One of the important jobs of our mind's rapid-integration processes, is to allow us to track and assess incoming opportunities and threats. In a dynamic world, we need to always steer toward opportunities and away from threats. Conditions can be good or bad. We humans adapt to consistency and find the way forward.

We don't do well with uncertainty.

Early one spring, I was traveling up I-91 in Massachusetts heading home to Vermont. It was raining hard so traffic was proceeding cautiously. Shortly after entering Vermont, I saw brake lights ahead. I touched my brake. At that point, it became apparent the rain had become freezing rain, and the wet road surface was now ice. My Associative process went into overdrive to try to find something from Driver’s Ed or maybe something from a movie to help me handle this. Didn't matter. At the wheel, but out of control, I had turned from driver to passenger.

While all this went on, my vehicle went into an inexorable drift toward the roadside. I noted my fellow travelers ahead of me were also searching for insight into strategy, but I could discern no pattern of success in their movements. The deep snow bank, a left-over from winter, allowed for an acceptable rate of deceleration, but absorbed the vehicle beyond self extraction. It had to have unfolded in nanoseconds. However, my brain has left me with a powerful experience of all those events without a memory of the distance between them. My memory has expanded those events into a full-length, motion-picture feature.

“How fast were you traveling?” demanded the trooper providing escort to the tow truck separating one after another of us from the snow. “About 45 mph,” I responded. “Too fast for conditions,” he scolded. I resisted saying, "Quod erat demonstrandum."

I am reminded it was March that year when I hit that ice. And it's been since March this year that I've been driving my life forward, hypervigilant, anxious that, even with the care I'm taking, will the conditions mean I'll hit something that upends me?

The uncertainty is tough. I know how to drive in the rain, and I know how to drive on ice. When I don't know which one I'm on . . .

I feel as though my life since March has been a slow-speed drive into an invisible hazard. Yes, there may be an ice slick out there. Maybe there won't be a snow-bank cushion this time. Nonetheless, I've decided to keep moving as long as I have the wheel and the tires have the pavement. At the same time, I'm resting at all rest stops; turning out on all the turnouts. In order to resist hypervigilance I'm pausing to box breathe and to notice.



Carpe Diem, Francis

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