Driving Force


Before you report me to the local vehicular authorities, let me explain myself.

I have a problem with control.

As in, I strive for it far too much.

Dickens called Scrooge “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”  It’s not coins I’m clamoring for . . . but control?  Color me an addict.

The closer I look at this penchant for control, the deeper the reasons for it I find.  Abject terror of forgetting some important task that needs to be done.  Absolute overwhelm at the number of moving parts in any given day, week, month.  Stringent perfectionism for every task my mind or hands touch.

And yet, for all this toil and torment, I’m no closer to controlling the ins and outs of my days than I am to the bigger picture of my life.  If anything, these machinations cause me more grief.  In the drudgery of them, of course, but also in the false sense of security they provide.  Such a system is bound to implode, always on the edge of doing so, and when it does, of course, I blame myself for not keeping a handle on everything.

I’ve been working on that.

Controlling the minutiae of my day is not only tedious; it translates to an inability to trust in the direction God is leading me.  And while I am the one pulling the strings on the to-do list, I’ve lost an overarching belief in myself to craft a grand plan.

So instead of being entirely methodical (old habits die hard, right?), I’m going to try to get a little loosey goosey.  Try to dream faster than my Type A personality can plot.  Drift around the corners before my ass end can catch up.  Which is why this quote from Stirling Moss spoke to me.

You could argue that it is the perfect metaphor for the exact opposite of what I’m proposing.  To run away, get ahead of, keep a breakneck pace – and as someone with an internal tachometer often in the red, I certainly don’t need that sort of encouragement.  No, what I propose is acting on instinct, on the thrill of the moment, outdriving all the self-doubt and micromanaging – leaving the bottleneck of control behind and riding free and fierce into something I’d never allow myself if I stopped to measure the possible outcomes and fallout.

Now that’s something worth losing control over.

The Yin and Yang of the Road

As disconcerting as a disruption of routine can be, it shakes us up in ways sorely needed, if not desired.

Relaxation takes a lot of preparation.

Drinking copious amounts of water cleanses the body; emptying the bladder repeatedly is a pain in the back side.

The Police made a lot of ska-infused upbeat rhythms with lyrics about a lot of messed up stuff.

The road is alluring but lonely.


Jennifer Butler Basile

Junk food satisfies the soul but not the blood sugar.

Craft superstores, while offering everything a crafter might need, can cause panic attacks.

When the radio dial spins through all other numbers unsuccessfully, a country music station will still tune in.

A handful of Twizzlers is worth a bagful of oranges.

Twenty-nine hours of time with a beloved friend is worth all the trouble and travel.

Road Trip

Heads of state

Memorial bridges
Digging ditches

Sticky soles
Caution zones

Pulling muscles
Rustling children
flexing against restraints

Forcing the engine to its limits

Exit 1, 2, 3
Routes A, B, C

Four hours sleep – total net
Are we there yet?

The Song of My Saab

A plaintive cry from the garage

You, me, a curve in the road

The whine of the turbo

The rush of air

The wah-wah-wah of some part of the suspension needing attention

The bing of left low beam failure

The ding of airbag malfunction

Hit the clear button and drop it into gear

The mechanic can wait until tomorrow

Tonight is for the sheer joy of driving

Somewhere Out There

I write best when in my car.

No, I’m not one of those people you see mouth agape going eighty miles an hour applying mascara.  I’m not reading the map spread across my dashboard as I try to maintain lane (disregard the fact that ergonomic dashboards and GPS have made this point moot).  I’m not even trying to eat a sloppy sandwich as I steer with my elbows.

I have both hands securely planted on the wheel, watching both the speed- and tachometer, the radio adjusted to a safe level so as not to cause distraction.  My youngest daughter is safely secured in her five-point harness in the backseat.  My eyes are on the road and what the traffic ahead of me is doing.

Some part of my mind, however, is in the hills lit by sunlight on the horizon.  The clouds sweeping across the crest of the hill.  That part of my mind is parsing words and phrases, building them up and fine-tuning them.

the roadInto poetry.

