Are you going through life with your wipers on?
I experienced a profound moment of awareness a few months ago but I needed time before I could write about it. Sometimes I have moments that strike me with such clarity that it shakes me and the experience lends itself immediately to paper and other times my moment of self-awareness goes beyond what I can easily explain with words. I love to write but I love to tell stories in person when given the opportunity. I can speak to a group and move them to tears through laughter or sadness and I can paint a picture of a moment using tone, hand gestures, a twinkle in my eye, and a careful touch on the shoulder. But this summer I had powerful moment of insight packed with magic and writing about it intimidated me because I knew it was important to get it right. I knew I had to share it with you (yes, you reading this right now) and fully explain the magnitude of the moment I had and how it can help you. It was my experience, but I know I experienced it for the sole purpose to share it with you. To create a ripple. Today, sitting under my comforter with my apartment unusually quiet and client work done for the day I am alone in my bedroom with the window wide open listening to the sound of heavy rain hitting the first fallen leaves of the season and I feel like it’s the right time for me to share the moment I’ve been holding in my heart for months.
My life so far has seen adventure, success, failure, love, heartbreak and soul-testing losses that literally took my breath away. My divorce in 2014 is something I still can’t fully explain. Was it caused by or the catalyst of what I call my “mid-life awakening”? I am still unsure. But I know that the past few years for me have been about quiet learning, the dismantling of perceived expectations, about giving myself permission to be. These years have left me beautifully vulnerable, raw and free. But still there are times when I question myself, my ability to support my kids, and I have a battle with the demon of doubt that lurks nearby.
Months ago I left my apartment in the morning and stepped out into the hot summer sun and walked down the sidewalk to my car. I opened the driver side door, tossed my keys in the cup holder, sat in the driver’s seat, put my foot on the break and pushed the ignition button. I was a million miles away. Stuck in my own head I had already forgotten what I had done 5 minutes earlier. I was not present. Like a whirlpool of voices in my mind, an audio loop of negative self-talk was running punctuated with “what if”, “I wish”, and “how am I gonna…” over in my head mixed with tiny bits of songs I hadn’t heard in years and replays of television commercial jingles. My mind was fighting my soul. Mucking it up. Dredging up the past any way it could to keep me from experiencing the present and setting my intentions for the future. I felt such a heavy anxiety, the weight of self-doubt at times can be crushing. And what’s worse is that over time uncertainty and doubt will steal your dreams and self-worth. But the moment I pushed the ignition button something unexpected happened and it would change my life. My wipers turned on. I watched them go left, right, left, right on the windshield. They made a gentle swoosh sound. And that sound brought me into the moment and out of my spiraling brain. I vaguely recalled the night before when the last few minutes of my drive home were dampened by a lazy drizzle that had begun 3 stop lights before I made the left hand turn onto my street. Once parked I pushed the ignition button to turn off the car and went in for the night.
So now there I was, in the bright summer sun with not a cloud in the sky and my wipers on.
I sat in the driver’s seat and watched them. A neighbor walked by on the sidewalk and looked at me funny. I didn’t care. Left, right, left, right they went. And I sort of stared through them, past them. I didn’t blink. It was trance-like.
The moment I had the insight it came through me – I could actually feel it. It was warm and moved front to back through my chest. I did not hear a voice. It was just a knowing. It was like a hand I could not see delicately placed a flower in my chest at the exact moment it was about to bloom and suddenly I was flooded with an incredibly vibrant “knowing.” This has happened to me before. But never at a time when I was at such odds with myself. And the timing of this I think magnified the effect.
I knew then, in an instant, the storm is over. The sun is shining. It has passed. It is done. It is gone. It will not come again. It is over. You are safe. You have what you need. It is time to turn the wipers off. How many single moms don’t know where to find the faith and inner-strength to let fear and uncertainty end? How many women wake up each morning carrying the storm of yesterday into a new day and for a moment sit in their cars full of school papers and water bottles and hair elastics and gas station receipts and dead pens and socks of various colors and sizes and for that split second before they start their day and ask “how in the hell did I get here?” or “how do I get us out of here?” Have you ever been one of these women?
By thinking this way you are in essence beginning each new day with your wipers on even though the storm has passed. Imagine going through each and every sun-filled day carrying an open umbrella and running your wipers each time you drove as an outward expression of your inability or unwillingness to let shit go or as a way to show the world how hard you are on yourself or that you find an odd, familiar comfort in negative self-talk. Maybe you are unconsciously choosing to continue the storm because even though it sucks you know you can weather it, but what you don’t know anymore is how to be calm and steady and slow and deliberate and intentional and bloom in the sun; independent and brilliant?
In this moment the physical world reminded me that if I was not careful my fears were going to affect how I saw the world and how the world saw me. My fears would be a distraction, just like windshield wipers are. They would be in front of me keeping me from seeing my path clearly. I breathed in deep. I said out loud to myself, “I am ok. Today is a good day. I will make it into what I need and what I want. My storm is over,” and with that, I turned off my wipers. And the moment they were still so was my mind. A visual of a straight line actually came to me versus the manic up and down, left, right, left of just a few moments before. And now, when I feel my mind beginning to ramp up the uncertainty of a situation I take a deep breath and remind myself of that morning, knowing that storms and chaos are temporary but my ability to believe in myself and my capacity for surviving is a constant.
So now I want to know, have there been times where you caught yourself going through life with your wipers on? How have you taught yourself to calm your mind and move past the fear?