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!

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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

A Playful Day on a Rainy Day’s Commute


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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.

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.