Recently I’ve been feeling ‘stuck’. Right now, it’s like I’m parked in a Walmart carpark procrastinating about where to go next. Perhaps there are some great Walmart carparks out there, but you probably wouldn’t choose to hang out there for long. I’ve foolishly let myself run out of gas and this body of mine, my vehicle, keeps breaking down. This frustrating state of inertia urges me to reflect back on an awesome family road trip we did last summer and use it to contemplate my own inner journey.
We finally did it, the family road trip we’d been dreaming of, and it was magic. The Pacific Coast Highway opened up in front of us, jagged cliffs and wild sea interspaced by stretches of golden sand. The salty smell of the ocean air and broadness of the horizon in every direction gave us all a sense of openness and adventure. My husband and I shared the driving, our eight-year-old son, Theo, in the back. We took turns to pick the soundtrack, choices ranging from classic road trip tunes to sing-alongs, audiobooks, or just the sound of the journey‑—the smooth engine humming and the rush of the ocean breeze past the open window.
Our vehicle, Midnight, was a black Chevy Express V8 with ‘ramblin’ vans’ written in neon-yellow writing down her side. She was pleasingly chunky, with perfect dimensions, subtly striking and just so thoughtfully kitted out. She oozed adventure and fun! As our travelling companion and home for 10 days, she exceeded our expectations. Her back seat folded down into a double mattress and she had a pop-up tent that sat on her roof. Neatly stacked in her boot was everything we could have possibly needed: bedding, deck chairs, a table, stove and propane with matches and lighters, pots and pans, cooler, washing up equipment, bin bags, a five-gallon water container fully loaded—you name it, she had it. There was even a Tupperware full of herbs and condiments.
Our first stop was Port Orford where Theo and I jumped breakers on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, and I swam. The bracing cold water, summer sun and gentle ocean breeze soothed and revitalised us all. Just ten miles down the highway, we leaned our bodies against the howling wind at Cape Blanco, the western most point of the USA, wrapped up warm in our coats and woolly hats — a world apart from the nearby cove.
A few days later we camped under the magnificent canopy of the Redwoods in Northern California. Trees, some over two thousand years old, towered over us, reaching up to over 300 feet, their trunks so big we could all fit inside a hollowed out one, with space for a handful more. Their serene majesty filled us with a sense of wonder and awe and made our existence seem insignificant.
My mind returns to the present…
As I walk under the autumnal deciduous canopy of our local woodland in southwest London, I contemplate my inner road trip and how to resolve this feeling of ‘being stuck’. It comes to me that Ned, the name I’ve given to my mind by the way, is in the front seat and he’s behaving like an adolescent teenager. At times he can be smart, fun and reasonable but recently he’s been so demanding, sulking and giving me ultimatums. Right now, he’s riled that I won’t let him drive.
To be fair I used to let him drive a lot, so I can see why he’s feeling ousted. But I’ve come to understand that he kept taking me to dead-end places. Often, he’d take us on scenic routes and we had a lot of fun along the way, but the destinations were always underwhelming and left me feeling that I was on the wrong track. I’m at a place now where I sense I need to centre and navigate my true direction, and Ned’s not happy about that.
And then there’s Kendra in the back, who’s usually pretty chilled but she’s been impatient and irritated recently. She’s my emotional body and when she takes the driving seat it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. She can be wildly fun, but we might just end up in a ditch. She tends to sit in the back seat now and is normally pretty quiet but when our Midnight breaks down, this fragile body of mine, she finds it challenging. We’ve been breaking down an awful lot recently and Kendra’s not happy. Like a busted tap spluttering water, something’s blocking her flow.
And me, that little spark of soul that’s doing its best to shine, I’m in the driving seat. Now I know it’s where I’m meant to be; for too long I’ve been letting Ned drive. But I still feel like we’re going nowhere. I’m doing my best to appease Ned, whilst knowing the direction he suggests is unlikely to serve me. I’m simultaneously trying to calm Kendra, whose frustrations, often linked to Midnight’s constant breaking down, I’m unable to resolve. I’m up to my eyeballs with this situation. I’m no mechanic and I’ve taken it to so many experts with little avail. Try as I might I know that on my own I still haven’t mastered looking after this body of mine. I’m sore and achy—ragged with exhaustion and pain.
