Stay In Your Lane
Early in January this year, a family road trip to Florida brought me an epiphany that has since helped me navigate a number of stressful situations. As with most flashes of insight, the lesson was so simple it was almost laughable. Where had this simple wisdom been all my life?!!!
Our nearly 18-hour drive to Ft. Lauderdale took us on a journey through snow and icy roads in Ohio, steep and twisting mountain highway in Tennessee, rush hour traffic hysteria in Atlanta, and a seemingly never-ending stretch of road along the Florida turnpike. My mom and I traded off as designated driver, while my husband held down the fort in the back of the car with three kids and the dog (which turned into two dogs on the way home.) While I loved getting to see these new landscapes along the way, I couldn’t wait for the road portion of the trip to be over. I don’t love driving on the freeway, driving at night, and driving in unfamiliar places—especially big cities.
By the time we reached Atlanta on the way back home, I was, frankly, a nervous wreck. We had failed to beat sunset, and I found myself driving in the dark along a packed 6-lane highway of crazed and hurried cars. I was petrified. I felt cars racing around me, all of whom seemed to know exactly where they were going and intolerant of my cautious driving. I kept praying, “God, just please get us to our hotel, please, please, please.” And then these profoundly calming words suddenly resonated within me: JUST STAY IN YOUR LANE.
I cannot begin to describe the peace that instantly washed over me. My one and only task was to focus on the lane I was in and follow it. The cars rushing around either side of me, and those creeping up on my tail, were irrelevant. The twinkling lights of the city, the honking horns, the billboards… all of the overwhelming stimuli in my midst… instantly evaporated. I had one, and only one, doable mission: just stay between those dotted lines and drive forward. The remainder of the drive was a total breeze.
As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of one of my husband’s most effective phrases when teaching foxtrot: just pass your feet. Of all the things he ever said when he was my dance teacher, this was the one piece of instruction that always got me back on track when I was flustered and trying too hard to get my steps right. All I had to do was let go of the mental noise- the “interference”—and just pass one foot in front of the other. In other words, “just stay in your lane.”
This simple, yet powerful, nugget of wisdom has come to my rescue numerous times in the weeks since returning from Florida. I regularly feel overwhelmed at work and home—like most busy women do! Sometimes I have to have difficult conversations, or find myself in un-navigated and uncomfortable territory in both realms. “Just staying in my lane” has reminded me to hone in on the task in front of me and recognize the pure simplicity that is usually inherent in it. I am only able to
appreciate its simplicity and do-ability when I divert my attention from the “passing cars”—i.e. the fears and scenarios that tend to steal my focus or shake my resolve, the over-analysis that adds unnecessary weight to the situation, and the self-doubt that the ego loves to indulge in. All of that melts away when I simply choose to focus my consciousness on the task at hand or the “lane” I’m in.
The next time your feel overwhelm and/or anxiety creeping up on you, take a moment to observe your own consciousness. Can you tune out the horns, the lights, and the energy of the surrounding drivers? What is your one mission right now? Can you simply stay your course for the next few moments? My guess is that a much easier road is about to unfold before you if you work on just staying in your lane.
Happy travels! Lisa Berry