I spent some time living in the USA for awhile and when friends and I used to drive down afterwards to visit, I shared my secret of getting around the city: Stay in the middle lane. It was simple really. With exits on both the left and right side of the freeway, driving in the middle lane allowed for a graceful exit. It decreased the panic of trying to get over several lanes when vehicles were zipping along at breakneck speeds. It increased confidence.
I wonder lately if that is my coping mechanism now. Stay in the middle lane. Do not let fear overtake you. Trust in the driver and seek help from the co-pilots. You have time to get where you are going. You can maneuver a graceful exit. I do not feel a need to seek out extreme measures to outrun the cancer that is within me. Neither do I deny its existence. I am in the middle–I accept it and yet I try to maintain a positive outlook on life. I am not ignoring it but I am not giving it more attention than it should have.
Some days, like these past few weeks, I plug along, one foot in front of the other, tired because the old me does not really exist so much anymore. That energizer bunny has faltered but not fallen over. She still bangs the cymbals together most days. Today, for instance, was a catch up day, trying to do a number of things that I had fallen behind on and yet still carving out time for a long walk because exercise is important to me too. The day was glorious — who would have thought that one could still be in sandals in November? I loved the sunny skies and the chance to be outside without being bundled up. I appreciated that I almost felt like my old self for awhile, checking off many things on my to-do list, including sending off a Christmas package to Europe which might even arrive on time this year.
I love it when the middle lane is a comfortable place to be. I am grateful for the smooth, stress-free ride. When I first moved to the USA, I was glad that someone else did the driving. She was familiar with freeways, unlike this prairie girl who had not yet clocked a lot of highway miles. I have returned several times and the first time, before I figured out I was capable of managing the road, I was scared. My mantra became stay in the middle lane. So now, with the cancer diagnosis, I choose the middle path too. I do not wish fear to overtake me or create panic. I mostly do a pretty decent job of staying in the middle.
I have not let the diagnosis stop me from traveling, enjoying life, laughing, dreaming, and serving God. It is soon to be 10 months since the prognosis came down and I do not hear that clock ticking so much any more. That does not mean that I can slide into apathy. I have much to do during whatever time is left. Now that I have begun to settle into my new place, I can seriously look at making arrangements and finally start to consider how best to spend each day. I need to start carving out a master plan, but I do not need to barrel down the freeway wildly.
With patience and trust, I will keep going forward serenely. I am sure there will be detours and lunatics on the road with me that I will need to watch out for. Construction might rattle me from time to time. Some will tailgate and others will zip past me, maybe even flipping me the bird. How others manage the road is mostly not my concern. I will keep my eyes on the Creator and follow the direction I am led. I pray for the grace to stay in the middle, a place where I am comfortable and calm.
How are you driving down the freeway of life?
What are your coping strategies when the going gets tough?
Creator, if life is a four-lane freeway, help me stay in the middle and keep my eyes on you. Let me breathe and be calm no matter what obstacles come my way. Teach me to enjoy the ride and the view. Grant me patience and courage. Amen.