I’ve been thinking about all the dramas that play out in the average lifetime. I can’t seem to get away from the idea of a benevolent universe, and the abundance of learning opportunities that occur, minute by minute. Thus, each drama is a lesson in disguise.
Take last Wednesday evening. I finished a long day at my Port Elgin office. ‘Twas around 8:30 and I wanted to go home. I took a look out the window, and there were a few, cute flakes of snow coming down. I decided that the weather was good enough to drive.
I got 10 minutes outside of town, and drove into what we call around here a “streamer” – that’s a band of snow coming in off of the lake – in this case, Lake Huron. It’s like hitting a wall of snow and wind. I was engulfed, could only see 3 feet in front of me, and there was 8 inches of new snow on the ground, and a couple of tire tracks.
I proceeded, slowly.
Meeting cars going the other way was a treat. For a moment, I could see better – what is it about seeing better when in relationship with someone else? – but then we each had to slow down to decide who got the tire tracks. This means that pretty quickly I had to find the shoulder of the road. What is required here is no panic, edging over gently and carefully and no quick moves. This seems to be, in business and in life, a good piece of advice if ever there was one.
Cars began appearing out of the glooming snow, but they were sideways, in the ditches. This, I have heard, is not good. I suspect that people get into this fix when they scare themselves. They lose sight of the little clues about where they are in relations to, well, the ditches. What is required is
- no panic (noticing a pattern here?)
- scanning without fixating (this is that old driving saw about if you’re heading for a tree – or ditch – look where you want to go, not at what you’re trying to avoid. We tend to fixate on where we don’t want to go, and end up hitting it.) and
- allowing for intuitive knowing. There’s a wealth of information floating around, if only we will get quiet and listen.
It’s also about remembering, for example, that mailboxes are off of the shoulder and before the ditch.
Imagine. Gently scanning the path for clues as to our location, not panicking and assuredly never aiming at what would best be avoided. I wonder why I’m writing about this for Into the Centre?
I was beginning to question my ability to get home. Now, there were tire tracks I could have continued to follow – indeed, trucks were heading south (toward home) and I could have followed one of them.
There was just one problem with that approach. I didn’t know where they were going. What was their final destination? Why should I follow someone somewhere on faith? We could all end up in the ditch. Or in Sarnia or somewhere.
Having finally decided that carrying on would likely result in me visiting the ditch, I bailed and decided to head back to Port Elgin, via the country road I always take.
Except the country road was covered in virgin snow. And the wind picked up. I drove very slowly, imagining the curve I’d have to navigate in order to cross the one lane bridge over the river. A farm loomed in the distance, laneway snowy. I stopped and thought about pulling in, turning around. I decided to press on. (Notice another pattern here?)
About a quarter mile later, I gave up. There was no way I could determine anything. I couldn’t even make out where the ditches were, let along avoid them. I needed to turn around. But how?
I rolled down the window, looked backwards at my tracks and realized I had a clear path back to the highway. I could drive in reverse, and follow my own tracks back to the point where I knew there were other paths to follow.
I’m not John Wayne nor the Lone Ranger. Just because I’ve decided to try something, to head off in a certain direction, doesn’t mean I have to proceed full speed ahead when all I’m getting is lousy results. It’s tempting. Very tempting. I even had a little voice in my head, as I backed up, say, “What are you, a wuss?” Yet how often does disaster result from the endless repetition of what doesn’t work?
How often do we end up ass over teakettle because we refuse to stop doing what doesn’t work?
I made it back to the highway. Turned left. The snow was worse, more cars in the ditch. But I’d covered this part of the road before. Also, I knew that the tracks I could see to the left of me, in the other lane, were mine, and they led home.
An hour after I left, I got back to my office, having driven maybe 6 miles. Just prior, I stopped at a Convenience Store to buy a magazine to read, as I’d be sleeping in my office. I mentioned my adventure to the nice lady behind the counter, who smiled and said, “Not from around here, are you?” I agreed that I wasn’t. She replied, “Locals call this part of town The Stupid Zone. People look outside, see clear skies and say, “I think I can drive South,” despite what they’re saying on the radio. Glad you got back safe.”
What a nice way to call me stupid! I love it! It’s a new counselling line – “I think … you’ve entered The Stupid Zone!” And she, of course, was right. I knew it was snowing, and snowing bad. I decided that I wanted to be home. My desire to be home outweighed my knowledge of the conditions. (Just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s always in your best interest.) I, in other words, made a stupid choice. I didn’t listen to all of me. I only listened to the one, dumb voice that wanted to go home.
So, lots of lessons here, most of which I’ve mentioned as I wrote. Life is played out, for many of us, exactly the same way. We’re drawn by a silly little voice to do something (again!) that we know gets us lousy results, lost, stuck up to our bumpers in drifts, tilted over and in trouble. And like lemmings, off we go, doing it again. And again.
Even if we chose to head down that path, there are ways to turn around, to navigate safely to safe harbour (or, as Dar puts it, “All you have to do is change your position …”) This requires a willingness to admit that heading down that path was dumb, just plain dumb. This requires focus and attention. Then, accepting the ‘mistaken direction,’ we stop and find a way to turn around. Going back has markers. Plunging ahead leads to the ditch.
To do this elegantly requires working from a non-attached place of saying, simply, “This isn’t working.” This is a place on non-judgement. Imagine what possible good it would have done me to beat up on myself for heading into the snow. I needed all my faculties to scan the road and find my way home. Beating on myself at the same time would have been a disaster.
I may, then, talk about The Stupid Zone, but I don’t consider myself (or anyone) stupid. Stupid choices, yes. For sure and in spades. The wise soul is not the person who makes no mistakes.
The wise person recognizes the mistake and corrects. Immediately. Without whining.
From this place of non-attached observing, clues to “making it home” always appear. Markers. Hints. Usually in spades. A friend of Dar’s is over right now, cutting stained glass in our Stained Glass Shop. She attended my last Bodywork Workshop, in September. She needed work, badly, back then, and even more, as I look at her, now. She chose not to. She had a massage 3 weeks ago. The Massage Therapist suggested Bodywork. So did her physiotherapist. She said, “I don’t want to be in pain anymore. I need to see Wayne.” Except that in two weeks, she leaves the country for a year. We’re looking at booking 13 months down the line. The signs are there, all the time, if we look. And then, we are required to actually do something about them.
One of my friends sent me an e-mail. She wrote:
“Thanks for (your e-mail).
I warmed myself reading your words. My how I appreciate you and am forever grateful. Everything you said makes sense. I had an interesting experience this morning, speaking of synchronicities … I was in a meeting this morning and a co-worker and I were discussing the topic of perfectionism… and guess who knows about that! I said “I know about that, I am a certifiable perfectionist wanna be”… and just after I ended that sentence a light plate (one of those big clear plastic covers) fell from above me and missed my head by about a foot!! My colleague had a bird and I certainly freaked myself out! I immediately thought – what is the universe telling me here? TO STOP EVEN REMOTELY SUGGESTING THAT I AM PERFECT!!! Very amusing. Did I learn my lesson yet or do I need the bloody thing to hit me on the head?”
Neat, the way the cosmos works. I often want to give people’s heads a shake, in proper Zen fashion. Nice to see the ceiling beginning to fall in on what doesn’t work.
Have a look at your life, your dramas, the things you continually set in motion. Stop whining about how hard it is to stop. Just stop for a second and think “Is this path safe? Clear? Helpful? Does it lead where I want to go? Am I on it out of habit? Do I have the courage to turn around?”