I should write a lovely Christmas post (and maybe still will) but right now on this early Christmas Eve morning it is not the charm of the holiday season that is on my mind but rather I’m contemplating the bane of my winter existence: ICE.
More specifically, road ice. Driving over icy roads is the pits and this past Sunday evening I lost control of my car. I was driving on a country back road (lesson #1: do not drive back roads in Maine in winter) when suddenly my car had a mind of its own. Actually, it was as if some preternatural power had a mind of its own and took control of the car.
My car slid (rather gracefully, I might add) in wide arcs over the road but, fortunately, when I hit this invisible huge stretch of black ice, I wasn’t driving fast; I’d just reduced speed to 15 mph (in a 35 mph zone) because I sensed road conditions were changing.
I knew enough to not brake and, of course, I wasn’t going to accelerate either, so it really was as if I’d surrendered control of the car to someone else…. I took my foot off the gas, did not brake, and just tried to steer the car ever so gently (rather than jerk it back to the center of the road and really get into trouble) — praying at the same time that no one was driving toward me from the opposite direction.
My very smart and sensitive dog, Shadow, was in the back of the car and eerily started emitting a long plaintive howl — more like a keening befitting a banshee — which added to the unnerving surrealism of the experience as the car sailed forth carrying both of us to God only knew where…. In Chicago terms that I understand, we slid out of control for approximately 2 city blocks (on a road going downward) before the car came to a complete stop just short of a large pine tree at the end of someone’s drive way.
Believe me, it was harrowing.
Did I mention I hate driving on ice?
Well, I’m looking at some very challenging moments in 2014 and this morning I started thinking about how driving on ice is a metaphor for life and is also instructive about how I should handle some unavoidable difficulties going forward — not just in the upcoming year, but indeed thereafter too.
First, although sometimes I may know when road ice is in front of me, as last Sunday proved there are times when dangerous ice appears suddenly. This is the same for many troubles in life. When troubles roll out under me — as they inevitably will — I should remember that difficult times, just like a patch of dangerous ice, cannot be circumvented using the usual driving remedies: I cannot slam on the brakes, drive around it, or hit the gas to accelerate out of there.
Dangerous ice under my car and painful life changes require staying calm and moving gently. Like a car that is out of control on ice, the most that I can reasonably hope to do when I hit a stretch of trouble is guide myself through the danger with a light hand. Difficult times, like treacherous road ice, require understanding that not all events can be controlled and they are what they are and need to play out accordingly. We need to reach deep into ourselves and find our strength to go with the flow while still applying whatever guiding principles we may live by and hold dear.
I like to say that one of my mantras is “just do the next best thing.” With trouble and with ice, the first best thing is to realize you are only minimally in control and while you are not in control of where your life (or car) may be headed when on ice or in difficult times, you still have power to guide yourself as gently as possible through the ordeal so that you come out on the other side hopefully intact.
Realizing this, my first resolution for the upcoming New Year is thus: When skidding dangerously over ice, metaphorically or not, it’s the light touch and not the heavy foot that will give me the best chance at avoiding a serious crash.
As always, thanks for reading my stuff.
Oh and please be safe out there…