You would think that dodging motorcyclists, pedestrians, and lane-crossers that my capacity for the relative calm and peace of the American roadway would usher in less stress. I sure believed such things.
I believed I conquered driving stress as a road warrior in Asia, or at least I believed my experiences driving in Asia at least increased my immunity to stress on the road. Oh, how wrong I was! Driving in the U.S. of A. ranks among my most surprising sources of stress upon re entry.
I realized the level of my defensiveness, my learned behavior in Asia, was making me dangerous. My husband and I joked about my PTSD on the road but it wasn’t a joke. My inability to remain in a lane for fear the car next to me will drift into my lane was, among other behaviors, highly dangerous and I knew it.
The surge of my foot to the brake when any car pulls up to enter traffic from a parking lot is lightening quick. I break whenever a car even looks like it is thinking about pulling into traffic. Why? Drivers in Asia never stop on the way out of a parking lot, trusting that all other drivers will just make room for them. So, I have deep trust issues.
I drive slow. Traffic in Asia is mostly pretty slow as it all happens in highly congested cities. Most of the time I drove at about 30-40 miles an hour. I was unprepared for traffic to move at 60-70 miles an hour on weaving highways with concrete barriers blocking out the shoulder. Add to that, drivers seem to trust that others will stay in their lanes which makes them completely comfortable to hang out right next to me at high speeds. This reckless behavior just sends adrenaline streaking through my body.
To make it worse, sometimes I wasn’t driving but my husband was behind the wheel. Such losses of control in areas of fear are true tests of character. Well, I failed them all. My efforts to grab hold of anything in the car and my convulsive movements into crash positions when he was driving made me dangerous even in the passenger seat! Fortunately, my husband is understanding and did his best to patiently ignore his crazy wife in the passenger seat.
There is always something unexpected in transition and I began to clue in that driving was my unexpected stressor this time. Did not see that one coming! Ah, pride, what a blinder of the soul. I thought I owned the road and maybe I did just a little…in Asia…but in Texas? Not at all. The road was owning me.
So after much soul searching I began looking out the side window instead of looking out the windshield (only when I’m not driving of course). It took me awhile to do this because, for some reason, I thought that yielding my ability to look forward would somehow negate my control of the future. So silly! But, fear usually does not go hand in hand with calm logic.
In this season of fear, I’m struck by the simplicity of living in the present. Our present is full of boxes, half unpacked or in transit or in a storage unit. It is also a season of road trips and visiting family and friends. We are in transition and the longing of my soul is for that future point in which we are settled, so it is difficult to say the least to live in the present.
Living in the present is looking out the side window observing and noticing what is right next to me rather than reacting to all that might could possibly happen.
Even though the present passes by quickly it is beautiful and not to be missed.