Over the summer my maternal grandmother passed away. Unfortunately we hadn’t been close in a lot of years and I (sadly) didn’t think it would be a big deal to attend her funeral. I figured that I could simply support my mother and help her manage the day. While the event itself was harder than I had assumed it would be, it actually took a look back at my summer in its entirety for me to see my grandmother’s influence in it. I’ll have to start with a bit of backstory; when I was a child we drove. My parent’s separation caused miles to be driven into me. We spent time in cars and trucks, hours with the hum of the road beneath us. I don’t remember disliking the drive and there are stories of me falling asleep in the back seats of old Jeeps on bumpy country roads that would suggest I have a need to drive built into my very soul. I didn’t know it then, but all of the road-trips shaped me. As a young adult when I was scared or angry or needed to process something I got in my car and drove, for hours. Windows down, radio up. I wouldn’t take a map and I wouldn’t care where I headed, driving brought peace and the further away I drove the better I would feel. It was therapeutic for me, allowing me the space and time to work through whatever difficulty I was dealing with.
As I looked back at this summer I saw how much time I spent in my mini-van. I took my kids on last minute trips to state parks, road trips to visit far-flung friends, I even drove them to South Dakota for a week to visit my dad. The miles couldn’t go unnoticed. My grandmother’s death wasn’t an incredibly sad event for me because we hadn’t spoken in years, but the fact that it wasn’t sad was important and I needed to understand it better. When I thought about it, I could see the time in my car as the place I sorted out most of my confused, hurt, and broken emotions. Now, this might be coincidental, so I thought about my motivation for all of this “adventuring”.
The more that I thought about each trip we took the more clear the motivation became. Everyday I spent at home was one that I packed full of activity, I didn’t deal with any of my feelings at home. I stayed put until my heart was ready to cry out and my brain was over full. Then I would tell my kids to pile in the car, often without any real destination in mind until a few miles in. I started planning ahead for this to happen, I scheduled days away, trips that required at least a three hour round trip were best. My kids could handle that amount of time and I could lose myself in the distance. While they would read and work on puzzle books, I’d be puzzling over the sudden sadness that had overtaken me or working through what had caused this strong desire to get away from home.
There are few times in my life when I have felt weightless. As the oldest child from a banged up family with a strong, willful personality I have carried many loads that were not really mine. I have only discovered that truth over miles and hours lost on back roads. When I think about the times I have felt “light”, the larger truth is that peacefulness comes from running (driving) away. That’s messed up right? The world would teach me that I should stand and face my fears or trials or difficulties. They would say that to run away means that I am merely pushing the feelings deeper and not processing how I really feel. For me it is the opposite though, it is quite easy to be so lost in my day to day that I don’t contemplate any of my struggles. I simply push them aside because of the urgent demands of mothering. If I can get away though, there is quiet to be had.
There has always been an excuse for my running away. Always a reason for my need to get as far from a situation as I could on a tank of gas. I hope to get a head-start on my troubles but, as I run to the East I feel the difficulties following hard from the West. You see, one of the secrets that I’ve learned as I’ve sat in the drivers seat is that I can’t outrun my problem, and so that’s not what the driving is about. The running away is my counseling session, my time to be alone with God, the place I can find myself again when I am lost to whatever demands my position in life has caused. For whatever reason, I can always see a clearer way through when I’m staring out the windshield.
I went through a season of change about eight years ago, a season where all of my choices up to that point seemed wrong and no longer fit. I couldn’t see a way through to the other side. I needed to make some hard choices, and while I was scared I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to simply run away. Though I did try. For a long time I just refused to grow. I got in my car and drove, but I didn’t work through my pain or cry out for the comfort of my Savior. I let the miles pass by without putting in the effort required of me. Because I refused to deal with the hard things I got to deal with the consequences. Things like drawn out battles, because I wouldn’t or couldn’t speak peacefully. Strained relationships because words went unspoken. Lost friendships because of fear, brokenness, and hurt. There was so much good that came from this time, but I made the good less by the way I handled the hard.
It was a season of growth and it was during this time that I realized running was what I needed to do to process and handle all of what I had done up until that point. That getting away wasn’t just a break from reality or an opportunity to ignore my problems, but that it was the way that I would find the answers, and the peace, that I needed. These were hours well spent, I remembered things that I loved about myself that I guess I hadn’t really known I had forgotten. When I finally gave the miles and hours my attention I was able to do the hard work that needed doing.
I don’t run much anymore. Though there are days when the mothering gets hard and I feel the call of country hi-ways, they are fewer than they have ever been. I have peace in knowing that I am loved, first by my heavenly Father which provides more rest than I knew was possible. Second by a man who chooses to be with me each day, a man who knows me and my need to run, but doesn’t seem to fear that I will run from him. There are others too, people who love me as I am, those who have heard the hardest parts of my story and choose to call me friend in spite of those pages. I am grateful.
It’s been a few months now since my grandmother passed away. The sadness I have felt in not knowing her well has been replaced with a peace from knowing her as I did when I was a child. The miles and years that were driven between us do not define her in my memory. This peace, this knowing has not been an easy place to get to. There have been days spent on the road trying to sort out why life turns the way it does. Hours behind the wheel devoted to setting down burdens that were not mine to carry. Now when I think back over the part of her life that I knew my grandmother for, I see her smile, hear her laugh, and trust that she did her best to love me well while she could. I suppose that is true of most relationships in life.
I started writing this piece quite awhile ago. I couldn’t decide whether or not it was right, and so I kept coming back to it, editing, adding things in, deleting paragraphs. I still wonder if it does justice to the processing of my feelings over the past few months, really most of my adult life. What I’ve decided is that nothing I put down on paper could ever really express the way my mind and heart work through this life, but that’s no reason not to share. Today I will take a drive, a couple of hours in the car with littles buckled into back seats. I’m not needing to work through anything, but the drive will still be good, it will still be an opportunity to be present with my quietest thoughts. A place to give space to the wondering and wandering of my heart. A chance to remember who I am in the busyness of my everyday.