I’m still not sure why we didn’t get killed or end up on life support, but I do know that it all started with the story the young girl in the red SUV was telling herself.
Recently, I was pulling our camper with my wife riding shotgun on a stretch of Kansas road called a Super Two; a road with narrow shoulders along each side instead the pavement immediately giving way to a deep ravine. Dotted along the shoulders are broken down vehicles, boat trailers missing a tire, and dead deer.
I was doing the speed limit and my truck was drinking gas like drunk at happy hour. I watched in the mirror as the young woman in the red SUV pulled out to pass. I looked at the oncoming traffic approaching rapidly and assumed the SUV would sidle in behind me until there was room.
Nope: she decided to go for it. I started moving over the rumble strips, looking for broken down cars, and wondering when I’d have to go cross country through the barbwire.
A hundred questions looked for answers: Was she playing chicken? What were the drivers in the oncoming traffic going to do? What if she didn’t move? What if she decided to take the shoulder? What if she came my way instead? Did the drivers behind the first oncoming car know what was happening? Did I remember to put clean underwear on?
It all began with a story the driver of the SUV was telling herself. From where I sat, I can only assume this was the story she was telling herself:
- My life is so full of urgency I will take unreasonable risks
- My car has enough rocket power to close the gap
- If I don’t get out of the way, others will
- I’d like to scare the living daylights out of a least a half-dozen people
She involved each of us on that stretch of highway in her story. She caused us to tell our own stories about what was happening and try to guess what stories the drivers in the other cars were telling themselves. Fortunately, we all ended up telling the right story because there was no crash. She finally pulled to the other side and stopped. I’d lay odds she didn’t have clean underwear on anymore.
Life is a story. Sometimes we have to react to the stories others are telling themselves, but drag us into.
And always, always, always, we act on the stories we tell ourselves.
Our life’s story depends on us telling ourselves the right story.
Photo purchased from Istock.com