Driving Lessons

Life can take a sharp left turn around a blind curve in an instant. I have come to not only realize this, but to brace for it when I feel things begin to swerve, sometimes even ever so slightly. When at times they blindside us, sometimes we have a split second time to look and assess, but either way, and as if in momentary slow motion picture, these sharp turns seem to come out of nowhere and take us through places we never thought we’d journey; until someone else takes the wheel and all of a sudden we are just along for the ride.

The consistent lesson about life is that we all seem to think we are in control of our own, until life shows us that we aren’t. There are moments that appear out of nowhere, and we are forced without notice, to endure the view from the passenger seat. But in those times when instead of driving, we are simply riding along, we can still guide our destination. Because what remains ours to hold onto when the wheel is jerked out of our hands, is how we will choose to react to the challenges that come as a passenger: acceptance, faith, and trust.

These are the moments in life when we must survive not by sight, but by trust. When we learn to embrace that sometimes blind curves can offer the greatest opportunity; to trust in others to get us to safety when we can’t get there alone. When there is that split second realization that we have been going the wrong way or down a washed out road and we trust instead of give up, we might even find something greater than control in the view from the passenger seat.

I will say this, in times of rough waters, sharp turns and steep drop offs, knowing who we can count on when thrusted unexpectedly to the passenger seat of life is the key. Gratitude for being shown while in the midst of a frightening free-fall makes the fall itself feel like more of a stumble, and the hard landing more like a springy trampoline. The right support, that is not boastful, conditional or paper thin, almost instantly catapults us back upwards. Having those who will and do grab our wheel, throw out the rope, or take the reins when we just can’t, are not just important, they can be vital to our survival.

My father had a series of heart attacks last week that led to a diagnosis of heart failure and a major, life-threatening, open heart surgery to save his life. I have rarely at this point in my thirty three years, felt simultaneously so out of control and yet so calm. I was not the one lying there in the bed with my heart unexpectedly sick with disease, so I cannot speak to what my dad must have been feeling; but surely I could see on his face that in these days he had no other choice but to trust and accept if he hoped to get around this most surprising blind curve. He had to be willing to detour down another road, and hope.

Life certainly can change in an instant. When it does, you learn things about other people- you learn things about yourself. We all have the opportunity in these moments to find something greater than control. I am so grateful for this opportunity to see life’s beauty that has appeared in the kindness of others, arising unconditionally, when our own gifts are not strong enough to steer us out of harm’s way. I have learned incredible lessons this week about the human spirit, as I was witness to some of the most powerful moments of love, kindness, and even darkness. I have seen that there is a lot of good in this world, but there is also wickedness, and that we all have both within us. This world can change with every breath we take; and the direction it goes will depend on which we choose to inhale, and perhaps even more important- which we choose to exhale back into this world.

My father is blessed to already have so much good in his lungs and even more good in his heart. He deserves all this and more of the good he has been giving out for years. My dad has shown me more this week about kindness, acceptance and trust than I ever thought possible; about how to decipher which breaths to take. And that the view from the passenger seat in a car full of kindness, is a far better view than being the best driver on a lonely road looking back at nothing but empty seats.