I've always liked driving. When I first got my license I'd often go for a ride just for fun. Back then, driving was relaxing, enjoyable and freeing.
But somehow, when I became an adult with a career, this changed. Suddenly, the ride to work became filled with an endless loop of stressful thoughts: worries of the day ahead, the to-do list in my planner, emails to send, and phone calls to make. The commute became anxiety-filled.
For someone who drives a lot, it became a somewhat dreadful experience. I'd often arrive at work frazzled and mentally drained, instead of ready for the day ahead.
A few years ago, I began to commute to three jobs, each in another state. People were often shocked by this. More than anything, I think they felt bad I had to drive all the time, when their treks to work were much shorter and easier. "You must be so tired from driving," they'd say. And sometimes, they were right.
But what they didn't know was the time in my car had become my sanctuary.
The change didn't occur overnight, but once I realized I didn't want to start my day in a state of stress, I started to make adjustments.
I decided to reclaim this time and make driving feel like it used to. I simply didn't want the commute to be something I hated or complained about. In life, there are many things we can't control, things that will inevitably go array in our days, but this didn't have to be one of them. And so I made the choice to make it a pleasant experience.
This past year, I have become even more aware of the importance of this time as I have developed somewhat of a routine -- now that I am only commuting to one job.
Time alone in my car has turned into a sacred space for me. On days when I don't get the chance to have a leisurely morning filled with yoga, or meditation, or setting intentions (which lately is most mornings) the car ride offers me a perfect opportunity. There I create solitary time to positively start my day off.
Some days it's simply driving in silence for ten minutes to clear my head. Other days, the quiet cocoons me for the entire ride. In that time I set intentions for how I want the day to go, give gratitude for the blessings in my life, and consciously send a little light to my loved ones who need it most.
For the mornings when a few minutes of peace is all I need, I've discovered other motivational and meaningful ways to spend my time.
Several times a week, I listen to an inspirational podcast whose contents satiate my desire to fill my life with insight and new ways of thinking. Other days, I participate in a podcast of French lessons. I know I look ridiculous practicing my French accent on the highway, but since I plan on traveling to Paris later this summer, it excites me to brush up on my rusty skills. Sometimes I make phone calls just to hear the voice of loved ones, to wish them a nice day, to share our joys and hopes together.
Instead of getting to work in a frenzy, the ride grants me the time to pull myself together and arrive with a calm energy -- a spirit of serenity.
The ride home is just as meaningful. On warm days I'm ready to blast music, with the windows down, and simply soak in the sun. Other times, I imitate my morning rituals.
Most afternoons the commute flies and by the time I get home, I'm ready to start my evening focusing on being present. The stresses of the day tend to evaporate on the ride.
Solitary time -- whether it's for five minutes or thirty -- is essential because once the day gets started there are so many demands coming at us from all angles. We are expected to show up, reach out, respond, do, do do, and go, go go. Carving out a little time for ourselves each day is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.
I used to think a sacred space had to have meditative music, lit incense and dim lighting. While this can be wonderful, it's not always realistic for each day.
I'm grateful I realized the commute didn't have to be what everyone thought it was for me. I feel grateful that each day I work on making better, healthier and happier choices for myself.
Because another benefit of all of this? Showing up as a lighter, more relaxed version of myself makes my day and my encounters more positive.