On Obeying Traffic Signs (Part 1)

As a destination-oriented person, my least favorite thing is experiencing the journey.  If I learned anything from math class, it was that the shorted distance between two points is a straight line, and that was the motto of my life growing up: choosing the shortest distance between two points.

If the shortest distance wasn’t the fastest route, then I would choose whichever option took the least amount of time.  On the road, this would mean choosing the highway over surface streets or bypassing areas of heavy traffic during rush hour.

A byproduct of being destination-oriented is believing that the journey is nothing. It doesn’t exist. It is something to be avoided or minimized as much as possible.  In my mind, if I wasn’t already there, I wasn’t anywhere. So I began to rush all the time.

I lived my whole life that way — rushing through, hurtling down the highway of life at 9 miles over the speed limit.  Just fast enough to get there sooner but just slow enough to make it through speed traps.  Finding the perfect balance was exhausting, but once I set cruise control, I could live my whole life at just the right level of rush without spinning out of control or getting caught and being forced to slow down.

But the road was not always accommodating of my perfect speed.  I sped around many an occurrence of debris in the road and squeezed by shoulders cluttered with abandoned cars and construction equipment.  Speeding through construction zones doubles the cost because it doubles the risk of injury both to ourselves and others, but nothing was more important to me than minimizing my travel time. I was fixated on the shortest distance or the fastest route — whichever got me there first.

I confess I have ignored many construction zones in my life. I only slowed down as much as I had to, and when I cleared the debris, I hurried on.

The first construction zone that really slowed me down was the completion of my graduate degree.  Suddenly, much of the busy-ness and ruckus of life was removed in the wake of student life, and I began to recognize signs of construction in my life.  The road had become bumpy and uneven.  It was an uncomfortable ride.

I slowed down obediently, but soon the “lead foot” of my destination-oriented understanding of the world hurried me on.  If I didn’t get going, I would never get there! (No matter that I did not know where “there” was or why I even wanted to be there.)

I became caught in a cycle of slowing down and speeding up that exhausted me to the point that I eventually ran out of gas.

Then, finally, I was attentive enough to recognize what the construction signs on the highway of my life were really saying.


My way was blocked.  I had been spinning my wheels all along against a roadblock.  After all my effort and all my rushing, I had not really gone anywhere at all.  I could not continue in the way I wanted to go.

It was only then, after I ran out of gas and stopped completely, as I came to rest against the roadblock that had not budged, that I finally noticed the little orange signs with the arrows pointing the way.

DETOUR, they said.

To be continued on Wednesday…

About Laura K. Cavanaugh

I'm a writer, spiritual director, and advocate of holistic body theology.

Posted on January 21, 2013, in Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Oooh, to be continued!! I was left wanting to know what experience in your life was the “detour” Looking forward to the next post 🙂

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