It was a balmy afternoon, driving down sun-dappled country roads. The roads were clear, the radio playing good tunes. We were in convoy, her parents up front and us behind, heading to get her dad into hospital for much needed surgery.
The odd car came and went, the miles the same, as we chatted and sang and smiled at the sun. Then, slowly sliding across the white lines, came a white van. Gently but persistently heading onto our side of the road. It kissed their car, taking a wing mirror with it and then came to greet us. I thought it would care that it had already made contact with something, but it didn’t. I thought it would care that we looked like rubbing noses any time soon, but it didn’t.
And then I knew. I knew that if I didn’t take control, if I didn’t drive my way out of this, nothing else would improve the outcome. So I did. I can’t tell you what I did, except swear. I remember swearing! We slid, car body against car body, exchanging paint flecks and dents. I lost a door handle, parts of panels, full access to the car but I had kept control.
When we eventually all gathered on the country road, on the sun-dappled Tarmac, cars abandoned, person to person, we checked in. I wasn’t angry, the devastation was already as apparent in the group as it was on my car. I felt sorry for him. He’d run himself into the ground trying to complete a job, both literally and metaphorically. He thought he had control of it all, and he didn’t.
As I look back now, I see so much. For my side, I see how I used to travel and assume that everyone could and would see me and accommodate me just as I needed. I trusted everyone to be in a place of sufficient self-control and awareness that they could see an impending disaster as clearly as I could. And I trusted that everyone would know how to put the brakes on. I also see how I used to ‘check out’ when it got too much.
For his part, I see how we trust our abilities to always know when it’s too much and how to save ourselves before a crisis. We presume that we will always have the fortitude to pull up from life’s mishaps without really paying any attention to what we’re doing to protect our core and integrity to support that. We get so hellbent on achieving that or fulfilling that role that we lose a sense of who we are and what truly serves us.
I look back now and see how important it is to drive mindfully. To hold the steering wheel in both hands and know your capacity to stay on track. It’s not enough to assume your natural abilities will wheel you smoothly on track always. It’s not enough to assume that everyone else has it under control enough to cater for the odd swerve or detour. We were given control of how to carry ourselves, we don’t have control of much else. So may we learn to skilfully manoeuvre ourselves with grace.