I’ve never thought so much about left-hand turns in my life… until now. My 16-year-old daughter recently got her driver’s license and transports herself to and from swim practices, school meetings, and the grocery store.
We talked at length about the tricky left turn she’d have to make leaving the swim center and the one she’d make entering our neighborhood.
When I hear the car pull away, I see Natalie in my mind’s eye: her hands are positioned confidently on the wheel, eyes are laser focused, and she’s scanning for “darters” (the term she gave neighborhood kids whose games occasionally spill into the streets). I envision Natalie being safe as she travels, and I pray specifically about the tough left turns ahead.
I’d been somewhat perplexed about my left-turn obsession, when suddenly, it all came back to me.
Ever since I turned 16, my dad placed great emphasis on the left turns along my route. I remember him explaining why left-hand turns were especially risky.
“You’re attempting to drive across oncoming traffic, so be cautious and alert, Rachel. if your visibility is compromised, making a left-hand turn that isn’t controlled by a traffic light can be quite dangerous,” he said.
As a brand new driver, there was a dangerous left turn on Tillotson Avenue in Muncie, Indiana Dad often warned me about. As a young teacher living in near Cincinnati, Ohio, Dad urged caution when making the left turn onto Highway 229 to head to school. As a young mother living in Bradenton, Florida, Dad suggested an alternative route to State Road 70 so I wouldn’t have to make the dangerous left turn where a stoplight was desperately needed.
Interestingly, my dad had a way of conveying concern without making me feel helpless or incapable. The way Dad addressed left turns made me feel simultaneously cautious AND confident in my ability to navigate life’s toughest turns.
And now, I am trying to do that for my daughter.
“Mom, I’d like to go to my friend Erin’s house on Saturday to hang out with a couple girls from the team,” Natalie said the other night. “It’s an eleven minute drive from our house,” she explained, showing me the route mapped out on her phone. “And I’ll leave by 10pm so I am not driving late at night.”
It was the first time Natalie was driving to a place that was unfamiliar to both of us. I nearly offered to take her to her friend’s house, but then I remembered the goal was to empower her with Caution and Confidence. Instead of offering her a ride, I commended her on how well she’d thought everything through.
“It sounds like a lot of fun,” I added, with more casualness than I felt.
Natalie texted when she arrived at Erin’s house. A few hours later, she let me know when she was heading home. At that time, I was lying beside my younger daughter, petting Banjo our cat, and envisioning Natalie inside a protective bubble of white light.
When I heard the garage open, I walked downstairs.
Excitedly, Natalie shared that the drive was harder than expected due to winding, narrow roads.
Swallowing hard, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the roads also involved the dreaded left turn.
“On the way home, I had to make four left-hand turns,” she exclaimed, as if reading my mind. “But I did them all really well!”
As I sighed with relief, I felt a tinge of regret for saying so much about left turns – but then grace kicked in, gently reminding me of this:
There is no right and wrong way to love people through the toughest turns of life.
And I must say, I find that assurance incredibly timely.
The tumultuous events of the past week have had me wide awake at 2am, staring at the ceiling. It feels like our precious world is out past curfew, driving on unfamiliar roads that require left-hand turns across several lanes of incoming traffic. Our precious world sits, waiting for a break in the traffic, yet, there is no end in sight.
I know I am not alone in this concern for the safety and wellbeing of humanity at this unprecedented time in history.
I see fellow human beings experiencing their own form of anxiety, thus acting in atypical ways, and perhaps feeling shamed for it.
But I implore us to remember:
There is no right or wrong way to love each other through the toughest turns of life.
We worry because we care. We care about our loved ones making it home safely; we care about the most vulnerable people in our communities; we care about folks whose livelihoods are being gravely impacted; we care about our healthcare workers who are on the frontlines; we care about the welfare of our planet.
And if picturing people we love navigating life encased in a protective white light is helping us cope with our angst, then so be it.
Perhaps envisioning humankind making it safely home IS love.
Perhaps envisioning a positive outcome for our current situation IS love.
Because here is what I believe about love:
Love looks for alternative routes.
Love prepares for left turns.
Love packs extra snacks for the road.
Love stops for the stranded.
Love wrings her hands.
Love stares at the ceiling at 2am.
Love proceeds with caution.
Love checks and double checks.
Love waits by the door.
Love envisions safe returns.
And love does these things WHILE simultaneously conveying confidence, capability, and belief that we make through…
Because love is all-encompassing.
Now, should you find yourself awake at 2am worrying about the world and the tough left turns ahead, I suggest locating calm. When my daughter’s angst was high three nights ago and she couldn't sleep, I invited her to join me in the Refuge of Right Now.
I took Natalie’s hand and calmly whispered, “Feel your legs against your sheets? Feel the weight of them resting against the mattress? Ok… now feel them being held. Let all your weight relax into the cushion. Now, move on to your feet… feel how they are being held? That’s right… you are being held in loving hands. Now just rest.”
After tuning into various parts of her body, her breathing became heavy. She was finally asleep, her hand still in mine.
Love holds on.
Love looks out for others.
Love doesn’t give up.
But love also rests, so she’s ready and alert to make life’s toughest turns with confidence and capableness.
My friends, before we leave this moment together, let’s envision what might be past this excruciating left-hand turn the world is having to make. Up ahead, I envision a long stretch of road where skies are blue and neighbors sit on porches waving to passersby. Life is slower up ahead; conversation comes easier; joy flows more freely. Up ahead, there is less “I” and more “we.”
Perhaps the time we spend waiting for the traffic to clear will give us clarity.
Perhaps we’ll see each other better than we ever did before.
That’s what love does when we do our part.
Let us proceed with caution and confidence while envisioning a safe arrival home for all.
My hand in yours.
Friends of the Hands Free Revolution: When I began writing LIVE LOVE NOW, I had no idea I’d write the book I needed at that moment to help my daughter Avery navigate some of life’s most difficult territories. I also did not I know I’d write the book many of us need right now to help young people navigate the current challenges facing our world. Today, I am incredibly grateful to offer you a unique invitation to read the book early and be part of a loving online family that will usher this important book into the world on April 28. The #livelovenow Launch Team has been assembling over the past two days and already, I feel a sense of hope that comes through community and connection. The only thing missing is you. Come as you are… click here and join us in spreading this vital message of love. #livelovenow