How far ahead do you look when you’re driving in a city, on the interstate, or on your favorite country two-lane stretch of deserted roadway?

Wouldn’t you agree that no matter what type of road you’re on, you have to look directly in front of the grill to note potholes or critters (no swerving!), several car lengths to spot an onslaught of bright red taillights, and way down the highway in case something is happening that you should avoid (or slow down for if there are flashing lights)?

 

Pembrokeshire, Wales

Driving in Wales

Isn’t that the way we should look at life?

Pondering my place in the world, I like to figuratively flip up that rearview mirror and concentrate on what’s coming toward me. Anyone under twenty-five reading this, go to your parents and ask: What is she talking about? You can’t move a rearview mirror.

Ah, but you could. When I learned to drive, most cars didn’t have power steering, power breaks, or rearview mirrors that automatically adjusted to the high beams on the car following you. If you wanted to ignore the chap blinding you with his headlights reflecting in your mirror, you moved it up and out of the way. There, gone. You didn’t have to think about what was behind you anymore.

Put it behind me: My irritation at PennDot for allowing a major highway to be totally blocked, keeping traffic at 5 mph for 3 hours

I like putting things behind me: miles when I’m on a road trip, airports if I’m flying, bad memories if I’m getting pensive about life. 

Many people spend time checking the rearview and side mirrors—tools that show what’s to the rear of us. That’s a necessary action when we’re about to pull into a new lane, merge with traffic, and certainly when we have to back up. But if we spend our entire driving time checking those mirrors instead of looking ahead, moving forward would become a real issue, wouldn’t it?

The in-back-of-me things can be both relevant and irrelevant. 

The relevant pertains to the places I’ve lived and traveled to, the people I’ve met and kept, and those I’ve known and lost. They are the, where I’ve been and what I’ve done parts of life—the sights I’ve seen, books I’ve read, music I’ve listened to, and conversations I’ve had that echo inside. What is coming after me constantly fades into the distance. Click To Tweet

The irrelevant is comprised of the negatives I’ve experienced—the disappointments, the broken hearts, the trials. When I look back over my life—I can dispassionately choose to say, “Oh, when that happened,” and add, “I learned so and so.” The experience, once negative, becomes a joyful celebration of my ongoing life. I suffered at the time, but whatever kind of pain it was, it cannot be recalled except in an intellectual, distancing kind of way. 

Sometimes in my day-to-day life, I’m looking several cars ahead when I should be observing the vehicle directly before me. I should pay closer attention to what’s there, in front of my nose and be wary of what could happen in a flash—see what’s here and what’s good about it and what to be thankful for and show appreciation of.

In turn, sometimes I’m checking out the car in front of me when I should be looking far down the highway to see what might be barreling close at a high speed and figure out if I need to pull over or how safe it is to confront the obstacle head on.

My life seems a balanced unfolding between the two—the past lessons learned and what I’m reaping as a result of them and how they relate to who I am now. 

If I want to avoid giving myself a split personality, I’ve got to learn how to balance both those view points and more, don’t I?

We have to continually move forward, keeping the life momentum going, our brains learning, our hearts expanding. Live life large on the outside so that the inside stays nurtured and fulfilled. Don’t look to the past with sadness, but rather for the lessons entwined in your years that have made you interesting to know.

I am aware of what I’ve been through and I don’t need to concentrate energy on the past. It was and I am. That is the relevancy of now, of living while looking forward. I will let the mirror of my life stay flipped up. What is coming after me constantly fades into the distance.

I have life goals—

  • Being published as an essayist, a short story weaver, a novelist.
  • Giving back to the world is a lofty goal, but the further apart we Americans are divided, the more important it is to find common ground and build new connections.
  • As from childhood, always instigating people to laugh heartily is another lifelong passion.
  • Living a large life is on the list—wanting my world to expand and grow physically as I explore new places and emotionally as I meet new people.

Not everything I do every day supports these things and that’s where I’m driving short-sighted. When the car in front of me captivates my sight barring me from looking far down the road or using the mirror to look behind me, I’m being near-sighted and likely missing opportunities.

What do I want my life to look like if I manage to be on earth thirty more years and have the luxury of looking back on the expanse of my time here? If I only take a bunch of trips around the neighborhood but forget to leave the city, the state, the country (figuratively and literally in the case of this traveling fool) what will my memories hold? Or what changes when I am able to switch my vision from right here to way beyond where I can see the end of the road?

It’s not just looking at our destinations that keeps us going forward into the future, but it’s everything we don’t want as well—something good to ponder when you roll out of bed tomorrow. And the next day, and the next…

Dad looking ahead in Oahu 1954