Sometimes, there’s a big difference between the person I think I am, and who I am in reality.
Who I think I am: The writer of great fiction, or perhaps a heart-rending memoir, or deeply spiritual prose.
Who I am, in reality: The writer of nonfiction.
Who I think I am: A gardener, just waiting for the opportunity to nurture rows of flowers into a labyrinth of beauty, season after season.
Who I am, in reality: Someone who has every variety of weeds growing in her sad, brown yard.
I’ve always imagined myself to be the sort of person who is totally laid-back about traveling. I assumed that it was more about the journey than the destination. That I could land in the middle of a city, and just enjoy meandering around it, smelling the roses and walking in whatever the direction the Spirit might move me.
I have learned, thanks to Thich Nhat Hanh, that I’m not really that person. When I tried to be that person, I would end the day irritated and tired, with a stomach full of knots.
If you’ve read this Buddhist Vietnamese monk, you know that he has these simple verses that he repeats to remind him to stay in the present moment. When I moved to D.C. (a.k.a., the land of infuriating traffic), I began to repeat the mantra for driving the car:
Before starting the car,
I know where I am going.
The car and I are one.
If the car goes fast, I go fast.
I memorized the verse because of the bit about “The car and I are one.” He says some amazing things about how we think we control a car, but we don’t. The car becomes a part of us. The car changes us. He’s right. I’ve seen so many people completely transform when they clutch the steering wheel. It’s the same with a great deal of technology (which reminds me of Jonathan’s post on technology, but I digress…).
After saying the phrase a few times, I began thinking about, “Before starting the car, I know where I am going.” That was not my mode of operation at all. I’m an INFP (for all those who are keeping score at home), which might be the reason why I got in the car and headed toward the general direction of where I was going. Then when I got utterly and completely lost, I pulled off on the side of the road, tore my hair out, and tried to find the map (which may or may not have been in the car).
This was not a good practice for someone who couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag. I (unlike some biblical scholars) fully understand the Exodus story. If I were Moses, it would have taken me at least 40 years to get through that wilderness.
So, I began to change. Now, before starting the car, I know where I’m going. I usually Mapquest it. And here’s another twist: I actually trust the computer-generated directions, instead of thinking that I know better. When visiting a new city, I plan the trip a little bit. I don’t have to stick with the agenda, but at least I have one.
Now, I come home, at a decent hour, feeling like I’ve seen some stuff. Like today. We just spent a wonderful day in Baltimore. And I’m reminded that I enjoy the journey a lot more when I know where the destination is.