I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for work recently. I enjoy the opportunity to meet new people, educate conference participants, and advocate for individuals with disabilities. I like people watching at airports and finding new parks to explore. I even don’t mind sleeping in hotels rooms after I create my own personal sensory deprivation chamber–kleenex in the peephole, a towel at the base of the door, and a clip on the curtains. You laugh, but it’s true!
But driving through large cities with a lot of traffic has recently tested my capacity to center myself. Cars weaving in and out as if they’re in a video game, trucks roaring by at unimaginable rates of speed–that’s when the music gets turned off, the hands move to 10 and 2, and I focus on just getting through.
What I have come to realize about myself, however, is that I am most challenged by getting stuck behind a truck in stop-and-go traffic. The inability to see around it, know what’s ahead, and prepare for potential issues creates a bit of anxiety that surfaces as irritation and impatience.
This past week, I sat in rush hour traffic in Atlanta two days in a row. Not how I’d planned my travel timeline going or coming, but life happens.
On my way home last Thursday, I was tired and physically uncomfortable. I wanted to get home, do some yoga, and rest. I decided it would be safer for me to find a spot in traffic and just stay there following the vehicle in front of me.
As luck would have it, I inevitably found myself behind large truck. I will give the driver a lot of credit. It met all the criteria–moving slowly and safely, giving others plenty of wiggle room, kindly letting others over when they decided last minute to get out of the chaos. A good choice for me, but it meant that my vision was limited.
While I knew the traffic was lined up for miles, and we were traveling under 10mph, I could feel myself revert to that anxious Cameron self-talk:
If I can’t see what’s ahead, I can’t prepare. If I can’t prepare, I won’t be ready for any potential hazards. If I’m not ready, I might get hurt.
And then, wow, it hit me–this was like a metaphor for the earlier years of my life.
If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you know the sense of urgency it creates for your mind-body-spirit. For those of us that live with it, it becomes a incessant chatter that fills your head with questions and instructions as your body ramps up into a state of hypervigilance or hyperfocus. It is tiring, and at times, debilitating.
In the first several decades of my life, I didn’t have the tools to navigate that aspect of my mind-body-spirit. I didn’t just want to know what was ahead, I needed to know what was ahead so that I could have my plan mapped out.
And what I typically prepared for was the worst.
I didn’t trust myself, anyone else, or God. And sadly, I spent so much time worrying about what might be (in the future), I missed a lot of what was (in the present).
Being willing to settle in behind the truck last Thursday offered me the opportunity to practice the skills I’d learned as a part of my own self-care and spirituality. I found my breath, I relaxed my body, I engaged in affirming self-talk, and I even turned on some of my favorite music.
But most importantly, I trusted myself–my choice of the safe driver, my commitment to my spiritual mantra “just be,” and my awareness of Cameron and who I’ve become.
It’s interesting. When I started this blog post, my intention was to focus on the truck as being like the Creator–learning to trust God even when we can’t see the whole journey. And yet, in writing this post, I have gained insight into where my spiritual and emotional growth in recent years have occurred. With and in me.
It has been a long and intimate journey, just like my walk with God, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to pause and honor this touchpoint in my life.