I shared a meal with a dear friend tonight, a belated birthday dinner with wonderful food and company. We just talked and ate good food. Since moving back to the United States from France, it is rare to just sit and talk at the table as a way to spend an evening or an afternoon. I recommend it. It is both soothing and calming with the right food and company.
Late in the evening, I drove home. I headed south of Route 3, took the exit for 495 toward Lawrence, stayed in the right lane to turn onto the Lowell Connector (weirdest intersecting of highways and byways of any place I have lived), and drove around the Welcome to Lowell sign etched in plants to Thorndike.
Every time I turn onto Thorndike, I am faced with a decision. Stay in the right lane temporarily or move as quickly as possible into the left lane, which is the lane I will eventually need to get to in order to turn left onto Broadway.
Typically, I rush to get into the left lane. Perhaps, somewhere in my subconscious mind I imagine this will hasten my arrival time.
Lately, I have been staying in the right lane. There is less risk of getting stuck behind someone turning left into the train station, and I have time to ease into the transition from highway to home. Plus, everyone else seems to make the rush to get to the left lane, so the right lane is often less occupied.
Tonight, I stayed in my right lane. I thought about shifting left, but there were two cars in the left as the light turned red. I didn’t want to lengthen my return trip by a few precious seconds, so I stayed to the right.
As I moved through the next set of lights, the car ahead of me sped forward. I noticed the car to my left moving faster as well. I could feel a desire to speed up enough to pass the car to my left and get into the left lane ahead of them.
I thought to myself, slow and steady wins the race was all about.
Then, I started wondering what the race really was. What would I gain by winning? And what was it we were racing toward? Did I even want to be a part of the race? If life was a race, why would I want to get to the end any faster?
I rarely make the green arrow signal to turn left onto Broadway, so I have started to relax into the expectation that I will sit. It gives me a few minutes to calm that desire for competition with the other drivers on the road.
Tonight, as I sat at the light, I wondered if it was worth it for the speediest of the cars to make that green light. In truth, the light was actually red by the time they flew around the corner.
I recalled times in traffic when it had felt very important to get around people driving too slow, only to wind up right next to them further down the road.
Why was I competing with them?
Keep in mind that I was returning from hours spent musing on how to find or create happiness in life. Much of my own search has been spent unlearning the cultural lessons of my childhood, where happiness could be attained—or at least contrived—by living in a certain part of town, owning the right clothing, and creating a specific version of oneself to show the world.
I have learned that participating in the life events that my culture has defined as the way to a happy, successful life do not necessarily in fact lead to a state of permanent bliss.
I have learned that permanent bliss is not real nor what I seek.
I wish to be present and aware of my own state of being through each moment of my life and to make choices that are not based on competition, a sense of entitlement, a need to prove my self worth.
By the time I reached middle school, I had figured out that the race was not working for me. It took the next couple of decades to begin to sift through the layers of cultural pressures and expectations for me to discover my own requisites for a healthy, balanced existence. I try every day to adhere to these tenets with mixed results.
I can be slow and steady, but I do not need to win any race.
I would like to be as far as possible from the energy that can draw me in to this way of being.