Into a thousand different perfect prompts for this blog.

Into the character quirk I’ve been needing for Dmitri.

Into metaphors and images, symbols and signs –

all of which leave me when I sit down hours or days later at the keyboard.

There are times it’s happened in the ether just before sleep.  When the body has relaxed just enough to quell the mind’s obsessing, but not it’s creative processes.  Perfectly formed paragraphs gather and congregate.  Teasing me to remember them, knowing I won’t fight the exhaustion to lift a pen and record them in the notebook on my bedside table.

In the morning, the memory of them remains but not the perfect manuscript.

A voice to text application would probably help.  But I have such a nostalgia for and dedication to hand- and typewritten words.  I’m searching for a place to display the ancient Underwood typewriter my father’s holding for me now.  It would feel disingenuous somehow to speak my words into thin air and have them magically transform to text.  Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.  Maybe I just hate to hear a playback of my recorded voice.

I’m hopelessly devoted to forming the perfect mental manuscript and promptly forgetting it when my hands touch the keyboard.  If only mental memory would transfer to sense memory in this one instance.  Just another form of writers’ block, I suppose.  Or another rationalization for not writing what I’m supposed to be.  It’s much easier to lament the perfect lost words than write the imperfect permanent ones.

So I’ll take leave of you now.  Perhaps to go for a drive.  Perhaps to build on the momentum I finally reengaged in my book yesterday.  Or maybe to go stare out the window and dream of the perfect words floating somewhere out there.

Too Much Stimuli

Anxiety = Distraction = Stupidity

That’s usually the formula when I get super-stressed.

Nearing the end of my pregnancy with Julia and a hectic school year, I rushed from my teaching duties to get Bella at daycare.  A tractor-trailer truck making a delivery pulled off the road just enough to make me think in my altered state of mind that I could squeeze through, but not enough for me to actually do so.  My side-view mirror thwacked against the bottom corner of the loading shelf at the back of the truck, leaving an ugly black gash.  The truck was none the wiser, my little car a gnat flying by in great, stupid haste.

A year or two later when I was stay-at-home mom leaving the house solo for the first time for an extended period of days for a writing institute, the mornings were harried to say the least.  I zipped to the adjacent capital city and through the busy streets, late of course.  On one particularly narrow street always lined with cars, I again misjudged my time/space continuum and thwacked that poor mirror.  I’m surprised that poor thing hasn’t just shriveled up and fallen off the car in protest (though the automatic adjusters are not quite as precise anymore).  Perhaps it would have if it’d happened a third time.

Luckily, it didn’t.  This morning, it was almost the front end of the car that got it.  And it was not an inert object on the other end of the deal.  Fortunately – for the mirror, the car, and my marriage – all that occurred were many angry faces directed at me through two windshields worth of glass.

What is it about anxiety that makes my mind go elsewhere?

Postpartum, it was intrusive, irrational thoughts that invaded my consciousness.  My thoughts are no longer reaching those levels of irrationality, but the fact that they’re more ‘normal’ is almost worse.  It’s easier for the distractability to fly under the radar until it’s nearly overwhelming, until it’s almost too late.

Except for the moments when I freakishly self-aware.  The moments when I can feel my thoughts spinning out of control; an energy boiling up under my skin threatening to force its way out and roll on down the street; my mind grasping for one singular thing to hold onto and coming up empty.  At those moments, it’s like I’m at the center of a maelstrom of thoughts, worries, ideas swirling around me with no one stationary object to use as a marker.

Planning meals for the week and writing a grocery list?  Choosing which household chore to do first in the limited amount of time before the kids get home from school?  Prepping the house for a realtor’s evaluation?  Aaahh!  I’m supposed to prioritize in this state of mind?  Choose from myriad options and lists of items?  No wonder I drive into things.  I’m driven to distraction.  Unfortunately the next stop is stupidity.

I must get a grip – maybe it just shouldn’t be on the steering wheel till this storm passes.



