As I drove home from work today, someone got mad at me for slowing down to turn left IN THE LEFT TURN LANE. His little gray car zoomed around me, cutting off people in the lane next to me as he raced across the intersection to wherever he was going.
I laughed into my rearview mirror, chuckling at his impatience and wondering why he had been in the left lane–maybe he hadn’t known it turned into left-turn only? Maybe he was from out-of-town? I didn’t think so. The way in which he was driving indicated to me that he clearly knew where he was, and so he should have known.
Eventually, the left-turn light turned green, and I curved through the intersection, still wondering about why someone would get mad at someone turning left in a left-turn lane. It was really quite simple: he wanted to go straight, and the person in front of him slowed down. The rules of the road didn’t really matter: someone was in his way.
Given the right context, we’re all like that: we want something, but something gets in our way. Desire and expectation are the foundation of every good plot line. Then someone moves the end goal, moves our cheese, and we get all flustered. (It’s why Who Moved My Cheese? was so popular, btw.)
If I get in the car, needing to get to my destination ASAP, then I drive hunched forward, as if a racing breath and posture will get me there faster. Whereas if I get in my car intending to enjoy my ride, knowing that city traffic is WEIRD, intending to use every red light as an opportunity to breathe, then I’m a much more relaxed driver. I might even enjoy the ride. I might even compose a blog post like this one in my head.
By the time I turned off the next street, I made another connection. In my life, I am usually the one who stops in front of me. Recently I realized that much of my internal struggles are my own doing. I’d really love to write a book. I really would. I have a topic, I have ideas–ideas enough for two books (one fiction, one nonfiction). It’d be so fun–and SO HARD.
In reality, writing a book takes mental space, time, and energy. These are three things that I do not have. But I want to write a book, so I keep putting that intention into my days. Here are my days: caring for two pre-school-aged children and teaching three classes. When I get to the end of my day, and I have not worked on a book, I get discouraged. And when I do work on the book, I am discouraged that I did not get more done, that it will take so long, that it has not happened yet.
I stop in front of myself all the time, thwarting my own desires by intending to do something that I cannot do. I want to barrel through the intersection, hunched over the steering wheel, in total control of when I get there and how. But that makes me miserable.
So I release the goal. At least–I release the timing of the goal. I’ll get there, someday. I’m giving up the goal–for now. My intention, right now, is to breathe through the work I have. To be present for my children, for their cuddles, for their tiny little exploding minds. To be present for my students, for their questions, for their not-so-tiny exploding minds. To be present for my life, what it is like here, now, in this stage.
It’s a much better way to drive.