My friend Peg wrote a great essay for RedBook about conquering her fear of driving after a crash and there is a bit she wrote that I can’t get out of my head. She took a defensive driving class, learning to negotiate the road, face her fear. But it was during a break that she learned her most important lesson for the day:
“It’s a basic principle of driving mechanics that time after time, our hands will steer the wheel toward whatever our eyes are fixed on. That’s why drivers forever go crashing into skinny telephone poles, even though there’s usually plenty of open space on either side of them.”
I keep thinking about this. In the essay Peg relates this idea to the rest of her life – she realized that she had been focusing on her fear and that fear had been guiding her life. We steer towards that which we most fear, that which has the potential to cause us the most harm. She describes her jaw falling open at this simple concept, and I guess mine has done the equivalent.
This lesson was driven home to me last week in the midst of my trying to negotiate a new relationship within turbulent, kid-infested waters. I know my kids are not going to take kindly to a new person coming into our lives and disrupting our tight little triad of existence – our nightly “cuddle bunny” sessions in my bed watching TV; our inside jokes, our safe, warm home. Glibly, I said to my new friend (not sure what to call him. CHA? Curly Haired Architect?) something along the lines of “my kids will be our downfall.” It was a stupid statement, typical of my over-exaggerated sarcastic sense of humor, but CHA was not going to let me get away with it. The next time I saw him he told me he had issue with what I had said. And he was right. That one statement was fatalistic thinking. I was steering our whole relationship into that pole with one sentence. Not at all my intention.
I am going to be much more conscious now about throwing out those glib statements. Even a minor correction can make the difference. From now on I plan to steer toward those empty spaces on either side of the pole, the place where possibilities lay.