People who know me know I love the music I grew up with. Those songs from the 70’s…I’m listening to it now as I write. ‘Don’t Look Back’  is the title song from the first album I ever purchased (yes…it was an album…a big record…not a CD…not online…but one of those big, black flat things sold in yard sales and retro stores now). The album was by Boston and I loved it…I played it over and over like I imagine we all do when we first discover music, songs, lyrics and the way we individually, yet collectively, interpret their meaning.

Fast forward more than 30 years. I’m the same girl who loves all the same songs with familiar lyrics which have more meaning than I initially realized yet over the years their meaning has continued to register and sink in.
                                               “Don’t look back…a new day is breakin'” 

Today, I’m all grown up and living in Austin and as I was driving to work one morning this week I watched with interest as the driver beside me grow more and more frustrated; not with the notorious Austin traffic, not with the car in front of her traveling fast enough or letting too many other cars go in front of them (a simultaneously frustrating and remarkable part of the Austin traffic experience); she was clearly bothered by the vehicle behind her.
                                                              “Don’t look back”

But she did. She kept looking back. And it didn’t serve her well.

As we poked along through gorgeous canyons…a large statue of the Buddha…over the Colorado river…a lighthouse!…followed by more canyons with hawks soaring above, she focused on her rear-view mirror. I continued to watch with interest. The truck behind her wasn’t causing her to be late and it wasn’t effecting her progress..it was just there, looming large behind her. And I was reminded of my conversation with Will almost one year ago today.

Will has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever had the privilege to know yet he has (had) a tendancy to focus on his past. He experienced a difficult childhood. He has not had an easy or smooth life. He lived through an upbringing that would break the hardest of hearts…he has been humbled and fractured…but he wasn’t broken. He survived but he struggled to move forward. He struggled with all the ungodly, unfair, inequitable crap that happened to him. It loomed large behind him. Will was spending more time looking back than he was spending looking forward. It wasn’t serving him well.

                              “Now I see what I am is holding me down and I’ll turn it around,
                                                                    don’t look back.”

I don’t why Will and I connected the way we did and it really doesn’t matter. He continues to own a part of my heart and I suspect I own at least a little part of his. I wanted Will to look forward and not back and we talked and talked and talked about how to do that. One afternoon quite spontaneously I drew a very rudimentary picture of a rear-view mirror and a windshield. I explained to him to focus on the size of those windows in a car. The rear-view mirror is important and that’s why it’s there; we need to know what is behind us but I explained, it is far more important to see what is ahead. The rear-view mirror is proportionally smaller than the windshield for a reason. I gave the drawing to Will and he put it in his wallet. I’m certain it’s still there.

That little drawing on the scrap piece of paper helped us both. It reminded both Will and me that the rear-view mirror is small for a reason. It’s important to have it but it’s more important to be able to see what is ahead. We can chose to focus on the rear-view mirror but we’re better served when we focus on the windshield. And that choice is ours.

                                                                “Don’t look back”

As the traffic ebbed and flowed that morning in Austin, I watched the woman in her little Jetta grow more and more frustrated with the big truck behind her. I suppose he was riding her bumper a little close, but he was in a big, white truck and I’m sure it seemed bigger and closer to her in her rear-view mirror. I wonder how different her commute experience would have been that morning had she focused on her windshield more than her rear-view mirror.

I was grateful for her and for the truck and for the reminder that we have control over what we choose to focus on. She appeared to make herself miserable that morning and she didn’t have to do so.

One year prior: a rudimentary drawing shared with a man who survived a horrific childhood. A rear-view mirror and a windshield. A lesson learned…for two seemingly different people…both the same.

                                                 “The road is calling, today is the day”

Today Will is married, he is happy and at the age of 50, learning to read. I’m living a new life in a city I fell in love with on an impromptu visit. That afternoon Will chose to look through the windshield and he has inspired me to do the same.

                       “It took so long just to realize I’m much too strong not to compromise,
now I see what I am is holding me down, I’ll turn it around, oh yes I will”

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

 

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