I felt like a thief, stealing away in the gloom before the house’s inhabitants awoke from their slumbers.  My voice caught in my throat when I called to my husband, “Give them kisses for me when they wake up.”  It felt so wrong to be leaving, especially when they didn’t have the chance to protest.  They’d been prepared well in advance, but somehow, it still felt covert.

I looked at the house as I drove away and waved at the closed curtains, the locked doors, the house already closed to me mere minutes after my leaving.  In my mind’s eye, I saw my youngest’s eyes peeking over the windowsill to wave another time I recently left.  I missed them already.

It took me awhile to settle into the drive, but eventually I pulled out the CDs I’d packed for the trip.  (Yes, CDs – apparently, my technology is at pace with the frequency of solo road trips).  I’d packed selections to fire me up for a marathon drive and a fun reunion at the end with a friend I don’t get to see nearly enough.  I’d also picked stuff I can’t listen to when driving the kids around.  I listened to the entire Beastie Boys’ Sounds of Science anthology and then switched to The Clash.  While I was having a grand old time car-dancing and singing along, it was about this time that I realized, I must be angry.  Punk rock, rap, ska with a driving back beat, songs with titles like, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “We’re on the Road to Nowhere”.

Was/is my subconscious trying to tell me something?  Is some part of me totally repressed by my current state of affairs?  Am I really unhappy with the way life is?  Am I speeding down the highway chasing after the ‘me’ I lost somewhere along the line?  Am I doing such a sucky job at getting respite time that I’m about to blow?  Or did I really just need a road trip?

Somewhere around hour four of the six-hour trip, the soothing effects of the road took over.  I got used to the hum of the motor around 2800 rpms, the feel of my hands on the steering wheel, the crick in the back of the heel from my foot’s constant 45 degree angle on the gas pedal, the dull ache of the full bladder that I’d chosen to ignore till the final destination.  The traffic thinned, the sun came out, and my mind cleared.  I thought about everything and nothing.

I realized that one freeing thing about being totally overwhelmed and screwing up postpartum was that my heretofore-crippling bent toward perfectionism was thrown out the window.  Now, if not ever before, it was blindingly clear that it just wasn’t gonna happen.  And that theory was thrown out the window, when later that night, I confided to my friend that I felt like I couldn’t possibly do everything for my children.  She said that feeling came from me worrying so much about doing such a good job (i.e. perfectionism).

The whole weekend was a study in contradictions, me being torn in different directions.

Fear gripped me when we headed to the restaurant at 3 PM for lunch.  What about dinner?  Used to following a schedule acceptable for little bodies needing balanced meals, it took me awhile to adjust to eating whatever, whenever I wanted.  I ate so much at “lunch”, I had chips and Twizzlers for “dinner” at some point in the evening – I lost track.  I ate granola and yogurt for breakfast the next morning, but then gorged on a short stack with all the sides for “lupper” (we messed with meals so much this weekend, my friend started giving them her own names).

I wistfully noticed the babies in the arms or on the hips of nearly every person we passed.  Were there really that many small children in the state of Maine or was I missing my own babies that much it just seemed like it?  Though my husband does say all there is to do in Maine during winter is drink and have sex, so maybe there really are that many kids – and maybe that’s why he’s always wanted to move there ☺

Yet, I relished in looking at every single item on every single aisle of every single store if I felt like it – with no one to whine at me.  I loved chatting with my friend with no screeching interruptions – though we had so much to catch up on, we interrupted each other plenty of times.  I loved not waking up in the middle of night!!!!!!

I think what I liked most of all was being able to operate on the basest of levels.  Basic functions: eat, sleep, pee, laugh, breathe, be.  The weight of responsibility was lifted from my shoulders – if only for 36 hours.  And that’s what I meant when in my last post, “that which I was trying to escape had stowed away in the backseat”.  I don’t want to escape my children at all.  I love them and will always – even if it’s the death of me.

It was just really nice to get away.  Though, the squeezes I got when I walked in the door Sunday night were more powerful that any pressure I’ve ever felt in this trip called motherhood.

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