It’s taken years for me to develop a sort of hardened empathy for drivers. I’ve always understood when people would drive erratically because of mistakes, but ohhhh those people… the ones that cut you off! Surely, they are the most terrible of people! The thing is, though, driving is actually dangerous even when there aren’t other drivers around. Crashes, mechanical failures… anything. Why, then, focus on them? Shouldn’t we rather focus on driving safe ourselves?
Sobriety is all about allowing redemption.
We realize our mistakes. We’ve figured out how we’ve hurt other people and ourselves. It’s a tough thing to do, but returning to the people we’ve hurt, oftentimes in the places where we have inflicted pain or felt pain, to ask for forgiveness or to forgive ourselves, that returning is brave.
It’s like preparing for any outcome in a situation.
I’ve been trying to develop the habit of arriving places early. If it can take 60 minutes to arrive somewhere, I’ll leave earlier than that. If I’m too early, like I am now, then I’m going to have the time to write. It’s like when you’re driving in rush hour traffic and someone cuts in front of you. Dangerous, right? What if you ease off on the pedal and give them plenty of space?
What if they drive aggressively around you?
There is a certain degree of driving social etiquette, some of which is regulated by laws, to drive respectfully. If you’re holding up traffic, you are legally required to pull over. If we can assume you are keeping pace with others in your lane, then you can budget the space in your drive for aggressive drivers.
You should pull over if you can’t.
This driving with patience and empathy analogy applies well to life in general. I wasn’t a terrible person of murderous proportions before I became sober, but in my mind, I’m kind of a terrible person. There are parts of myself I do not like, characteristics from people I’ve met that have taught me hateful lessons, and I won’t always be completely polite.
I accept and limit those negative characteristics.
When I’m feeling gnarly on the highway of life, I pull off at the next exit to take a break. I drive my life’s car fast because I want to do many things. Writing is my vehicle for getting to many of those places. However, life isn’t just about driving fast and cutting off other people.
People get mad in the moment, but they calm down.
Impassioned driving without empathy is as common as not extending the space for forgiveness. If there’s a massive pain, a simple apology won’t do, but there should almost always be space for redemption. When there is, reckless drivers aren’t such a big deal because, hey, we’re all terrible at something.
We have all unintentionally hurt someone.
If we just say, “ok, I’ll budget my time and therefore life better,” then that small stuff just doesn’t matter.
Drive and live safely, there.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: After writing this essay and driving the last bit to work, there was a situation that would have angered me before. The lines merged into one. Someone drove up close behind me and the person in front of me turned without using any turn signals. “Shit!” I didn’t quite yell but expressed in my frustration. The turner turned, the crowder crowded, but no issue. I write it here to let it disappear from my mind.|
|Related: Other Sober Living essays.|
|Photo: Carpooling into Seattle.|
|Written On: May 20th [19 minutes]|
|Last Edited: First draft; final draft, other than fixing one typo.|