Can I get from here to there without a left hand turn?

A few months ago, I was hit by another car in an intersection. As far as MVA goes, it was relatively minor. Except that it changed the way I drove. I now pause another second before proceeding. Does that driver really see me? On the freeway, I worry, is that car getting too close? I look at other drivers differently, more judgmental. I now decide if they are going too fast or too slow. I yield more, not to be kind, but because I am wary. On my way to work, I have to make 2 left-hand turns; on my way home, I have to make 5. I dislike left-hand turns. A left-hand turn crosses thru traffic. A left-hand turn leaves one vulnerable to those who choose to drive sightless. You know, those drivers intent on their destination, or their journey, they live in their self-proclaimed silos, without a thought for their fellow drivers.

I have been pondering this for several months now. Could I get from here to there without a left-hand turn? It turns out that yes, I can. It would turn my 11-mile commute into a 23-mile journey, but I could do it. I was oddly satisfied once I determined I had a choice. I could change the trajectory of my journey. I could eliminate the dangers of the left-hand turn. I began the process of implementing what I started to call my “Stay Safe” commute. I needed to set my alarm half an hour early. I would need to add another 20 minutes to my drive as I would now hit traffic on the freeway. That would mean I would have to walk the dog in the dark.

It then dawned on me that my “StaySafe” commute would only work getting me to work. To get home, I would need another course. Another series of right turns only.

So, once again, I pondered, could I get home from work honoring my “Stay Safe” philosophy? Turns out the answer is yes. I would need to add 17 miles to my existing commute and pass through 4 additional school zones, but I could do it! I would need to budget more dollars for gas, more wear and tear on my car, extra time on the road, but I could get from here to there (and back again) utilizing the Stay Safe Commute. My goodness, I was pleased with myself.

I am sorry to say a bit thick-headed at times because it took me weeks to finally ask myself the obvious question. Such as, Am I guaranteed a safe commute if I only take right-hand turns?

Of course, the answer is no.

For a while, I was deflated. Dang, it. I decided that the answer was to quit my job, eliminate the need to commute. Dang, it, I like my job, I don’t want to leave. I could ask Mike to drive me every day. He could drive; I could squeeze my eyes shut really tight and pretend all the turns were right-handed ones. Unfortunately, I am still not guaranteed a safe commute, never mind the discussion required with Mike.)

The same is true for all my other options, walking, bike riding, public transportation. So unless I determined to never again get in a vehicle; become a hermit in my own home, I was going to need a new solution.

In working with all the families affected by COVID, I have learned a powerful life lesson and the solution to my “Stay Safe” commute. I have had the humbling honor of being with families when they have lost their loved ones to COVID. I had rejoiced when the battle was won, and they returned home. I have stood beside the wife as she waved to her husband through the window of his room on the second floor, her body shaking as she tried to smile in reassurance. I walked the husband to his car after his final goodbye to his wife of 42 years, his silent tears a megaphone to his pain. I listened to family members rage when told they could not visit. I have heard hundreds of opinions as to whether to vaccine or not to vaccine. The opinions are as varied as the flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans.

You know what was not different? Their fear and their love. They are all united in their fear and their love. They all yearn desperately for their person to recover. And whether that desperation manifests itself with angry words or with words of gratitude, their plea is all the same.

“Please, please let my wife, my husband, my son, my daughter, my sister, my brother…. please, please let them be well.”

We will never be the same people that we were before COVID. We have, against our will, been forced to take this left-hand turn. We must cross dangerous roads to get to safety. We have no recourse but to see this through. But, whatever your opinion, whatever my opinion, there is one thing that unites us: Love and Fear. The question is, which one will drive you? Which one will I spend my time pondering?

Here is what I have decided. I will get up in the morning, put my seatbelt and my blinker on, and take those left-hand turns.

I will keep my eyes open and my foot on the brake for an extra second.

I will consider the driver next to me and tone down my judgment of their lifestyle and driving abilities.

I will back off when I am too close and not honk when they are too slow.

I am going to concentrate on love and not fear.

I am going to take down my silo of fear and drive safely next to my fellow man.

Left-hand turns- a life lesson.

My observations! This is a letter penned by my mother, my inspiration for all things written and historical. I remember this accident; her car was not totaled- but it was in the shop getting worked on for a while. I remember her phone call, and I also remember the story she wrote after the accident occurred. What I don’t remember doing ever was following up with her on how she was feeling.

Accident happened. Mom safe. Car getting fixed. Move on.

However, months later- this accident still is a life event for her. I would have never known; she never said anything. And yet- my mother has had a play-by-play of my experience with my Jeep being murdered and the life-saving actions that it is currently going through. So, I think while my mother’s story of “Stay Safe” is a beautiful story of a personal ‘win,’ there is another life story being told in the background.

Be intentional with our conversations. Listen to hear and not to respond. For example, I heard that my mother had been in an accident and her car was in the shop. I gave the correct response to the situation. But, I did not hear the rest of the story, which, unfortunately, did not have the right words to express her feelings until months later.

How many other conversations have I blown off because I thought of the next thing I wanted to say?

So, I walk away with a better understanding of being intentional with my left-hand turns in life and hearing what people don’t have the words to say.

What are your thoughts?

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