Driving sober

windowI leave early, hoping to avoid the tangle of traffic around O’Hare. I don’t, although I rationalize that it could be worse. As the snarls ease, I charge forward in my husband’s Subaru with exuberance, only to have to brake hard at the Elmhurst curve. This accordion-like driving continues onto I-55 until magically the traffic reaches the driving equilibrium of “rural” Illinois. I begin to relax.

I listen to my favorite NPR trifecta of programs: Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, This American Life and Science Friday. Ira Glass is talking about the current patent wars. I feel knowledgeable and urbane as I am driving through the Chicago suburbs. Suddenly, I realize that I am not: we moved to Wisconsin to escape the patent wars, the tumble of quickly irrelevant technology, the sophisticated maze of structured investment products, and expectations of life that have nothing to do with a rhythm of rest and work, nothing to do with connecting to other human beings and God. Though we have chosen to step out of that life, I miss it. I miss its stimulation and the sense of power that comes from knowing something more or different than the next person. This sobers me.

Somewhere beyond Peoria, I get impatient to have the drive completed, to have arrived. As I listen with half an ear to a discussion of summer reading, I shift my body, relax my shoulders, take a deep breath and let it out. I have just switched to vacation driving mode. Enjoy the driving, let the thoughts wander; accept the boredom gracefully. There is nothing that can be done while I drive except to drive.

At some point, I realize I am not cool. I suspect I will not remember this for very long. Both of these things sober me.

I arrive at my hotel room for the night. This is an older hotel; the room is clean but spare. I am disappointed. Even though I made the reservation, I must have subconsciously wanted something more, something luxurious. I remember the last retreat I was on—this room is spacious and coordinated in comparison to that room. I thank God for the space, make my peace and am content.

Lord God, stepping out of the normal pattern of life heightens my awareness of the small movements within me attributable to your grace. Help me to carry that awareness back into my daily pattern, that I may better love, serve and hear you. Amen.


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