Ukraine 2014)

We paint images of our flags in a whimsical reflection of identity:

14333412-italian-vintage-car (Italian vintage car)

We use our flags to show our recreational allegiances while trying to play nice with others:

Taxi Drivers flying St. George's Cross (football)(Taxis & St. George’s Cross-football)

We’re not fools wearing rose-colored glasses of denial in hope of peaceful coexistence.  We’re just a species with a knack for persistence.  We like going against the odds and championing the underdog of Peaceful Coexistence.  This is the most fundamental difference within the species of homo sapiens:  Some of us want exclusionary gain (i.e., most-to-all for me and little-to-none for you) while some of us don’t mind sharing. A few days ago, Leo Babauta of the ZenHabits blog wrote, “We can’t solve all of these ills alone, of course, but if we do our best to help others as much as possible, perhaps we can contribute towards the betterment of the lives of all beings.”

American Flag for Flag Day

Under my own national flag, I’m content to live with consensus.  I feel safe in the fact that, within that consensus, it isn’t necessary to have an across-the-board, absolutely unanimous agreement about anything.  Has a mandated agreement ever really happened in the minds and hearts of human beings within our recorded history?  No.  Consensus?  It’s a millennia old parable of the way to live.

Here’s to the fabric of consensus that’s been woven into the history of nations, side-to-side with the human will toward freedom and a longing to co-exist.

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.

PHOT0013.JPG

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.

A Playful Day on a Rainy Day’s Commute


EXIF_JPEG_T422

Depending on the day, I fill my travels with music, an audio book, simple silence or a podcast. Windshield wipers parting rivulets of spring rain at a traffic light, the right half of my brain lights up: my phone has just alerted me that the newest episode of A Playful Day has been uploaded. Immediately, I’m off. I’m mentally traveling to Dorset.

Watching the rain drenching the landscape around me, I wonder, “What’s the weather like right now in Dorset?” In my location, the weather has gone from a rainy 42 degrees Fahrenheit (5 C for my Celsius friends) to 72 F (22 C) and sunny and back within three days. Mostly, though, I’m thinking of my week and what seems like a never-ending treadmill of errands, chauffeuring and household chores. A Playful Day, however, energizes with the sense of possibilities.

What did Kate just say? Catching up with the new season of A Playful Day podcast, I’m excited about her new program format. The message is this: “A Playful Day is a place for makers to celebrate their craft, travelers to rest and friends to gather. This is a safe space that I created as a reminder to seek playful moments that invigorate us and make our hearts glad.” She asks us to share what creating means to us. On this rainy morning, I needed something sunny.

To me, creating is fulfilling my wish to join with my fellow life travelers in nourishing one another. This is akin to Kate’s vision of creating and promoting a community mindset vital to a world meant for us to enjoy. And now my thoughts aren’t running downward with the rain on my windshield but are reconnected with how excited I am about a chance to share the road with a community of fellow artists and travelers.

After a long day, and during our more difficult times, it’s easy to forget that we have some real control over our thoughts, feelings and energy – even for those of us that may be sensitive to seasonal affective disorder or depression. Take a moment right now – really, right now – to note what lifts you. Keep those things in mind and turn to them when your heart needs them. I made my way home that day through rainy thoughts with Kate’s soothing podcast and was reminded of how important it is to be mindful of where we choose to spend our energy. Do our choices reflect caring for ourselves? Sometimes, for me, it means taking the longer but more beautiful way home because it gives me time to decompress.

What resources do you turn to on “rainy” days? What lifts your thoughts and energy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments and to be a part of sharing with one another.

Sunny travels to you, my friends.