Friday, February 8, 2008

Who's Driving?

A pretty important Grief Recovery Tool is getting a handle on our sometimes-runaway thoughts. As I mentioned in my Wider Perspective post, I've been reading Guy Finley's The Secret of Letting Go. This is an incredible book — so many good insights crammed in here. When I read, I like to dog-ear the bottom corner of any page I want to revisit. I must have forty or fifty folded corners so far!

I don't know about you, but when I was acutely grieving, I often found my mind steering me in directions and ways I really didn't want to go. Yet I found myself going along with whatever thoughts popped into my head and then riding them out to the end. Did I do the right thing those last 24 hours that Deb was alive? Cue tape, hit "Play," re-watch last few hours, re-watch last breath. Could things have been different? Should they have been? You get the idea.

Guy shares a poignant truth tale relating to all this. We don't have to be led idly along by whatever thought happens to want our attention right now [pp 75-77]:


Put Yourself In The Driver's Seat

As she boarded the luxurious tour bus, Jessica couldn't believe that she was actually taking a day off for herself. It was hard to imagine that a full six months had flown by since she accepted her new position and had moved to this small coastal city. She knew she was going to enjoy what the travel brochure had promised would be a pampered and casual day of scenic wonders. The tour was expensive, but she had earned her pleasure and she was going to have it. She sat on the edge of her seat as the bus pulled out of the depot.

Twenty minutes later, over the "oohs" and "aahs" of the other twenty-five passengers, the driver was describing the natural wonders of the breathtaking blue and green seascape that spread endlessly beneath them. The promise of a beautiful day sent a wave of pleasure through her, and she relaxed in her tufted seat. Just then, one of the passengers in front of her jumped out of his seat, walked up to the driver, and said he wanted to drive for a while. The driver stood up, the passenger sat down, and the bus jerked forward. To Jessica's amazement, no one around her, including the driver, seemed to mind this odd exchange.

In less than a heartbeat, the beautiful ocean vista vanished, and now all she was looking at were old, abandoned buildings and trash-littered streets. The new driver was taking the bus through the slums. No one else aboard looked at all surprised, and so she tried her best to relax. The thought came that maybe this was part of the tour, but she didn't remember reading about it. Her thoughts were interrupted when yet another passenger scrambled up to the driver's seat and took over the wheel. Now the bus was racing up and down steep, bumpy streets and over dangerously narrow bridges. Something was definitely wrong. Too numb to speak out and too frightened to move, she sank deeper into her chair as one by one, each of the passengers took over the wheel and drove the bus wherever they wanted. Her pleasure cruise had turned into a tunnel of horrors.

She had almost resigned herself to a desperate kind of helpless rage when all of a sudden, from deep within her growing confusion, a thought came that shocked her awake and into a new sense of herself she had never before experienced.

Terrified but determined, she got up, walked over to the driver's seat, and said in a shaky but firm voice, "Now it's my turn to drive."

To her surprise, the passenger-driver got up and gave her his seat. She sat down, took the wheel, and drove herself home.

This story contains many higher lessons that we are going to need to understand if we wish to make it all the way to the ever-pleasant life. When we don't know where we are going or who is driving, a pleasant present is impossible. The only pleasure we can have on this kind of ride through life comes from dreaming about where we are going. We must be dreaming while others drive, because if our eyes were open, we would never tolerate where we were being taken.

Even when we do run into a nice rest stop or a pleasant event, there is no lasting pleasure in it for us because we know that we have no real say in how long we get to remain there. These temporary pleasures are usually a strange blend of anticipation and cynicism that we learn to swallow only because we don't as yet know the taste of real pleasure.


This short story illustrates the need for us to be aware of our thoughts, and to take control of them when they lead us in fruitless directions. We're not going to get any benefit from revisiting those questions that can't be answered. Better to steer our thoughts toward better ends, like "what can I do right now to be at peace?"

1 comment:

Nat said...

You are amazing. I so needed to read this text right now and I thank you for putting it here, today. It spoke to me...