In my mid-eighties, I knew the day would come when I would no longer drive. About 10 days ago it actually came.! Since then, I have thought about the three times in my life I have experienced this rite of passage. First, the day I got my learner’s permit. Then fifty years later when my mother finally stopped driving. And now, about two weeks ago when I voluntarily decided not to drive. Each filled with feeling!s!
I learned to love driving from my father. It has become a welcome way of life for me. I would think nothing of driving, by myself, to Florida to visit my parents.
In this Vincentian Mindwalk I invite you to share my surprised reaction at no longer driving a car… and what I learned from it.
Driving was such a part of me that I never really envisioned not being able to drive. Then last spring all residents of the Vincentian Motherhouse over 80 were asked to take a rather extensive driving test. Two years into a diagnosis of Parkinson’s I knew the day was coming sooner than later. But my good friend “Arthur Itis” beat Mr. Parkinson. Of course, the new Philadelphia driving style of cars passing on the right at red lights also played into the decision!
What I was not expecting was my reaction to my last drive. I really enjoyed my last drive on a beautiful Fall Day! But what surprised me most is what I learned about myself since then. Up until then, driving was a part of who I am!
Here I was losing an important piece of my identity… someone who could drive!
Exploring my identity
Now I found myself realizing that this ability was not my core identity.
I began to walk down the corridors of my mind. I came to realize that my identity was more deeply rooted than any skill or talent that I had. I don’t think I had ever really faced that before. Who I am transcends any skills, talents, or recognition by others.
Important as they are it matters little whether I have the initials CM after my name or any academic initials. In the past, I have occasionally quoted Augustine… “I am neither the better for the praise of others nor worse for what they think of me”
My deepest identity is that I was created by God out of love and invited to pay that love forward to all others who share that common identity of being created by God. I am God’s creation!!!! At root my dignity is that God created me!
The two Francis
In Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis reminds us that his namesake St. Francis saw all of creation as his brothers and sisters.
St. Francis describes the brother/sister relationship he had with the sun, moon, stars, wind, etc … in fact, with the whole cosmos! It was more than poetry for him.
A new understanding of dying and rising
I have come to realize that voluntarily giving up driving is part of the dying and rising process I have spoken of all too glibly in the past.
Letting go of something I had unconsciously thought of as essential to who I am, helped me become more aware of my radical dignity as God’s creation.
Now I think of the many losses in the process of aging as part of the much larger process of growing in awareness of the more radical beauty and dignity of being created and loved by the God who creates all.
Can you think of examples when you have experienced a loss and discovered it opened up new horizons and insights?
(In some ways this Mindwalk is a followup to an earlier one “This Train Is Bound for Glory”)
Click below for an early audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk