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A Reading of “Life is a Highway: Don’t Get a DUI”
It’s so absurd when prose begins with “Life is like” but life is like taking a trip or a long journey. There you are, content in your Spider-Man pajamas (yes, the ones with the footsies sewn in) just as snug as a bug in the rug of life. You are row, row, rowing the boat of your soul ever so merrily down the stream and then out of nowhere, your little canoe hits something in the water and nervous shivers run up and down your body as your little inner voice gets loud, shouting “’Ey! ‘Ey! Somethin’ ain’t right here! What the hell was that which hath disturbed my slumber?” (Yes, your little inner voice does speak like that so don’t bother denying it.) Then it’s a mad dash towards a light; could be a computer screen or the illumination of a Samsung 4-20, doesn’t really matter. All you know at this point is that you have been pulled out of your complacency with some assignment or another and you just want a little clarity on exactly where you are supposed to be going and what you are supposed to be doing.
Trips aren’t so tense. Most of us are somewhat efficient with those. That’s a zip code or five. So, no need in really wasting verbiage on those. It’s the journeys that really matter. Those are the one’s that take you further away from the security of your suburban home and the resources thereof into the wide unknown. Those are the one’s that require a stubborn refusal to succumb to doubt, worry or fear. Feel them yes; succumb to them, no. When the call, email or text comes through the magick of thin air that you are needed to make a long and arduous journey, an initial, mildly/massive panic attack vibrates your spine and then explodes outwards through your nervous system as before you knew what you were saying, you had already accepted the task. And why would you do such a thing, you nitwit?
What could possibly compel you to heed the call of this journey, knowing full well that no one could go with you, your success in reaching your destination is not guaranteed, the possibility of a blown tire or other mechanical problems suddenly deciding to “just happen” will be greatly increased on this journey, much more than they were on your previous, little trips. You suddenly get a flash of yourself on the side of the road somewhere near Route 66, out in the Mojave, with nothing but a phone that has no signal, half a bottle of Powerade and the eyes of coyotes or other critters beaming at you from the darkness of the desert. As soon as the flash comes, it vanishes, and you ask yourself “What have I done?” through a cold sweat. Too late now Bucko! You’ve committed!
You are about to go where you have never gone before and try your best to not totally flip out as it dawns on you that you haven’t the foggiest of how to prepare and what to pack for this journey. You freeze, you lock up, you feign. Your eyes move around in the unmoving body and skull you transmit from; searching ever so vigorously for the first thing to do or the first thing to pack. You are at a complete loss, having no prior frame of reference for a journey of this magnitude. You are a rabbit in the headlights…until! You either get a knock at the door, a call or a text from someone you trust that has indeed already successfully made the journey you are about to embark on, returned and has lived to tell the tale. Additionally, this seemingly supernatural aide comes from a person you know and certainly trust. They begin to calmly and cleverly give you foreshadowing of what to expect on your journey, how best to prepare, what items and resources best to take with you and which to simply leave behind. As they give guidance, instruction, warnings and blessings you begin to breathe. Your heart rate returns to normal. You see the subtle smile in their face and are quietly assured that much like a good roller coaster; to look at it from afar, to see the intimidating tracks high above and to hear the screams can be overwhelming to the senses; however those that got on all safely get off. Chances are, that in this moment, if you feel fear and move forward anyway you might just have the ride of your life.
Now with eager anticipation, laced with nervous exhilaration, you rummage through your closets, cubbies and drawers tossing articles of clothing behind you that you certainly wont need in search of those you will or might. From room to room of your memory palace you pace with excitement throwing this thing into that bag or tossing that thing into this bag. You tell yourself there is a science to this; you convince yourself there is some system you are working with to pack for your adventure but who are we fooling? There is no reason you should be taking the family heirloom can opener with you and you damn well know it. This isn’t science and there is no system. No, when your bags are finally stuffed and the keys are jangling loose from your hand you take the time to look around at the chaos you are leaving behind with potential yet rejected items for the journey, strung and strewn across the hardwood floors of the home you are leaving behind. Normally, leaving such a mess would be intolerable for you. However now that you have completely sold yourself on the idea that come hell or high-water the forward journey that very recently terrified you is going to happen; in fact, must happen, you flippantly tell yourself the mess isn’t going anywhere until you get back so might as well pick all that crap up later.
You cram your bags in the back, hop in the driver’s seat, lock your Sammy 4-20 in its cradle equipped with suction cup affixed to the windshield and crank the engine up. Rather than instantly punching it in drive, you do like ya’ daddy told you and let it idle for a moment while all the juices flow to where they need to go. You do a mental inventory checklist in that space. Clothes? Check. Toiletries? Check. Billions of beats, thumps, tunes, ballads and guilty pleasures stored in your Sammy 4-20 to provide your journey with a soundtrack? Check. Family heirloom can opener? Check. Then, in silence apart from the engine waking up, you take a moment to appreciate the scope of this journey you are about to head on. Deep breath in, deep breath out. This won’t be so bad. After all, you have taken so many trips before and a journey is like taking all those smaller trips and putting it into one big journey, right? And how did all those trips you have gone on pan out? Memories of mile markers and landscapes buzzing past your eyes at 80 miles per hour while the perfect Radiohead song comes on to meet you at the frequency you are at and then play out to elevate you to a state of Enlightenment as an audible addition to the ecstasy of all your other senses. In those short trips, you distinctly recall moments of utter bliss, escape, nirvana, oneness with All-ness. You recall that on many of those trips you were able to shut out the static of the rest of the world; not answering texts or emails or getting a dopamine fix from checking social media do-dads. You recall that on those trips, enclosed within your vessel, the thoughts, feelings and ideas the world never gave you time to become intimate with suddenly had space to surface and in that space it was you versus the dragons of your mind. Some could be befriended, some must be slain but none in that confined space going 80 down the interstate could be ignored, suppressed or avoided. Every one of those fire-breathers were in front of you and there was no going around them.
You acknowledge that every one of those past trips in the story of your existence, with silent and brief moments of absolute Zen sandwiched in between the magick of shuffle, had made you a different person. A more peaceful person. A more joyful person and in turn a more authentic person. That being considered, how much more would a journey effect you out on the open road, past the threshold of anything your eyes, ears and skin have ever taken in before? Would the person that was about to depart indeed return; or rather an amalgamation of that person integrated with the new and exciting experiences that were surely to come, making up someone new altogether? As you hit play with a shuffle on your Sammy 4-20 and the first track that plays becomes the christening of your journey, a somewhat impish smile begins to curl into your left cheek. Past all the worry, past all the fear, past all the panic and complaints of being snatched from your comfortable and cozy complacency; you throw it in drive and begin your Odyssey of modern times.
Shipwrecks could be blowouts, there will be the equivalent of dragons; nevertheless, stay on the road. You will face wizards, witches, warlocks, thieves and kings. You’ll face goblins with smart phones, trolls with lap-tops and you’re most likely to kiss more sirens than queens. These are not obstacles you haven’t cleared before in smaller increments on your trips. This journey will just require you to squeeze a little more endurance out of the tube is all. Perhaps all those trips of the past were to train and prepare you to master aforementioned obstacles and opponents for this moment; when you are set to discover that the greatest foe or threat on the path of a journey, rather than a trip, is yourself. But no worries. You’ll cross that bridge when you get there because surely by then you’ll have leveled up enough to come face to face with the person staring at you in the reflection of the rear view.
Life isn’t like taking a long journey. It just is. We always start out by being shook from the comfortable of the normal and familiar onto a highway with some vague destination in mind that can only become more defined the closer we approach it. The terrain will change, the weather will shift, and it doesn’t matter if you have a map, app or pinpoint GPS; there will always be detours, traffic jams and wrecks on the side of the road that will catch you by surprise. Some of the baggage in the back you brought will be lost, stolen or best-case scenario, dropped along the way. And losing things for the sake of the journey isn’t all that bad of a thing anyway; even if it is your family heirloom can opener. Perhaps the ultimate boon of this thing isn’t to acquire a grail, fleece or sword. Maybe its to finally come to the knowing that no foe, yourself included, can conquer; and no problem cannot be solved with all that you really need. Music, Love, Laughter and an open road.
A SONG TO PLAY US OUT…