I am still driving, as I sit on my bed with my laptop open and a glass of wine on my night stand.
I am still driving, the way you are after 12 hours on the road, which should have been 9, but construction. The air is buzzing, trying to pick me up and move me through it.
I sit here, with my feet up and pillows behind my back but I am still leaning into the curve, foot jumping from gas to brake, scanning roadside scrub for animal eyes, accelerating and decelerating. My driving instructor from 1987 is speaking in low tones in my ear, so as not to startle me. I can now turn my head 260 degrees and am capable of hunting a mouse from Jupiter.
Twelve hours, ten of which were relatively pleasant hours of driving. Liquid sun pouring from the sky, winking from the surface of lakes, shaking silver from strands of willows, splashing across vineyards and warming perfume from peaches that have toppled from their branches and lay in soft sweet mounds on the orchard floor. Gradually spilling into forest and spangling mountainsides sprayed with daises and fields of something fiercely yellow I cannot name, but which makes me smile every time.
The wine has its work cut out for it, because I am hippity hopped up on toxic amounts of Coke Zero, our secret sponsor of one mom and two teen age girls on one glorious highway. My ears buzz with phantom songs from across 6 decades. My daughter is a devote DJ and has carried us all twelve hours with no repeats, slowing the groove in the mellow afternoon haze, and getting us Jiggy With It over dinner, and saving up Eminem who swears and yells at me, bad ass driving coach that he is, just to keep me one jolt of adrenaline ahead of aggressive semi drivers at zero dark thirty.
I can do driving in the dark. I can do it from say, the Revelstoke side of the Roger’s Pass to my Mom’s town of Osoyoos. I can do the valley breaking open, the quiet roads, where it’s pretty much just me. I can be slow, I can be less slow, I can use the inside lane or the outside lane to bend to a curve. I can study the yellow painted strip between me and the ditch as a light source. Moonglow flashes up from the water. I don’t get tired, because exactly at stupid o’clock is when my brain peaks, my cortisol levels rise. I had this shit tested. Turns out night owls have a biological thing going on.
What I DO NOT LIKE, is the 90 mins I drove in the bucket of impenetrable soot, pitch, tar mixture of tonight, on the other end of the drive, tacked onto the eleven hours of daytime travel. It doesn’t seem like a lot, and truly only 45 mins of it was painful. But we all know how time slows down for pain. And that was one eternal stretch of 2700 seconds, one small, tar filled straw bending this camels back to the bowels of hell.
Here’s how it went. I was cruising along, feeling completely competent as a driver. Now, not cocky, but confident. I was like all, Yeah, I took my daughter and her bestie on a road trip and we drove all the way back in daylight, and that took some super organization from me, because I had to get my ass out of bed and hit the pavement for my run, and then make sure my Mom’s floor was washed ‘cause she is not well and can’t do it herself, and pack all of the shit, and so on. And with some teen and me team work we made it all happen, including our stop on the way for provisions, and so when I hit Lake Louise and the sky was still lit I was like, Only two hours to go. And the light was fading, and but pretty gradually, and I was going along like 105, passing the slow cars, respectfully holding my own. And then GOD switched off the lights, and I was like, Damn. It’s dark in here.
I knew there wasn’t far to go. Intellectually, I knew it. You can rally, I told myself as my 105 ground down to a tame 90. At first there wasn’t a lot of traffic. I strained to see the side of the road. I strained to see the lights of the vehicle ahead. I strained to see the landscape above me. I held the steering wheel a little too tightly. My neck sunk into my shoulders, which crept up into my neck.
I knew that technically, I was on a highway. But truthfully I was in a video game. A scary one. Someone kept throwing lights from the sky, asteroids, stars, actual planets. There were so many lights I could not tell the ground from the sky. All the cars I had passed, now passed me. In Lake Louise I was thrilled that there was no traffic, only to find out now that it was because, obviously, they were hiding on the side of the road, ready for ambush. Gathering reinforcement. Everyone and his army was going to Calgary, and in a very big hurry.
