Thursday, March 11, 2010

Driving Yourself to Tranquility

By Kristen Boyesen
Life Learning & Creativity Coach
Published in The Bedford Standard, March 11, 2010

In May of 2005 I began two years as executor of the estate of Persis Boyesen, Historian for the City of Ogdensburg, the Village of Heuvelton, and the Township of Oswegatchie. She was also a genealogist, a gardener, cook, seamstress, English teacher, historical preservationist, keeper of three or four generations of family heirlooms, and my mom. By law, all things related to her official capacities as historian had to be sorted and turned over to the proper municipality. Every part of the 12-room farmhouse had things to identify, sort, and make decisions upon. I was living in Bedford at the time. Ogdensburg is in Northern New York State. For two years my life was split between these two places. I would return from a seven-day trip to a pile of mail six inches high, classes to teach, and major catch-up tasks to do.

The drive from Bedford to Ogdensburg could be done in as little as six and one-half hours, and I did my best to drive the distance in that amount of time. “Why waste time driving?” The day after the trip was spent in recovery mode: not much was accomplished at either location. Stress was my middle name. I was a frequently in “fight or flight” mode with all of its adverse health effects.

One day, a year into this process, I was ready to embark on yet another trip. The car was packed with clothes, food, and everything I would need to camp out in a vacant house. I opened the car door, sat in the driver’s seat, and breathed a big sign of relief and pleasure.

Pleasure?

Yes, pleasure: pleasure that my only responsibility for day was driving! I did not have to pay bills, do laundry, make flyers, deliver artworks, teach classes, mow lawn, wash dishes, vacuum, weed the garden, clean the bathroom, answer email, sort papers, decide where my mom’s research and books should go, or which things to sell, and which things to keep.

The stress I had been experiencing for a year was close to being a stress crisis requiring medical intervention. Instead, I found a new way of dealing with the situation. I relaxed and enjoyed the trip!

I looked at the scenery, had warm thoughts for the other drivers on their way to visit families or on business trips, was polite in letting people in front of me, made sure I did not cut people off, watched my speed to be sure it was safe and in keeping with the general traffic flow, sat comfortably with good posture, did small body movements to relieve pressure points, and made each stop a time to take a short walk. In Canandaigua I meandered through a bookstore located just off I-90. I did not listen to the radio or to books on tape. I was in a state of appreciation for nine hours instead of the “go!-go!-go!-mode.”

The result? I arrived refreshed and energized! The next day I was able to immediately start work with no recovery time.

Various clinicians have used different terms for personal growth that can happen by learning from and dealing with life’s challenges: “crises of renewal,” “positive disintegration,” “creative illness,“ and “spiritual emergencies.” It was a wonderful turning point for me.

I drove back and forth on this nearly 500-mile trip for another year using the opportunity as a chance to relax and be appreciative. In 2010, three and one-half years later, I still relax as I get into the car to drive.

You have heard of “road rage”?

How about “road tranquility”?

Both are infectious.

If you drive in a fighting mood, you will get a fight. If you drive in a relaxed state feeling that everyone on the road is in your group of best friends and it is part of your job to see that they arrive safely at their destinations by polite driving, you will spread this sense of peace to others on the road. As a great side benefit, you will arrive at your own destination in a good mood with an immunity boost!

Driving as a practice in relaxation, appreciation and giving becomes one of life’s small pleasures.

Kristen Boyesen, a resident of Bedford, offers art and meditation-based classes and workshops for core creativity training and empowerment for change. She belongs to the American Holistic Medical Association Speakers Bureau, the Bedford Senior Network, and Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio. She gives rehabilitation workshops at the Brecksville VA Medical Center and is a graduate student in Art Therapy and Counseling at Ursuline College. Contact her at Kboyesen(at)thebedfordstandard.com.
Visit www.Art-Experiences.blogspot.com to see accompanying photos.

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