The first time I drove a car, I experienced what could only be described as sensory overload. I couldn’t have explained it. The scenery simply shifted from passive to active in my perception. I have yelled “Shotgun!” as many times as anyone in my life, so the front seat was not new territory to me. There was no change in what I actually saw. No, the alteration was in the import of the information reaching my eyes and ears. As I began to drive, I suddenly realized that every single article in my field of vision (and some not in it) was in play. Each item, whether another car, a trash can, a mail box, a pedestrian, or ditch, or bird (the list goes on and on) had the potential to impact what I was doing (and yes, the pun was intended.) The instantaneous realization was that all those things which had just been part of the backdrop, now were the active cast in the stage of driving. It’s odd; driving wasn’t that much different than riding a bicycle, at which I was an old pro. You’re moving down the same street, with the same objects, but somehow, the sobering realization that serious damage could result from one split-second choice changed the perspective exponentially.
Driving for the first time is not the only time I’ve experienced this feeling in my lifetime. It happens to a lesser extent every time I’m thrown into a new, unfamiliar situation. A new town, a new job, a new marriage, all of these changes have made me keenly aware that I’m no longer directing the show; there are other actors in the play of life, all of them with the capacity to affect me. The overused catchphrase for this is, “out of my comfort zone.” I’ve meditated on this a bit and think a more appropriate phrase might be, “out of my control”. We love to live in a place where things happen at the appointed time and in the prescribed manner. We don’t want to worry about a chance encounter or an overturned time schedule. The ordered, neat little world we have arranged for ourselves is just fine, thank you!
It’s sad to realize that even when I’m used to a situation, if I get out of it completely for a period of time and then jump back in, the same thing happens again. This may be one reason that I don’t like taking a long vacation. The reentry is like sliding under the wheel in the car for the first time all over again. Oh, the break-in time is a lot shorter, but for those first few minutes, I sincerely wish I had just kept my nose to the grindstone without the break.
I’ve had to live “out of my comfort zone” a lot the last few weeks, but this week, it just might be described as completely out of control. I don’t like it. The little corner of the world in which I exist seems to be moving at me too fast and I’m afraid that I may do some lasting damage (or be damaged myself). Most of us have watched a child riding a merry-go-round on the playground and can identify with them, at least symbolically. For the first slow rotations, it’s all smiles and happy squeals, but as the speed increases and the queasiness in the stomach rises correspondingly, we wait for the shout of “Stop the merry-go-round! I want off!” I’ve thought about yelling it a time or two myself this week.
I will admit the OCD part of me would be fine with that. It’s easy to actually make the image of objects (real or imagined) coming at me worse than it really is. If I dwell on the thought, the potential for disaster is overwhelming, with every person I interact with being a plausible candidate for catastrophe. But, every once in awhile, I have to tell myself the same thing my drill-sergeant fitness-guru sister-in-law yells repeatedly at her victims, er…classes. It works for me, temporarily at least. “BREATHE!”
It turns out that I’m not the only one with problems in the world, not the only one just figuring out that he’s not in control. I’m happy to say that I haven’t totaled any cars or people this week, and I’m not getting off the merry-go-round anytime soon. But, if you see me leaning over, taking deep breaths, just give me a minute.
I’ll be back in the driver’s seat making good time pretty soon….