The Strength Of The Lonely
The moon’s a monk, unmated,
Who walks his cell, the sky.
His strength is that of heaven-vowed men
Who all life’s flames defy.
They turn to stars or shadows,
They go like snow or dew—
Leaving behind no sorrow—
Only the arching blue. ~ Vachel Lindsay
Each day, we take certain things for granted. Of course, there are those things that are crucial to our very existence, the most essential being the beauty of our brain to orchestrate the autonomous breathing process. Some of the other lofty “gifts” are those that allow us to see, hear, touch, taste, speak, reason, think and more. Most of us, give scant thought to them and act as if these “gifts” are assured to us for a lifetime.
Yet, there are a multitude of other things that, while not as weighty, we would miss if we lost them. For purposes of this post, I refer to one seemingly insignificant ability that I now realize that I’ve taken for granted over decades. I am speaking of driving.
I’ve driven all of my adult life. In fact, I can’t remember when I didn’t drive. Without boring you with the details, suffice it to say that I’ve been forced to stop driving. No, I haven’t reached that age when it is time to hang up the car keys, but for safety reasons, my doctor told me to stop driving.
Now, I view it as a temporary situation, but it doesn’t make it any easier to let go of the wish to grab my keys, jump into my car and hit the road. At first, I couldn’t stop crying. When I left my doctor’s office, I tried to call my daughters and one of my best friends. Gratefully, I was able to speak to one of my daughters. After speaking to her, I cried my eyes out all the way home, which I am sure that you’ll agree was not the safest thing to do. Nevertheless, I was at a loss to stop the unbridled flow of my sadness.
Although I don’t make it a practice to blog about it very often, I have a syndrome known as fibromyalgia, “fibro” for short. (Most people know at least one person who suffers from it, so if you’d like to learn more, read here and here.) Even if it may seem as though I’ve digressed, I promise that you will understand the relevance of the discussion later in the post.
Anyway, as of this Fall, I’ll have had fibro for 20 years. At first, the condition was so new that none of the many doctors from whom I sought help, had even heard of it. So, instead of treating the condition as a whole, they treated the symptoms separately. Only later did I learn that I had fibromyalgia and that the symptoms were part of a whole. At that time, there was no established method of treating the disease and no two fibro patients could count on consistent treatment. Dedicated fibromyalgia medications were unavailable.
Over the years, fibromyalgia has caused me immense amounts of pain, my legal practice, loneliness, depression, the end of long car trips, memory loss, and more. I say all of this, not for pity, but to state the fact of the matter. No, I share this as a way to express to you the preciousness of what remained, and that included driving. Still, the ability to drive, lulled me into a false sense of security. I’ve learned that what is given, can be taken away with alarming swiftness. And so, now, I can’t drive and must rely on others to drive me. I can continue to bemoan the current situation, and I have no doubt that I will do so for some time. Yet, I think that it is far healthier to view it as a temporary state that can just as easily swing in the other direction.
The other day, I was deep in thought when I began thinking about what I miss the most about driving. I’ve listed them in no particular order:
- Driving into the spectacular view of a sunrise or a sunset,
- Feeling the wind on my face on a perfect Spring day,
- Grabbing my keys and walking to the car for a spur of the moment drive,
- My schedule, not theirs,
- Singing, out of tune, to the radio or favorite CD’s, at the top of my lungs,
- Listening to whatever radio channel or CD that I like,
- Making unscheduled stops without worries of inconveniencing anyone,
- The joys of not working around other people’s schedule,
- Did I say, freedom,
- Spending as long as I want to shop, or not,
- The right to complain about endless, monotonous and inexplicable traffic jams,
- Being late for an appointment and hitting all the green lights,
- The right to gripe about other drivers,
- In recent years, the joy of cheap gas,
- Listening to NPR,
- On very rare occasions, giving the finger (You know the one.) to someone who richly deserves it,
- Hand outside of the car, hand-surfing on the wind,
- Driving nowhere in particular,
- Taking my old VW Cabrio convertible with the manual transmission for a ride on the open road (I still miss that car.),
- Screaming at some idiotic thing that someone said, or neglected to say, on the radio,
- Crying about some unusually sad story, or even a beautiful and uplifting one,
- The joy of not waiting for a ride to arrive–late, and
- Of course, FrEeDoM and INdePENdence.
I could go on but for those of you who drive, you can already identify with most, if not all, of these points. Driving is both a necessity and a luxury that provides us both joy and independence, but like many things are taken for granted. Take it from me, the ability to do so richly deserves a spot on your gratitude list. As soon as circumstances change, it will definitely be on mine. In the meantime, think of me when you take the wheel. I will be the one watching longingly as you drive by.