Driving is both stressful and stress relieving for me.
When Erica and I got back from Ohio on Monday I had two scary engine lights come on my dashboard. I quickly called the dealer and they didn’t quite know what to say. Seeing as they were almost closed, they agreed to see it first thing the next morning and told me to be careful.
I sighed, hung up the phone, and stressfully started off in the rain. Carefully maneuvering it this way and that, praying with every inch of myself for it not to break down in the middle of Nashville rush hour traffic.
Within thirty minutes I was so upset world hunger ended up being my fault. I have an insane ability to spiral when my thoughts get going. I rolled down my window, thrust my arm outside and hit the gas. The rain hit my arm and tingled as I drove 50mph down the road. I wanted to feel something greater than the mounting sadness rising up in my heart.
I got home and stumbled into the house, soaking wet, cold, and disheartened. Eventually I fell asleep hoping the next morning would bring new mercies. And while it did, I didn’t feel them. I dropped my car off for it to be fixed. It was broken. Really broken. They ordered the new part, payed for my rental car, and assured me all would be well.
When I returned the next day to pick up my car, I just needed to drive. Ignore the last few days of annoyances and be alone. Something my introverted self was craving.
So I took the back roads to a house I used to babysit at. It’s the kind of place where you have to know it’s there to find it. While you’re driving your cell phone coverage starts to go and the city noise is dimmer and dimmer.
My thoughts started to return to normal. A little less fuzzy and dramatic. A little more centered and trustworthy. I stopped glaring at every other car on the road. I took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly.
I rolled the windows down and turned the music up so loud I could feel it vibrating my bones. As I checked out and let my body drive on autopilot, the smell of fall crept into my nostrils. The sunlight was lowering but not gone. It pierced through the dense trees and made patterns dance on the road.
They blurred my vision – these patterns. The tree limbs hung so far over the road it looked like they were holding hands across the top of the road, creating a canopy of sorts. But I was there. Safe. Alone. Not responsible for anyone. Not answering to anyone.
I had no wounds. No story. No dislikes. No likes. No job. No phone calls. No text messages. No map. No questions. No answers. Just me. The breath in my lungs. The feel of the leather caught in my fingers as I held the steering wheel. The squinting of my eyes as I blocked the sunlight that managed to creep through. I was the simplest version of myself. The alone version.
As I slowed to make one of the familiar hairpin turns, the tension melted off my shoulders. I left it on the road, next to the brook that races with me as I drive. I hear it laughing urging me to discover where it ends. Come find me it gurgles. Find where I begin. Find where I end.
And I long to. Everything in me aches to park my car in the ditch and chase the stream until I’m lost. Because maybe if I find it, I can find where I begin and where I end.