As children, one of our first experiences of shocking unexpected pain
may be when our precious turtle or kitten dies.
We did not know about this! We cry our hearts out!
We grieve not only our loss
but our helplessness:
We have no power to keep our beloved pet alive.
If we go on to experience a great deal more pain in our early years
we may begin to think that ALL our suffering is inevitable!
We may become pessimistic, even fatalistic, about our life:
It is what it is.
I am what I am.
There is nothing I can do about it.
It is comforting to discover that we can prevent more of our pain
than we think!
Are you willing to take a look at how we can begin?
Let’s DO this!
In the driver’s seat
We have a phrase for someone who is confidently moving forward,
leading his or her life with strong intention.
We say they are “in the driver’s seat.”
A person “in the driver’s seat” is not passive.
They are neither a passenger nor a bystander.
They are active, taking charge, their hands firmly on the wheel.
My son is an excellent driver.
Being in a car with him is an impressive experience.
The calm assurance and the smooth effectiveness of his driving
convey stability and competence.
He drives the way you would want your personal bodyguard to drive.
Takes no risks, but owns the road!
I once asked him to explain to me how he does it.
“Mom, I am always looking WAY down the road!
In both directions.
I know beforehand everything that is going on
and everything that is likely going to happen.
I see it coming!
So I already know how to prevent most of the problems.
The other drivers don’t see the dangers that are coming, but I do.”
“Oh!” I said, astonished.
I’m one of those other drivers, I realized.
Since our discussion, I haven’t gotten all that much better at driving.
I seem to have my hands full paying attention to what is right in front of me.
What I have done is applied the basic principle to my life.
Looking down the road in life
I have come to realize that we are all capable of looking ahead.
We can all see much of the suffering coming down the road toward us.
We don’t have to be passive and just let it run us over.
Some of the most frequent kinds of pain we face are: illness, accident, loss.
Our goal is to prevent them if we can.
If we can’t, then our goal is to lessen the suffering they cause.
I have found the most effective way to do this
is to ask myself a few key questions every morning:
What pain do I see coming today?
What action can I take to prevent or minimize it?
Let’s take as our example the prevention of illness.
So much of our illness could be prevented, but isn’t.
Here are the questions I ask myself:
Why would I risk my own health and the health of others
by not being consistent in taking all precautions against covid?
Vaccinations, boosters, N95 masks, avoiding indoor gatherings.
Why would I delay getting my health checkups, mammogram, skin exam?
Why would I not get enough sleep, exercise, nutrition for my optimal health?
By asking these questions I directly challenge my own passivity.
Rising to each challenge, I protect myself.
The more I see how my suffering works,
the more I realize that much of my suffering has been set up.
By who? By me.
It’s called self sabotage.
We all do it.
Some people find recognizing their own self sabotage guilt inducing.
I don’t. I find it liberating!
I am not blaming myself, I am explaining myself.
It feels wonderful to understand the causal factors.
Understanding how I set up a particular kind of suffering
puts me right where I want to be:
in the driver’s seat of preventing it.
Now I can figure a way to dismantle the set up
and carry on driving along that beautiful road.
As the Ry Cooder song says:
Trouble you can’t fool me, I see you behind that tree!
Trouble You Can’t Fool Me
When have you looked down the road,
seen trouble coming..
and prevented it?
I hope you will write and tell me about it!