In the Rearview Window
TL;DR: Ever get caught up in the view behind you over what is ahead of you? Yeah, me too.
Originally Written: 21-Aug-2021
Word Count: 1200
Read Time: 5 minutes
When we are taught how to drive, we learn to check the rearview window for turning and lane changes.
This is a habit impressed upon us, time after time, as something to do periodically as we move about.
It's a standard in safe driving behaviors.
However, putting your attention on the content of what is behind you causes your focus to divert.
A moment in time is risked to assure the nearby safety of oneself and others as we scan for signs.
Signs, of danger.
We do this, knowing full well we are taking a risk by choosing to take our focus from the road ahead.
Now imagine a new driver who has stopped at a stop-light, doing as one would expect, when a sudden collision from behind occurred. A time where one is least likely to be checking for signs of danger.
What do you think about this person's driving behavior as it relates to how they will act the next time they come to a light?
Will they trust others to obey traffic laws each time? Perhaps not.
Will they attempt to anticipate the chance of a future collision? Perhaps so.
One can easily imagine this individual would alter their behavior to, not only check their rearview mirror more often just to spot the next collision.
I bet they too will also act in sometimes erratic ways to avoid such possibilities from unfolding again.
This, to me, is what having OCD feels like.
It doesn't make you neat and organized, it makes you obsess over your next move such that you barely make contact with the gas pedal.
It makes you worry about what others are thinking about you and whether you are disappointing them or doing ill to them.
It gives cause for believing everyone is out to get you as a default mode of thinking when you meet anyone new.
It compels you to push others away in fear of hurting others again with the outbursts that come with operating in survival mode at all times.
As a child, I was beaten and molested by a man unfit to be caretaker. Full stop.
It has taken years of work to be able to describe the trauma of my formative years with such brevity.
I don't know what I would be if I hadn't put the time and effort into unwinding everything for myself.
Such that I focus more on the previous statement than the following.
I don't know what I would be if I hadn't been in a situation where I had to do what was needed to survive, a life where such experiences never happened to me.
A life of ignorant bliss to such horrors.
My focus in life now is on thriving, something I always dreamed of experiencing as a child.
Thriving in mind, body, and soul.
I want it all.
Give me Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Give me self-actualization. It's mine for the taking.
That is my goal. Or is it my current obsession?
To make up for years of self-doubt with ever-accelerating rates of uninhibited self-expression. Such that I never check the rearview window for another damn second. To just go.
Not only just go, but forge a path for others to follow back to themselves as well.
What a life that could be.
But it's hard. Fuck it's hard.
Thriving entails fighting enough to survive the day while also putting in the effort to find ourselves some context each day.
Context is what creates meaning for us in ways we cannot understand.
It is something we work with daily and put behind us as we wake up to greet a new morning.
As children, we operate under the fact that there is this thing called life where you can do everything.
It propels us forward into our choices such that self-expression is our default output.
As children, we're meant to have our time to learn who we are and form a sense of identity.
We get a chance to learn the make and model of the cars we drive, as well as how the engine and internal settings work. It's a chance to acclimate to your new digs before you take it to open roads.
But if a child is forced to experience trauma, a child spends their childhood spending more time looking in the rearview window than what is in front of them.
What is in front of them?
Their family. Friends. Lovers. Coworkers. Bosses. Classmates. Mentors.
Their present selves.
They miss sight of the moments laying before them because they are too focused on what is behind them.
It's not their fault. They think they're being smart, so as to not be deceived once more.
They think that, if they look for just a bit longer, they would find out the answer as to why they experienced that collision in the first place. Why they were so unprepared.
There are no answers. There was never a way to prepare for it.
What people say and do to you is never a function of you.
It's a sign of who they are.
What matters when such moments happen is that we heal. Heal in ways that allow us to more freely drive the open road without having fears of being hurt that compel us into doing things we think will keep us safe.
The reality is, nothing can keep you truly safe.
For the doubting mind is always present, one sometimes cannot distinguish its voice with ease.
Because the doubting mind is what keeps us safe.
Safe, by worrying about not being safe nonetheless.
But being safe will make you sorry.
It does not matter how many times you checked the rearview window if you yourself cause a collision with others for trying to protect yourself.
What makes the reason better if the impact is still the same?
Pain is still felt.
When we cause others pain, we are that very person who caused it to us.
But rather than see it for what it is, we respond in a manner entreating survival.
We blame others for what they could have done.
We justify ourselves as people with a context too great for others to understand.
Context legitimizing the damage we have caused before us.
It is only by recognizing our impact on others do we shift inward.
We then shame ourselves, taking it on as one would a ball and chain.
In time, we shed this ball and chain for a new set of shackles.
We then oblige to be or act a certain way, so as to never let such moments ever happen again.
This can go on for minutes. It can go on for years.
But, it is only by taking responsibility for our actions, the impacts they have had, and accepting ourselves as humans who make mistakes, do we give ourselves cause and meaning in the grace we find for others.
Others, even who have meant to inflict pain on you.
For it was never about you, sweetie.
It was all about them.
And their pain.