My right peter pointer went numb. I experienced warp speed Darwinian mutations, growing new tendons in my forearm and neck to adapt to the physical demands of my unwieldy environment. My inner thigh sprung a spring. I am pretty sure that I was holding my car on the road by sheer force, against an alien gravitational pull towards space. Every so often I turned on my high beams a little too close to the car ahead, beside, behind, above, who’s to say? Sorry I screamed under my breath, just so I could see for a fleeting instant, like that scene in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark when the little green men are dragging the protagonist off to hell and she scares them off with her camera flash. They skitter into the corners, but then they rush back. They win in the end, much to the chagrin of my mother, the babysitter who let me watch it, and myself, for the years of sleepless nights that were in my future. And now again.
When I reach Canmore, I am suddenly at the Rockyview hospital circa 2001. They have been trying to give me an epidural but it hasn’t worked, and now they want me to facilitate the exit of the baby by actually pushing her out, while I can still feel the searing knife jabbing through my right ovary, RUDE! I am hunkering down for a long period of, if you’d like this baby out on your time line, you go ahead and push into the stabbing knife, and let me know how that goes for you, I’ll be here chillin’ —when someone says “we can see the head”.
But Canmore it turns out, is not in fact 3 minutes before the end of the ordeal that I have unconsciously associated with the pain of childbirth. Calgary is still 60 minutes away. Perhaps 3 hours at the speed I am now driving.
Throughout the day, prior to my close encounter with death and possibly aliens, I had been practicing A THING. The THING I had been practicing is undoing the past. Well what the hell does that mean? It means this: For anything to cause us pain, and for pain and suffering to keep recycling themselves we need a decision that says, Yep. That was bad. It was bad to me. You were bad. You were bad to me. I was bad. I was bad to me. All of that deciding, the Buddhists call judgment. And it keeps the BAD alive. It keeps us in a victim relationship with it. Now, WAIT, stick with me here. I would never ever ever call you a self pitying, playing the victim, pathetic person, for having a painful past. ‘Cause, like, Duh, I am nice, and also not mean. Your feelings are totally valid. And it was NOT okay that BAD THINGS, happened. You need sympathy, and empathy, and validation, and help and support. You need to have the thing you need but didn’t get. BUT, here’s the trick, when the movie scene that plays in our head of the BAD THING that happened, keeps playing, it keeps renewing our painful relationship with it. While we are doing all of that work to feel our feelings and heal our feelings, it just keeps dumping on more painful feelings. Like renewing a library book that you don’t really want to read but you feel like you should, and then you get late charges, and now you really feel like you’d better read it or the charges were for nothing, but then your dread of reading it increases, and so does your resistance, until you pretty much hate the book and never read again and then you die. Well sort of like that.
I sometimes practice the following riddle with myself; if you could free everyone that ever hurt you of the cause of what caused them to hurt you, would you? Of course you would, I think, but it would mean that you would have to give up your grievance against them, your state of being “wronged”. All of the villains would be heroes, or at least innocent bystanders.
So my practice was basically undoing the wiring to the past pain, so it stops recreating itself mentally, so I can get ahead of it emotionally.
It’s me looking at the villain and saying, I would rather you be healed than punished.
My safety lies in your healing and not in your imprisonment.
Making THAT choice, frees us. You have a right to be mad, but you also have a right to be happy, which requires your freedom, which requires undoing the shackles that hold you to your villain.
I mean that metaphorically, and emotionally and spiritually. I don’t mean let all of the prisoners out of actual jails. And I don’t mean just the overt bad guys. I mean the system, and ‘the man’, and the politicians, and the friend who wasn’t very friendly that time, and the love who didn’t love you enough, and the world that undervalued you.
And while it may feel like you are falling into the dark night of the soul, or stepping of a cliff into a black sea, or walking a straight path to Armageddon, you are really loosening the grip of your fear on the wheel and letting it steer you through the dark, back home.
Try it out, for a few minutes, or an hour, or a trip through the Roger’s Pass, if you feel so inclined.
Back in the city I am a Navy Seal, and I am running on Martial law. Signs patronize me with city rules and city speed limits. They don’t know where I’ve been. They don’t know what I’ve seen.
I dare them to pull me over right now.
The truth, I laugh, full Jack Nicholson. You can’t handle the truth!
But you, my friend. You can.
— Love Erin
P.S. I’m setting up my fall schedule. If you’d like a spot waiting for you when the summer shenanigans wind down talk to me.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
P.P.P.S. You can also follow me on Instagram, for real time updates, funnies and photos!