Traffic jams are an occasion for practicing being in the moment. What choice do you have, really? Worrying about being late doesn’t get you there any faster.
I drove from Sacramento to Fresno over the weekend, not for a retreat but to play Renaissance music at a benefit for Fresno City College. I left at 12:30 for a 6:30 gig; the drive is normally 3 hours, but I wanted to check into the hotel, get something to eat, and rehearse briefly with my group. It also takes an hour to put on that (ahem) lovely costume. Just south of Sacramento, traffic slowed to around 5 mph, and we crawled along this way for about 45 minutes .
A flurry of worries fluttered around in my brain:
What caused this? Will I have to see blood (or worse)?
How long will this delay me? Should I phone my colleagues? Will I be stuck here forever and miss the performance? Will anyone ever forgive me?
It’s illegal to use a cell phone while driving.
Does this kind of crawling count as driving? (Imagined conversation with particularly nasty CHP officer follows.)
I’m going to call…but my phone is telling me to insert a SIM card. It has a SIM card. What happened to the SIM card? Did I ruin my phone when I dropped it while loading the car?
My husband and daughter aren’t here to fix the phone for me. (Wait, I’m intelligent too.)
How do I open it? (This takes up the next 15 minutes.)
The SIM card is floating around loose—at least I think that’s what that tiny chip is. Where does it go? (This takes up the next 10 minutes.)
It snapped into place, but the phone is still complaining. Doesn’t it know I’m brilliant?
When in doubt, reboot.
Should I use the phone??? (Back to the scowling CHP officer.) “Officer, I’m driving about the pace I walk. This is definitely not unsafe.”
At this point I stopped myself. If I were walking, I’d be enjoying the scenery, looking for wildflowers to photograph. And sure enough, along CA 99 in the California Central Valley in March, there is nothing but wildflowers. I see bright orange California poppies, purple vetch, lupine, white almond blossoms in the orchards I pass.
I put on some soothing music—Healing Muses’ Reflections. I send the energy from the flowers to Eileen, the group’s flute and recorder player; she is facing a new stage in her cancer battle. Sending lovingkindness works both ways; I take a moment to appreciate the close community of musicians who are also supporting Eileen. I’ve felt that loving generosity at times myself.
At last I feel the sense of cooperation as all the cars on the highway politely merge into one lane. We drive past one man in a big machine doing something to the highway while ten others stand around watching. The lane closure ends, and I enjoy the tremendous rush of freedom as I punch the accelerator. For the rest of the drive to Fresno I remember to look at the flowers, listen to beautiful music, and look forward to a lovely evening of making music with friends.