Underpasses: Finding Moments of Peace in the Storm
I’ve never liked driving in the rain. I’ve always found it to be very stressful. Ever since the day I was driving home from high school and the driver ahead of me (also a teenager on her way home from school) suddenly stopped to make a sharp turn without signaling. I was following at a safe distance (one car length for each ten miles of speed—yes, I paid attention in Driver Ed Class!), but when I applied the brakes, my car hydroplaned into the back of hers. For the first time in my young life I experienced the sickening crunch of automobile metal-on-metal, and driving in rain has been a less than joyful experience for me ever since.
So I drive in the rain when I have to, but I don’t like it.
There is one thing, however, about rainy day driving that I do like.
I like underpasses.
I’ll be driving along on a highway in pouring rain, with my hands tight on the wheel, my shoulders tense—all my senses at high alert. And then I see I’m approaching an underpass. When I get to it, I know I’ll have a second or two during which the rain will stop, the windshield will clear and the world will go wonderfully silent. This brief break will give me the chance to ease my grip on the wheel, let my shoulders relax, and take in a fortifying deep breath. When I emerge back into the downpour I’ll feel better and find I have a bit more strength to travel on.
Right now I feel like I’m driving in the rain.
The busy-ness of preparing for the holidays is behind me, but while normally this time of year finds me feeling relieved and restful, this year a whole new set of stresses is crowding my brain. There are several big challenges I’ll have to tackle in 2017, some of them things I’ve never encountered before. One of these challenges is the upcoming wedding of my eldest daughter. A wedding is one of life’s happiest events, yet one that can bring on incredible stress. My daughter wants a small, intimate wedding—which should make the planning easier. But we have a large extended family, and that means some hard decisions will have to be made as we prepare the guest list. So, while choices about dresses and music and flowers and catering loom large, it is the worries over hurt feelings that are dominating my mind and my heart. (I hate hurt feelings and I especially hate causing them!)
I’m finding myself in need of an underpass in this deluge called life.
I don’t see one on the horizon, so I’ve decided to schedule one.
In the next few days while my holiday decorations are still up (I always leave mine up a little longer than most other people do), I plan to set aside some time to just sit still and quietly enjoy the glow of the Christmas tree. I’ll light my favorite pine-scented candle and I’ll deliberately think about the curious way the fragrance of a forest makes me feel calmer.
I’ll relax my shoulders. I’ll breathe deeply. I’ll resist thinking about anything I have to do in the months to come. Instead, I’ll make a mental list of everything that is good about my life—I may even say the list out loud or write it into my journal.
I’ll make the most of the solitude and the stillness, staying put until I feel the pressure and worry lift (at least some of it!). I believe doing this will make me feel better and give me a bit more strength to “travel” on.
Since I already know the coming year holds big demands on me, I’ve decided to make it my New Year’s Resolution to plan regular times of respite like this; I’ll aim for one each week. I know these little mental health breaks will help me feel calmer and more centered. (And ultimately they will help me be more productive, too.) I’ll take these breaks to be good to myself and to the people I love, because I’ll be happier and more fun to be around if I’m emotionally rested.
I invite you to consider scheduling your own times of underpass.
(You need them. You deserve them. And they cost nothing!)
Be creative as you plan these moments: they can take place in a park, on a walk, at a favorite coffee shop, on a beach, even in the bathtub.
I hope you’ll try doing this. It might be just the right thing to help you feel refreshed and restored and better able to go forth with joy and peace into 2017.
Happy New Year!