Human Beings appear to travel at least two great highways in life.
One is a visible, external one. It’s the one usually described in our obituary. It sometimes includes actual highways and it moves us from place to place. Roadsigns along the way name our important relationships and life events; distances are measured in years. Our daily decisions determine it’s route, sometimes taking us on backroads and often determining our speed. The Universe will add icy switch-backs or ten-car pileups without warning, referring to them as learning opportunities. We get to decide that, though.
We choose some of our travel companions on this highway. A few special friends, soul-picked for the longest or most important journeys. Others we recognize as meaningful companionship for seasons, weekend excursions or day trips, and of course there are those we wouldn’t ride to the corner store with, given a choice. That we don’t always get. There’s a lot that happens on this highway that is outside our control, and only a few things that truly are.
The second highway is an internal one; I call it the Innerstate Highway. It’s invisible, but paved with well-travelled thoughts, ideas, worries, beliefs and self-talk; the good, bad and ugly.
I sometimes call this highway my “free-way” because that’s where I take a break and be free from what’s happening on my external highway. Although it can be noisy, it’s a different kind of noisy, and I’ve learned to slow down traffic in there, so I can find a quiet place to rest. When I remember to.
The day started well enough. Pippa and I rose at our usual “Half Past Sunrise.”
Feeling relaxed, I decided to linger at the lake for the morning; sit in the tentative almost-sun, do something creative, and savour my much-anticipated high-powered Mexican coffee. After trying a number of coffee-making practices, I now use the simplest set-up I could find; a collapsible metal filter holder, recycled filters and a Corning Ware kettle, which I bought for $4 used, in Quartzsite. As I make my coffee, I congratulate myself on how quickly this set-up delivers me to my morning picker-upper.
All was ducky until I realized the coffee, which I bought in Mexico during my recent trip, was decaffeinated!@!#$!!! ( #translationproblems #coffeepanic) I’m sure I had an instant withdrawal headache, so I took two Tylenol preventatively and began to fret.
What I actually experienced was a head-on collision at a major intersection on my Innerstate Highway. My belief that the day wouldn’t begin without a proper coffee pulled out in front of my fear that I would get a really bad headache without it, and those two thoughts flipped three times and landed in a ditch full of “TODAY IS GOING TO SUCK IF I CAN’T FIND A PROPER COFFEE THIS MINUTE!”
When such an internal accident happens, it naturally affects one‘s ability to settle into a little creativity in the sunshine. I promptly labelled my doodle juvenile, and torn it up. The sun immediately lost 5 essential degrees- the ones responsible for my happiness- and a decision to leave camp early occurred. So I could find actual coffee, presumably. But I can’t say for sure. Because I didn’t actually make the decision; it just occurred. (This is a common sign of problems on the Innerstate)
I rushed Pippa to get going, and she didn’t approve. She’s not a morning person.
I didn’t make the bed properly and it took me ten minutes to find my keys. Which were in it. I had to poop, and didn’t take time to stop at the washrooms in the park. I had only a vague idea of where I was going. So, as I was driving out of the park in a decaffeinated panic, I asked the Universe for a Sign. You know, a little direction from someone who just might know a little more than I do. And although I often appreciate the Universe for her sense of humour, I was in no mood today.
I knew I was in trouble but I was in no shape to navigate it. That’s because instinct also travels on the Innerstate Highway, where signs originate. Clearly traffic was NOT moving smoothly on the Innerstate.
Not getting any assistance from my summoned sign, I used fear-based decision making instead. This is what happens when there is trouble on the Innerstate. We start depending on externals alone and fear creeps in. Going north meant high elevation and cooler temperatures. In this state of mind, there was no way I was going to be caffeine depleted and cold at the same time. So I went south, even though this meant facing the freeway.
I did my best to avoid Phoenix, but spent the majority of the day in some kind of unspeakable purgatory for nomads who aren’t consulting either of their maps with any skill. I hit a highway closure at one point, and crawled in traffic for almost an hour; the general area of Phoenix, with cramps related to my earlier omission. Pippa was as uneasy as I was, despite my deferring to her musical preferences on Sirius radio. (I like the 70s and she insists on Pitbull’s station).
When I feel anxious, I have an internal block and delete button I depend on. At some point, I took an off-ramp and landed in a weird subdivision inappropriately named Happy Valley. I now had a food headache too, in addition to needing gas, groceries, and a bathroom.
And you know what I did? I finally remembered what to do. I walked right out into the centre of the traffic snarl on my Innerstate, and I held up the STOP sign. With great authority. I might have even yelled it. Internally, I mean. Although Pippa did give me a sideways glance.
I then put up the window covers on the van and took a 30 minute nap with Pippa, outside a Krispy Creme Donut store at a busy outlet mall. As I closed my eyes it began to rain, and I asked the rain to freshen up my windshield so I could see better.
When we woke, the sun had peeked out. I got up, stretched, took a deep breath and walked to the nearest restaurant, where I ordered a surprisingly healthy lunch and something that would nourish us for dinner and breakfast too. I scratched groceries off my list for today, visited the washroom and took time to wash up while I was there. Back at the van, I shared lunch with Pippa and googled the nearest BLM land, which was only 45 minutes away; and away from the city. Newly fresh from a nap and something called a sushi bowl, I made it my goal to get there.
And here we are now. Near the Peralta Trailhead, in Arizona. Pippa and I went to see the Wizard, where I was reminded that as wonderful as it is on Life’s Highway, it’s important to spend time checking in on the Innerstate too. That’s where the real answers are.
Take a deep breath. Assess the situation, do triage, take action to limit injury.
It’s different for everyone, but for me it’s this: Rest. Cuddle. Choose food that nourishes me. Take care of my body’s needs. Seek the company of Nature.
Before I knew it, I was settled into a beautiful, surprisingly lush desert and just like the cacti, who have been drinking up the recent rains, I was once again well hydrated and standing tall.
And guess what? Apparently, none of this had anything to do with coffee. You know how I know? Because, I totally forgot to pick up coffee. And nothing bad even happened.
And for your listening pleasure, do take a moment to enjoy. It will just make you feel SO good. https://youtu.be/U3sMjm9Eloo