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All The Time They'll Get There Anyway, You See
On coping with being on the road again
In a few past issues of this newsletter I’ve mentioned my quote book, the place I’ve been stashing pieces of novels that I find particularly meaningful or interesting or true since 2011. Diving back into it is always a worthwhile exercise for me; I’m bound to come across things I have no memory of recording or no idea why I found meaningful at the time.
But there are others I can recall with no effort, verbatim or at least pretty close, when the need arises. My wife and dog and I have been “On the Road” for two weeks now and there’s one such line, from the book by that name, that I have been trying to use as my north star in this particular journey.
They have worries, they’re counting the miles, they’re thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there - and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see.
I am by nature a very anxious person. It manifests itself differently now than it did in childhood—I am no longer convinced loved ones are dead if they’re five minutes late arriving home, for example—but it is still a daily challenge in my life. For instance: on a long cross-country drive, I have a tendency to dwell on the miles, the hours, the destination. All that needs to be done to get through those things. Getting bogged down in the math of how much time a bathroom or food stop has cost us. A miserable way to be, in other words. Robbing myself of joy and relaxation for no real reason other than the way things happen upstairs.
I know these things about myself and am frankly a little sick of it. So I asked Ali, in the days before we left, to try to help me remember something like that Kerouac passage: that we are going to get there anyway, and we really have nothing else to do, so I might as well embrace the idea that the hours and miles don’t matter so much that I should deny myself (and her) the opportunity to be spontaneous, to peel off the highway if we see something cool to explore, to start a day not quite knowing where we’re going to sleep that night.
It has not been a perfect system by any means. But it’s nuts how much better things have been for me by focusing on this idea. We have still had plenty of tough and tense and tired moments along the way, but we’ve been able to talk and work through them quickly and not let them rule the day, in the way they might’ve in years past. (This is our third summer in a row doing a huge cross-country road trip, our fourth overall, and our umpteenth time driving hundreds of miles in a day together.)
And my god, the rewards have been something. We have detoured and peeled off our route into all kinds of treasures. By letting go of my abstract need to get from A to B with all possible haste I have been granted the chance to see wonders. To see the parts of this country that feel like they touch a younger world, a more ancient time. We have walked out onto the impossible Bonneville Salt Flats and slept on the Winnemucca Sand Dunes. We have wandered into canyons etched with petroglyphs more than 7,500 years old. We have traipsed quietly beneath a ceiling of redwoods and out onto the booming, hissing shores of the Oregon coast. These holy moments have only touched me because I made space for them against all of my anxieties and worries.
That my anxieties are often fundamentally irrational and that letting go of them often results in the chance to bring a sense of peace and wonder into my life are lessons that I somehow still need to relearn every six months or so. Such is life with a human brain, I suppose. And since this newsletter is fundamentally a place for me to talk to myself about what I think and know, maybe putting these lessons down here will make them stick a little longer so I don’t have to work so hard at them next time.
Thanks, as always, for reading. I’ll talk to you next week, or somewhere down the line.
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