Enlightenment often comes from unexpected sources. Take this Tall Jeans project, for example. Some days consist of zipping around Memphis, but others are filled with long stretches of driving from one small town to another. Such was yesterday.
I left my house at 5 a.m.
Daylight was an hour or so away, which meant driving in the dark in an unfamiliar area.
All by myself.
With nothing on NPR but Shutdown!Shutdown!Shutdown!
Just as well, because I needed all my attention on navigating in the dark and trying not to worry about what might be lurking outside the glow of my headlights. There be monsters (18-wheelers) out there, you know.
Chasing my headlights down the highway, mile after mile, a quote from E.L. Doctorow came to mind:
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Doctorow might have been talking about writing, but I used this quote for inspiration and focus when I started my last quest to lose weight. I had visualized where I wanted to end up–how I would live my life as a healthier, fit-type person–but I had no idea how I’d get there. Given that I had set off on the same trip many times in the past, you’ll understand that I had doubts about my chances.
On this trip, though, whenever I would catch myself trying to plan too far ahead or fretting about what might or might not happen in the future, I’d remind myself to focus on what I could see in my headlights and trust that not only could I make the whole trip, but that I’d likely arrive in one piece.
Losing 100 pounds takes awhile, about 17 months in my case. On a trip that long, there comes a point when you realize that the darkness isn’t quite so deep.
Even though the road isn’t perfectly clear, it’s more apparent as you begin to see shapes and shadows of things around you. You can anticipate obstacles and feel more confident in your ability to handle them safely.
Eventually, you come into full daylight. You can not only see where you are, but depending on the geography, you can also see a fair distance on the road ahead. There’s no need for headlights anymore, at least not for a while. (I keep mine on anyway, for safety reasons and because you never know when a freak thunderstorm will pop up. )
As I approach the 5-year mark of maintaining my weight loss, most of my continuing journey is in daylight. I’m mindful of what’s happening around me and respond accordingly. This does require sudden lane changes or quick stops occasionally, but it’s manageable and so far no one has gotten hurt.
There are obstacles, of course. There will always be obstacles.
Some days are bright with sunshine and others are gray and cloudy. Some days have both. There will always be clouds.
There are people around you who do foolish things like crossing a double yellow line to get past an obstacle. If they’re successful, you’ll be tempted to follow their example. There will always be temptations.
In my experience, patience, persistence, and an unwavering belief that the road will be clear again trump obstacles, clouds, and temptations.
They also help during those periods when you find yourself driving in the dark again.
This is what a person thinks about when she’s driving alone on a highway at 5 a.m.