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The Car Connection

September 2, 2010

There is no denying that we are a mobile society. We value our independence and the freedom to come and go as we please. For many, myself included, all it takes is to be without our own transportation for a day to leave us feeling the frantic need to GO SOMEWHERE. The American love affair with cars cannot be denied, but I wonder if we sometimes miss the greatest byproduct of that connection. Our cars are more than a way to get from here to there. Yes, your car gets you places, but it also gives you time alone and time with others. In fact, thinking of our cars as “relationship labs” or “communication capsules” gives us the chance to savor, struggle with, and ultimately grow from the wonderful, and sometimes heartbreaking experiences that take place.

Some of my earliest “car connection” memories are of riding in my grandad’s pickup, bumping across pastures as he tended to ranching chores. He would talk to me about what grass to sow next year for grazing, which steers were doing well, future improvements he wanted to make. As he talked, he asked me what I thought about his plans, and I believed he really wanted, maybe even needed my input. Those moments sent me toward adolescence knowing someone thought I had something to contribute and valued what I had to say.

It’s hard to keep track of all the “teachable moments” I’ve been given because I was in a car, going somewhere, alone or with someone. There have been quiet, secure moments with family or friends and painfully silent moments of differences and disagreement. There have been tears from laughing when my children said something funny and tears from hurting with them when they hurt. There have been serious, life changing conversations and lighthearted moments of silliness. I have used time in the car to prepare myself at the beginning of the day or debrief at its end. Over the years I have even suggested that clients schedule car time when it became clear that some of their most effective communication took place in the car closed off from outside distractions.

How do you use your car time? Are you learning how life looks to your children and their friends as you drive them to school or other activities? Do you listen to books on tape to stretch your mind or to enjoy a good story? Has your car been the sanctuary where you prayed for strength to go on or gave encouragement to someone who needed it? Have you learned to be as comfortable in the quiet, being with yourself or with others to the rhythm of the tires and the engine as you are with talking and laughing to the backdrop of the radio? Do you ever turn off the A/C or heat, rolling down the windows to remember the feel of the air and the sounds as you drive?

Take a walk through your own car moments, both good and bad. Think about how you have used those moments to become who you are. A second glance may give a deeper meaning to some moments and the chance to put a healthier spin on others. Looking back at yourself as a part of someone else’s moment may reassure you that you brought your best self to that encounter. Or you may end up staring your worst self in the face and deciding to do something different the next time. Whatever you discover, I hope you will be reminded that time in the car is not a pause or dead space in our living, but a big part of what connects us to ourselves and each other. The impact of those moments outlives us. Those moments with my grandad are still with me and now I get to be the “Nena” that gives those gifts to my own grandchildren.

So, start you engines and experience the connection!

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