Thinking about Headlights

Once again, I am writing to you all from my beautiful retreat in Maine. It has become a pilgrimage to come here once a year, a place that holds such powerful messages for me. I don’t know, really, what it is about this place . . . nor does it matter. It is. I am blessed to be able to be here and I accept with gratitude the gifts that the North Woods has to offer.

E.L Doctorow has a comment about writing that shows up in my inbox occasionally. It just popped up again this past week, and it occurs to me that it has applications far beyond writing. here it is:
“[Writing is] like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I find this to be a powerful metaphor for living, especially for a person like me who is so drawn to closure, to having a plan, always a plan . . .

Here’s the middle ground Doctorow’s idea offers me: It allows me to compromise, satisfy my (laughable at times) need to have a plan instead of being able to throw myself completely in the spontaneity of the moment. It counsels me to plan only within what is in sight. Okay, maybe even the tiniest guess just beyond the view of the headlights, but forget all that stuff that is w-a-y out there. Which, frankly, is almost everything. Sigh. Quite a message for an inveterate planner! But a very useful one, and a lovely serendipity that it should reappear my life in September, when (the old teacher in me) a new year begins, and I am full of plans and ideas.

Stay within the headlights!!!! Advise as old as the Bible: “Sufficient to the day are the problems thereof. Let tomorrow worry about itself.” I just googled the quote, worried about getting it wrong. Indeed. Most translations use the word “evil” where my memory chose “problems.” No need to go off on theological tangents – the point is the same, really, and the Buddhists say this as well. As much as we can, the place to stay in is “now.”
“Now” is not always a wonderful place, alas. Sometimes it is anxious, unknown, unhappy, misunderstood, hard in an endless variety of ways. No wonder we are tempted to plot and plan, try to figure out ways to get to better places. That’s not wrong – as long as we balance that with accepting where we are, and discipline our planning within our immediate vision.

The “how,” for me, anyway, is always the crux. Doctorow’s quote feels like a gentle breeze,  cooling my monkey mind, admonishing me to go a step at a time, which is how all journeys are accomplished.
Wishing you clarity, energy, and love as Fall turns the page to new beginnings.


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