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?

 

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.

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.

Destination: Otherwise

The silver lining to living on this planet is that we can always find Summer – and my calendar says it’s officially here.

This is a time when we take to our chariots, which faithfully transport us to familiar and foreign parts.  That seems to be what Summer is for — explorations of our outer world, leading us back to explorations of our inner one.  We’re looking beyond our Googlemaps hoping to find a route to our wise inner child: fun, relaxation, friends, naps and snacks.

Summer’s greatest legacy is the way it brings us together – with nature, with family, with friends.  And when SummerTravels Otherwise (2) marries with art, we’ve a recipe for “how to turn strangers into friends” from all corners of the world.

 

Recently, I went through an extended period of time when I was working long hours between two jobs.  Travels OtherwiseMy ability to move myself through life’s events was adequate – and I am really grateful for that; however, I was aware that others had traveled to a different place in their lives.  This meant they were able to choose destinations near and far but always with fun as the focus.  By the time I was finally able to afford to work one full-time job, I needed friends and loved ones to remind me that Summer is the dessert to the meat and potatoes of life.  Luckily, Summer is synonymous with change.

Packing joy intoTravels Otherwise Summer’s outings, we’re brought back to our sense of fun and daring! With events ranging from the music and flashing lights of Belgium’s Tomorrowland and Nevada’s Burning Man, to Japan’s world-renown spas, as well as soaring cliffs we’ve a need to climb, summer travels take us, not only physically to geographical points previously unexperienced, but on life’s most wonderful and soul-essential journeys via ‘Destination: Otherwise’.

With Summer allowing us life within his visage once more, I’d like to share with you, dear friend, one of my very favorite quotes from another who undertook journeys to free himself from a life too heavy with the stuff of meat and potatoes:

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote                

 

In Memoriam and Gratitude

In Memoriam

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

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

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

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

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

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.

No Good Deed…

It’s dusk on a fairly lonely stretch of highway, and I see a stranded motorist several miles ahead. As I approach, my headlights show me a guy whose hood’s up.  He has flares and assorted things around him, so he’ll be okay – right? As happenstance drivers, we’re rarely able to guess with a fair amount of certainty what the problem might be. And me? I’m always conflicted when I: don’t slow down and inquire because the hapless could be dangerous; don’t know how I’d pull over without posing a potential traffic hazard; or, when I reach for my phone and hope it will be enough.  Technology enables us to not stop and extend our persons to the stranded motorist.  It frees us from a sense of the obligatory:  I don’t need to stop and have a conversation, I’ve made the phone call letting someone know of the existence of a stranded motorist.  Help is on the way.  (Give myself a mental pat on the back.)

No Good Deed

Sometimes, when we want to help someone, we worry. After all, there are good reasons the Good Samaritan Law came into being – in summary, ‘No good deed goes unpunished’.  Am I guilty of having overextended myself when I’m asked to give the vehicularly-challenged a ride to a destination that’s not in the direction of my own?  What am I taking on when there are children involved?  If I find myself alone in a car with a stranger that might be high, intoxicated, mentally ill or emotionally unstable?  Even before the internet, drivers had been made much more aware of the “diversity” out there.

Maybe our decision to actually physically stop or not stop is not a matter of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Maybe it’s just a matter of personal judgement that makes sense for the situation and that moment.  Still, without having taken the time for a one-to-one connection, have I erred on the side of omission?  Will the motorist I now see in my rearview mirror suffer because of my neglect?  Am I my brother’s keeper?

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.”