Cheering the Hell Up, Day 21: All surface roads lead to Rome

Texas highway Every two weeks or so, I head out to Encino to visit my shrink. She's far away, but since it's even harder to find a good shrink than a good boyfriend, I make the trip.

This entails two of my least favorite things: (1) driving and (2) driving on the freeway.

I can see how it used to be fun driving on the freeways, back when they were new and dinosaurs roamed the earth. But today's freeways are hellish, overcrowded funnels of death, populated by angry, angry people hellbent on GETTING. THERE. NOW. Don't believe me? You probably live somewhere like Manhattan, where cars are recognized as the superfluous nonsense they should be everyhwere.

Getting there is the lesser of two evils. I try to time it so I haven't driven that much during the day. This way, I'm fresh for my freeway trip. Also, I'm usually kind of wound up on my way to therapy. After all, I'm in therapy; if I wasn't wound up, I'd be blissing out in my apartment.

Finally, and this is key, going south to north, you're going against traffic. Always. I know, it doesn't make sense. And on the 405, the north/south freeway that runs up the coast of the L.A. metro area, this rule doesn't apply. But on the 101, it is always worse going from north to south.

So I go south to north in my Speed Racer Bullet from Hell to see my shrink. We spend our 50 minutes together. Sometimes there's a little crying; sometimes not. But generally, I leave more relaxed than I came. Things have sorted themselves out, I've been told I'm not crazy (adult children of alcoholics are constantly checking) and I go on my merry way.

Only I found things weren't so merry when I had to get on the freeway and head south. In fact, they had usually grown exponentially less merry in the hour since I'd been there last. Which is a total bliss buzzkill. So one day, I just didn't get on the freeway: I kept going and took a surface road.

Now, there's another surface road that runs parallel to the 101/Ventura Freeway called Ventura Boulevard. If you saw American Graffiti, it's that street. Only now, it's crowded all the time, too. But this other surface road, the farther-away one, well, there are parts of it you could shoot a cannon down and not hit...too many people. And so I took this road, which led to another road, which got me home feeling relaxed, refreshed and only marginally more crazy than when I'd left the shrink.

I bring it up, this mundane thing of driving, not to say how clever I am but to say how easy it is to fall into a rut with one's thinkings and doings. That road had always been there; it's in plain sight of the turnoff to the freeway. But for five years, it never occurred to me that going a little farther might get me where I wanted to go more quickly, more easily and more comfortably than the regular way. Yet it does all of those things, plus (let's face it) kept me more alert on the way than just traveling on autopilot.

That's what I've tried to make these last three weeks about: looking at things differently, to see if maybe there isn't a different way, better and faster, or maybe better and slower. I'm a creature of habit, I know, but my fear of change manifests itself in so many weird ways, it's constantly startling me.

I think the lesson of these past three weeks is that it's as easy to change a habit as it is to fall into one. If I think about it, giving up exercising or eating right or whatever else probably takes three weeks, too; it's just less noticeable since the downhill changes seem to require less effort than the uphill ones.

So I will blog. Maybe jog. (Will I do it on a log? Will I do it in a bog?) The work will never be done, and I'm maybe getting a little okay with that. Maybe not. There's always a chance to change it up tomorrow.

Or, if I turn left, right now...

xxx c

Photo by CoreBurn via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.