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.

 

 

 

Miles of Opportunity

It’s summer and I’ve got miles to go. With a car full of family headed toward vacationsville, I’m relaxed but trying to be traffic alert at the same time. So far, it’s been a good day, a good drive. I wonder, though, about the blue sedan keeping a steady, too close bead on the darker blue truck in front of it. I check my speed: 80mph. The two cars just ahead in the left lane have to be going faster ’cause they’ve been creeping ahead for a while now – at least the dark blue Tundra has been creeping. Looks like, if Lexus had its way, it would be flying at 100mph, or faster. Another speed limit sign zips behind me: 65mph.

The right lane has adequate gaps between cars, so Lexus has had several opportunities to switch lanes to the right and then switch back into the left lane ahead of Tundra, but its nose remains steadfastly up Tundra’s tailpipe. I can’t help but wonder why Lexus is passing up one opportunity after another and choosing to pick a fight with Tundra instead. No doubt, distorted thinking is at work.

Selective focus is a lot like selective hearing. When used negatively, one takes a certain stance or holds a specific viewpoint despite all evidence to the contrary and that offers a differing option. This evidence, these options, they don’t want to know about – or be reminded of. Those using selective focus negatively will take the victim stance and want the one outcome they have in mind. In their fixation (“the act of fixing or the state of being fixed”), they’ll resort to force and intimidation to get a result.

By RustySmokebox - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30939315
By RustySmokebox – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30939315

Exits come and go, and the Lexus is still caught up in the Tundra’s exhaust. No doubt, Lexus thinks it’s got some quasi-power thing going by virtue of its brilliance in munching at Tundra’s mudflaps until Tundra does its bidding. But Tundra doesn’t flinch. It stays true to its course. Lexus is looking like a pit bull that’s lost the ability to use its rational mind – why else give up miles of opportunities for a senseless act of harassment? Lexus is pretending to itself that it’s got the power when, really, Lexus gave power away.

The only time that selective focus works to the benefit of all, and especially yourself, is when you recognize that wherever you are is your point of power. Selective focus is powerful when you disallow others to define you or the situation you’re in. Tundra held power in place despite Lexus’s attempts to create a sense of anxiety, stress, anger or to garner a reaction from Tundra, such as an abrupt slowing or capitulation. Watching Lexus cross two lanes to the right to exit, I mentally give Tundra two thumbs up. Tundra would not be bullied or intimidated. Instead, what I saw was a driver who was causing no harm or inconvenience to another. Let’s be clear here: Lexus was the actor driving action toward another. Lexus chose to feel put out despite miles of opportunity to move into another lane or to exit. Tundra was exceeding the speed limit by at least 20-25mph. And despite this very generous overage, Lexus for some perverse reason really needed to push to have a certain outcome from Tundra.

I’ve seen this scenario turn ugly and even dangerous when folks get stressed or fearful. Folks get angry. So, steady as she goes. Never let an aggressive driver pull you off course.

Traffic Surfing

Traffic Surfing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.