Monday, September 7, 2009

My White-Knuckled Joy Ride...

About six months ago, Joe and I played in a driving simulator.

It was a bizarre physical experience.  There are no g-forces in a simulator.  No matter how hard you depress the brake, for example, your body remains in the same position.  No matter how sharp the curve in the road, you don't even sway.  No matter how intense the maneuver, you feel the same.  The entire experience made me nauseous.

We were learning.  I would really like to offer our employees the opportunity to work in a simulator.  Unfortunately simulators are expensive, so this is one that goes on the back-burner for now (and, lest it appear I have just contradicted my last post, if I only had a month to live, I would not be using it to send my employees through a simulator!).

Nearing the thirty-minute mark, I was doing very well avoiding obstacles and driving safely.

Then the instructor started to get a little crafty. 

He added wind -- and then kept increasing it in massive proportions.

He dropped glaring black ice on the road.

He turned day into night.

He put a pedestrian in the road.

White knuckled and crawling along the road, that pedestrian in the road was the last proverbial straw.  The bus -- well aided by ice and wind -- began a slow spin as I tried to avoid the pedestrian.  Nearly blinded already by the dark, I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and ignore what was about to happen.  I came to a stop in a field, surrounded by peaceably munching cattle, my pedestrian splattered in the wind.

First, there is an element of unreality in the entire scenario.  We often have warning of coming hazards.  We almost always have warning of impending darkness.  We don't go for walks in icy, windy, late-night conditions.  The cattle?  Well, what DO they do in the winter?

Then there was the issue with the g-forces.  I would have felt SOMETHING happening -- right?

Really, I didn't have any notion of impending disaster until it was far too late to do anything about it.

That happens sometimes in life too.

Mothers abandon.  Dads get sick.  Friends betray.  Finances sour.  Spouses struggle.  People die. 

Usually, they don't all strike at once like they did for me.

For a great many months I was able to cope, some days with the wide-eyed "what the HELL just happened" look on my face.  As the stresses mounted, I grew numb with grief, fear, and -- sometimes -- rage.   I felt buffeted by events well beyond my control.  Worse, I felt unsafe.

Though it took me months to realize it, family and friends I had long supported in a variety of ways were standing beside me.  And I saw they were willing to be my support were I willing to let them.  I surrendered and have rested in their loving embrace, and am so thankful for them. 

This summer, I found a new support system in a suprising arena:  the people at work.  While struggling with their own issues and events, they've been able to do things I've always done myself.  They studied new technology and coped with constant, unfriendly Change.  They've managed long, sweaty hours by laughing.

Thirty-six hours from now, we'll assess how successful our efforts have been in the world of transportation.

While I pause for these few me-moments and consider the last few months, I recognize where the hazards were, which one was my "last straw" event, and how I learned to navigate in a new way.  In reality my journey has been very like my simulator experience:  I've been driving white-knuckled along this road -- with its wind, ice, and whacky pedestrians -- at the whim of a derranged instructor.  I've arrived in a new world, sensing it's a good place to be.

Now I just need to find a way to reward the hard-working and dedicated people who journeyed with me.

While writing this morning, I keep hearing, "Like a shepherd He feeds His flock." 

Maybe it's a message:  take them to Red Lobster. 

I wonder if they take reservations.

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