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Lane Departure Warning

Hi. My name is Deb, and I'm a recovering force-aholic. I don't say these words lightly, and they contain no mocking for those in twelve step programs of any kind. I used control like any addict uses the substance on which they depend. When I felt unsafe, unable to cope, woefully insufficient to meet the expectations of a human experience, I used. I didn't drink or smoke, but I used just the same. I used force.

Not The Force. Surely that would have worked better. Not a force; likely that, too, would have been a more successful choice. No, I turned to force as it is defined as both a noun and a verb.

Force (fors): noun. Coerce or compulsion. Constraint, duress, pressure, influence.

Force (fors): verb. Drive or push into a specified position or state against resistance. Propel, shove, press, browbeat, impel.

What, where, and whom did I force? The lists of places, situations, and people I did not would be much shorter. If it was in my purview, I had tried to control it at one time or another. I become aware of this nasty habit a number of years ago, and thought I had done quite a tidy job of eliminating force from my life. One can easily find references to my recovery from force going back several years. I truly have released this habit in so many areas of my life. However, one must never be complacent when dealing with the duplicitous human mind. Sneaky, that gray matter.

Please file my assurance that I had this aspect of myself neatly squared away under Silly Human Tricks. Or perhaps, simply under Things I'm Trying to Force. The irony here is thick, and if I'm being honest, more than a bit bitter.

Medicine so often is.

In a recent conversation with the incredibly wise Des Caminos, the topic of "taking the medicine" came up. What you know, in your most sovereign heart, is deeply needed is your medicine. Can you take it? If not, what do you need to feel safe enough to take the medicine?

Adding insult to irony, what I needed to feel safe enough to take my medicine was to feel utterly unsafe and alone. Cue a massive upheaval in my personal life. Feel free to imagine a rock-bottom montage, complete with a dark and devastating score. See me, letting go of my every plan and expectation for the future. Watch as the scenes pass by: Deb stroking her own hair as she cries; Deb letting her friends console her; Deb eating crackers and hummus for dinner for the third night in a row; Deb finding a new therapist.

Into this darkness came a wee glow, a little orange light in my peripheral vision. As I gave the light my attention, I realized it had been on all along. Doggedly staring forward in life (probably distracted by my smug assumption that I no longer tried to force any particular outcomes), I had neglected my peripheral vision. And there it was, in the corner of my eye. The lane departure warning, quiety alerting me to the fact that I was well out of my own lane of travel, mindlessly engaged in my old habits and patterns. "Old," I say. Old as in past, a thing I no longer do. The wee orange light begs to differ.

There it was again: force. Though I truly have gotten so much better in many areas and aspects of my life, in my romantic relationship, I was still using almost daily. I felt dangerously out of control, and as a result I turned to my familiar coping mechanism. Feeling like the wheels were falling off and a feiry crash was eternally iminent, I was constantly trying to regain my sense of safety in all the least effective ways.

Instead of focusing my efforts on what was mine to control, what was in my lane, I was swerving all over the road. I was jumping medians, running stop signs in reverse, and driving my partner off the road at every turn. If I could just control what was in his lane, everything would be OK. At least that's what my addiction to force was telling me.

Ever so wiley, those coping mechanisms. You may find one hiding in some closet or another in your life, drag it out into the light, dust it off and repair it, and then go along your merry way, assuming you've handled that issue. But coping mechanisms are one-size-fits-all. If you can apply it in one situation, you'll likely try to apply it in any situation. If it's in one closet, it's in every closet. And to truly be rid of these patterns, you have to pull them out of every single space where they are tucked away.

I stopped trying to control timelines around seven years ago, the unknown about two years after that. I ceased applying brute force to my body near my 45th birthday. The number of attachments and expectations I hold for life, business, wealth, and expansion are a mere shadow of their former ranks. In so many areas, force no longer feels needed or even welcome.

So imagine my surprise (chagrin?) when I saw that little orange light. I wasn't out of my lane sometimes. I was guilty of near constant reckless driving. And now, my friend, we arrive at the point from which all things spring: awareness.

Now I know what's going on. I can see where I've been running amok in my partner's lane, and how my reckless driving has been hurting both of us. I can see what's been neglected in my lane, and I'm gaining increasingly clarity on why I feel compelled to leave it. But most importantly, I'm becoming aware of how it feels when the lane departure warning is activated. They build that vibration into automobile steering wheels for a reason. It's so easy to drift out of your lane. You only see the warning light if you're looking for it. Haptic feedback is profound.

The warning signs that I've left my lane: I have a specific outcome in mind and I am attached to it like a faded bumper sticker to a Country Squire wagon. My mind and heart are closed. Curiosity is absent. In its place I feel frantic, desperate, like some part of me is clawing its way out from deep inside, leaving massive carnage in its wake. My chest feels like it's collapsing. My throat is tight, like a hand is pressing against my voicebox. I have things I want to say, need to say, but I'm not saying them. Instead, I'm shifting, heading into someone else's lane.

This is the sensation I need to watch for, my haptic warning. When I feel this, I'm drifting. Wreckage is imminent. An immediate lane correction is in order. This is the moment where I can choose, where awareness gifts me with options. My practiced default is control, leaving my lane in an attempt to force something from my partner: a response, a connection, a particular outcome. The lane departure is problematic for multiple reasons.

First, I cannot actually control anything in another human's lane. Free will and all that jazz. No matter how much frantic honking I do, regardless of how many times I flash my lights, my partner maintains all of the control in this lane. Meanwhile, I am failing to exercise control where it does exist--on the other side of the road, in my own lane. The more time and energy I spend trying to exert force where it cannot be applied, the less I'm able to successfully manage outcomes in my life. Further, and this may be particular to my partner (but is probably common to all adult humans), my SO doesn't care for being controlled. He's actually quite resistant. What I may have been able to politely request from the safety of my own lane is usually lost to me as soon as I cross the double yellow.

The better choice, for all drivers on the road, is for me to stay firmly engaged with driving in my own damned lane. The sense of safety I'm seeking can't be found beyond the median. More bitter irony here, the longer I drive on the wrong side of the road, the less safe I become. What happens over there is beyond my control. And that's the rub, really. Once I can fully accept that, no reason for reckless driving remains. I can sit back, turn on some tunes, and cruise peacefully. The lane keep assist can take a nap. I'm sure it's tired, after all these miles.

Come to think of it, I am, too. Maybe I'll pull over at the next rest stop, take a few deep breaths, and check for other warning lights. The medicine always gets stronger the longer you wait to take it. This dose was a doozy. Yes, I believe a headlight to taillight inspection is in order. If you see me on the road, be sure to wave. If you see me on the wrong side of the road, wave more emphatically. Safe travels to you, my friend. Mind your lane.

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