Morning Traffic and the Art of Life

There used to be a show in CNN called 'The Art of Life', it was about luxury goods and other things the rich spend their money on. Nice title. When I think about the art of life, I don't think about stuff, though I love stuff; I think about how to go through the ups and downs of life with an attitude that allows one to proceed with grace. If you were to tell me that you had mastered the art of life I would expect you to above all else be happy, at ease, at peace, moving through your days effortlessly, including rough, problem-written days. All this because you have mastered the art of living.

Last night I was very far from this blissful state of mind. The lights were out, I was lying in bed and I couldn't sleep because I was worried about the future. About how troubled my tomorrows could be. If only I could be reassured that everything would be alright. At such times it has become my habit to be increase my awareness of myself. So I focused on my breathing and stilled my chattering mind. I felt my tension, my fear, and, eventually, I drifted off to sleep.

I woke up the next day to the usual routine : Driving my daughter to school. She's in third grade. I'd been doing this since she was in nursery. But this time it would be different.

There is always traffic in front of the gate of my daughter's school. The gate forms a natural bottleneck, allowing only two lanes of vehicles while the road leading to it allows four lanes. It has been my habit, coming into this area of jostling vehicles to always take the rightmost lane since, coming into the school, my preferred drop-off point is to the right. But traffic is a disorganized beast and things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes I am stuck on another lane and have to make my way to my preferred point.

Everyday it is like this, but today it was different.

Today something inside me was taking notes. I believe it was directly related to my bout of angst from the night before (I recall that sometime in the night I asked God for help - such things never go unanswered).

My main gripe from last night was that my life would not go where I want it to go. That I would not end up where I want. There are many reasons for this: lack of money, lack of ability. I mean, right now, I am not where I want to be in life. This is not what I had planned. Would life be more of the same? Would I end up in penury unable to provide for my young family? This is my worst fear; the one that kept me up last night. How do I take control? How do I ensure that everything will be ok?

While I was driving that morning my mind made a connection between the subject of my late night concerns and my driving. I found myself in the wrong lane. The knee-jerk reaction to this was to fret; to worry that I would not be able to make my preferred lane and miss the drop-off and have to go around again and so on an so forth. I've been driving for more than two decades, that hasn't made me into a better technical driver but it has made me into a smarter one - I remain calm. Most days I'd leave it off at that but today I suddenly realized THAT I'VE NEVER MISSED THE DROP-OFF. Never. Not even once. No matter what lane I get stuck in, I somehow always make the right spot at the end. I don't know how. It just happens. I also realized that this was related to my meanderings the night before; in my mind I was worried whether my life will end up where I want it -whether I'll make that dropoff. Specially right now when from the life perspective I felt I was in the wrong lane.

Unlike my driving, when it came to my life veering off course, I did not remain calm. I followed my knee-jerk reaction: I fretted, I worried, I despaired. And I did all this because I did not exactly know how my life would right itself. I would consult finance books to help me out of my money troubles, get trainings to ramp up my skillset at work, but all this busyness did not give me one clue about how I'll get to that happy ending.

Sitting in that car I also realized that I don't exactly know how I'll be moving into the correct lane so I can drop off my daughter; I don't now the exact twist and turns that my car will take vis-a-vis the other vehicles, I did not know what gaps in the traffic will open up or adjust, I did not know exactly how but I knew that I would make the dropoff point; because that is what happens 100% of the time.

This is the answer to my question last night. In life you don't know how. How will you make the kids' tuition payments and all the other bills? How will you save enough to buy house? How will life move exactly and when exactly to make things better. You don't know. You never know. And that is how things are. In traffic and in life. You simply don't know how exactly but you know that somehow, somewhen things will happen and you'll end up where you intend. And why? Because of your intent. Your simple faith and focus on where you want to end up - the dropoff point of your life. This is the silent power that keeps you directed. Focus. Faith.

You can fret and complain in the car while your in the wrong lane. You can fret and complain in life to; but your doing so changes nothing; you'll still make the drop unless you lose focus. But as long as you keep the end result in mind, as long as you focus on where you want to end up that is the direction. That is the guarantee that you won't get loss. To answer last night's question: as long as I don't give up on my vision of how my life should be I am headed in that direction. Whether I keep mysefl awake at night worrying is immaterial. My focus is my direction, everything else in my life will course correct to head where my attention is. In the end, I might as well not worry and fret because everything is ok.

This is a big thing to me because I fret and worry all the time. My mind keeps playing this mini-movies in my head, different kinds of things at different times but all of it signs of complaining or worrying about my life and they make my days miserable. I do that because I'm scared; feeling rudderless. But this mornings lesson shows that concept up as wrong. I am reassured; my direction, my life, the dropoff point is 100% doable.