The truck was skidding towards the intersection, the automatic non-skid brakes were double- triple clutching, but the truck was skidding inexorably ahead. It was like slow motion. John looked towards his left where a car was approaching. His mind did a quick calculation and the equation resulted in the car striking the left front of his truck. He pulled at the steering wheel, putting more pressure on the brake pedal, as if that was going to help. He could have been more effective if he had opened the door and dragged his foot along the ground.
Thoughts ran through his mind: “Not again!” He had just been in an accident a few months before. An almost inexplicable accident, except that it had happened. Now, here he was, skidding towards what looked like a certain collision once again. The stop sign went slowly by on the right. John noticed that there was no traffic coming from that direction. “Thank God.”
The brakes kept chirping as they grabbed at the discs. The sound was maddening.
“No, no, no, no, no!” It was a fervent prayer towards heaven or God or the Universe. John did not want to have an accident. Suddenly the truck stopped, jerking his head forward. John looked to his left. His mind redid the calculation – he had stopped with about two feet to spare. Time sped up. The car passed by, the people inside barely glancing at John’s indiscretionary position. John relaxed then, and allowed his weight to settle into the seat. He sighed.
A car behind him honked at him. John came back into the moment, looked both ways quickly, and then pulled out, making his left turn. The car behind him followed closely. John’s heart was still pounding. His mind was still swirling. “How had he gotten himself into such a precarious spot? Wasn’t he paying attention? Hadn’t he been in the moment?”
He recalled that just before this he had been thinking of someone who lived far away, and smiling at the thought. ‘No, he had been far from “present.” He had been somewhere else in some other time and place.’ John shook his head. It was then that he noted the metaphor of it all.
He’d been letting his mind wander way too much. He hadn’t been focusing on much of anything for very long, and it showed. Nothing was changing in his life. He had decided to stop smoking and had done it many times in the past, but this time he kept making excuses – ‘next weekend, next holiday, next, next, next, next…. No focus; no change. No use berating himself. That wouldn’t be effective either. The truck and John were heading down a slippery slope. There was ice on the road. John once again wasn’t paying very close attention to his speed or to the surrounding traffic. “Wake up!” John yelled it in the truck and took his foot off the accelerator, tapped the brake, and slowed everything down.
“I really need to pay attention.” John knew that everything seemed to have meaning. Every stray thought, if he held onto it, could change his direction, his life, his mind. He knew that his lack of focus was allowing unwanted results to enter his life. “I’ve got to focus!” But there was another voice that spoke in his mind.
‘On what?’ it asked.
“On what.” John didn’t really know the answer to that question. He didn’t really know what he wanted from life, from the people in his life, from work, from his marriage, from the time spent with his son, from anything!
There was another intersection up ahead. John knew that he needed to slow down and approach it carefully. He took in all the signals – read the road conditions, the speed of his truck, looked in the rearview mirror, and then looked into his mind.
‘Just pay attention,’ he thought. ‘Just pay attention.’ All of the clues that he might need were right in front of him, surrounding him, calling to him, yelling at him!
“Focus.” The word repeated softly in his mind. He tapped at the brake pedal, slowing the truck way before he got to the intersection. “Focus.”
“On what?” This time he was asking softly. The response came quickly, surely and just as softly.
“That’s it! I’m looking at all of these other things like there is some meaning other than to love everyone in front of me, in whatever way seems to arise in the moment. I’ve been giving everything my own meaning – work for a paycheck, play with my son because… I don’t even know! And all I have to do is to remember that it is about loving him! In every moment to ask myself: “What would love do, now! “ ‘I’ve been listening to the wrong voice in my life! It is so simple! This road isn’t slippery, really – I’m just looking at it all wrong!”
John pressed the brake pedal gently with his foot, did a quick 360-degree scan, smiled at a passing driver, smiled at the car in his rearview mirror, and slowly came to a stop at the light. The light turned green almost immediately, and John accelerated just as slowly. There was no hurry to get anywhere now. He was already there.