Oh, and I almost forgot, my Beloved spiritual guide, he’s sleeping in the back. I mean I know he’s there and I do check in on him fairly often. But I guess my attention has been so focused on Ned and Kendra and trying to work out a solution through appeasing them, that He’s taken a back seat and is having a snooze.
Again I reflect back on our family road trip…
We had a multitude of challenges, large and small along the way. When we arrived in the US, we were so tired from the ten-hour flight, we left a bag at the Portland airport. With Midnight to pick up and a tired but over-excited eight-year-old to cajole into sleeping, the thought of retrieving it weighed heavy. But we did, and the airport staff were lovely, so that picking up the bag couldn’t have been easier. Later, in Port Orford, I became unwell, so we had to change our plans and navigate the US medical system. But there was a thrill in the spontaneity, and we were rewarded by seeing two Grey Whales, spouting joyously in the Ocean just off Coos Bay. We nearly lost Theo when he went for a wild pee on a wooded clifftop overlooking the sea and slipped (we won’t dwell on that). But it reminded us of our mortality and sparked a gratitude in being alive.
On our longest journey, through Grant’s Pass, from the west coast Redwoods to Klamath Falls, smoke from the raging forest fires to the south tickled our nostrils and dried our throats. The scale of the devastation and destruction in stark contrast to the splendour of the forest we had savoured brought an appreciation of the fragile balance of nature and the inevitability of change. Somehow the challenges seemed to melt into insignificance in the bigger picture of an awesome adventure holiday. On that journey with a destination and a goal to chill, we lived in the moment and had fun along the way.
My mind returns again to my present walk in London…
I breathe deeply and soften, centering myself despite the noise, despite the pain. From deep within, a spark of inspiration rises to the surface and the solution comes to me. I need to take control of the places we have in the van. From now on, Ned and Kendra are in the back. They’re a part of me, so it’s not like I can turf them out. They’re in for the long haul. But hell, I don’t want them in the driving seat any more, and not even riding up front. I’ll listen and engage with what they have to say. I know they can serve me well and I love them dearly. I soften my gaze inwards and tap into the love that will turn my Beloved towards me. From now on, I need to keep his attention, because I want him awake and up front by my side.
This notion takes me back in time again…
Towards the end of our family road trip, we were awed by the depth and clarity of Crater Lake as we headed to our final camping place alongside the volcanic obsidian flow of East Lake. We bathed in the lake under the pink and golden hues of sunset. Theo invented a game of football for the three of us which we played in our plot amongst the trees. We savoured our last camp-side dinner together, sharing stories by the campfire. In the morning, hummingbirds frolicked joyfully by our side as we delighted in our breakfast in the sunshine. Our next stop was Bend where we returned Midnight and stayed with friends. A new phase of our adventure had begun.
Back in the London park…
At long last this ‘stuck’ feeling begins to shift. It’s like I’m finally driving out of the Walmart parking lot. My inner road seems unfamiliar and I falter, but my Beloved, sitting beside me now, smiles encouragingly. As we lock gazes inside, I’m reminded that if I keep Him close, He will flawlessly guide me through all terrains: When I take the wrong turn, He sets me back on track; when I’m breaking down, He gives respite to my pain; when I’m running on empty, He tops me up with gas, and when I let him be chief navigator, His direction is always true. He shows me that I have all the tools I need inside of me. He is the Master Mechanic and is slowly, patiently, teaching me the magic of His ways.
This inner adventure is truly the road trip of a lifetime, and it is not always easy. Whilst I recognise I haven’t mastered the art of driving this inner trail yet, I am blessed with a Master co-driver, and He assures me that ‘I’m on my Way’.