"Be still sad heart and cease repining;
Behind the clouds the sun is shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life a little rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary"
I was 20 minutes out of Pittsburgh Friday, heading home on Route 28. The rain was light when I left, but getting heavier. It was only 4:00, but it looked like dusk. I called Cassie and asked her to check the weather online and tell me what was ahead. She said the radar indicated I was heading into a large red cell, but that closer to home things looked better.
I threw the Jeep into full-time 4-wheel drive and put the wipers on high. Traffic was steady. No one was passing anyone. Suddenly, a hot-shot green pickup came barreling out of nowhere and rode my tail before darting out in front of the car on my left, barely missing my back left bumper. Good thing I needed both hands to drive, not that he’d have seen my one-finger salute through the downpour. Schadenfreude isn’t very Zen, I know, but I felt a gratifying pleasure when, four minutes later and still driving cautiously, I caught up to him at the stoplight at the end of the four-lane freeway.
The stoplight is where Route 28 turns into a two-lane nightmare that can take me 40 minutes or 60 minutes to trek, depending on whether a coal truck and/or a semi truck is ahead of me. On Friday, however, it wasn’t a truck but an impending red cell that slowed everyone down.
My Jeep was one of a long line of vehicles (including the green pickup) that drove into that big dark blip on the radar. Like synchronized swimmers, we drove up and down and around the hills as the lightening flashed and the wind threatened to blow us off the road. The rain was pounding so hard I couldn’t hear Ira Flatow, so I turned off the radio and thought about the person driving the lead car. Was he white-knuckled? Was his heart palpitating? Mine would be. I’m not a leader. I’d have pulled over and let someone else take over. I was sincerely grateful to that driver 15 cars ahead of me who neither panicked or choked and wished my driver’s ed instructor had been so brave 30 *cough* years ago when he had me turn the wrong way down a one-way street in downtown Minneapolis in rush-hour traffic. Talk about choke and panic.
When the radio’s off, my mind starts to write. It links circumstances to metaphors and I start talking to myself. I really wish cars came equipped with black box recorders. Anyway, the metaphor du jour was, conveniently, the rain, and more specifically, the red cell on the radar.
When I decided to lose weight for the last time, I was extremely motivated and I dropped the first 15 pounds fairly easily. Then the scale started slowing down, even going in reverse some weeks. I “called ahead” to the people on the Weight Watchers discussion board who were on the path ahead of me. What’s coming up? What do I need to prepare for? And they told me about the “big red cell” – that storm of doubt and fear, loose skin and dissatisfaction, frustration and the fat girl who lives in the back of our heads.
I’d journeyed down the weight-loss road a thousand times before, always as the green pickup truck. In a hurry and unfocused. This time, equipped with knowledge – especially the knowledge that I wasn’t alone – I got in line and rode the hills up and down and around. I turned down the noise and listened to my body. That’s what made all the difference.
Since slowing it down five years ago, I’ve encountered lots of green pickups who were stopped by the red light. Some fell into line and journeyed slowly with the rest of us, but most pulled over and avoided the big red cell.
I can still see the clouds in my rear-view mirror. I might have lost weight, but I need to stay ahead of the storm. And that journey isn’t any different than the one I began in 2005. It’s all part of the same path.
So what about you? Are you the green pickup or are you the vehicle that’s geared down with its lights on and wipers on high?
Congratulations to Tricia, who blogs at Endurance Isn’t Only Physical, for winning the “10 Minute Solution: Ultimate Bootcamp with Jessica Smith” DVD.