So, I drive a Jeep. This particular Jeep is my fourth. My first Jeep was a CJ 5 I’d purchased from my brother-in-law when I was in high school. Loved that thing. It had over 200,000 miles on it. The dashboard instrument panel routinely went black from time to time during a rain storm. Sometimes the windshield wipers didn’t work. The heater failed on a regular basis. And a good splash from underneath that hit the distributer cap would have me on the side of the road calling my dad to come get me. And yet, it was my dream car. I always wondered what it was that drew me to Jeeps. For the most part I was anything but rugged as a kid. I was athletic, but small and not very “macho.”
Then it dawned on me as I was living one of those days where life was doing its best to throw everything at me but the kitchen sink. As I sat down at the end of the craziness and popped open a cold Yuengling, I realized that what I’d come to enjoy about my life was what I loved about owning a Jeep.
Like anyone, for the most part I enjoy the smooth ride of a well paved highway. But there are times when I crave to pull away from the masses, go off road and feel the bumps and bangs of an unbeaten path. That feeling of driving head on into a huge puddle not really knowing just how deep it is. Of going full force into a huge area of mud and feeling the engine pull its way through it. I’ve also been known from time to time to drive head on into a storm with the top down getting caught in a downpour. And I love it.
There was a time when I hated when life got bumpy. Anything that disrupted the smooth ride of life’s highway and forced me off road really threw me. It caused frustration and anxiety. But somehow living through the divorce and having to learn to juggle three kids, two dogs, two or three jobs, a home; all of it, has helped me embrace the rough terrain and recognize the power that comes from making it through the muck. Of revving the engine a little from time to time to get through those long patches of mud that hold you back. Of treating the bumps and bangs like you would a ride at the carnival. Equating it to going off road helped me recognize that it can be fun if you let it.
Let’s face it, a smooth ride can be nice, but it can also get monotonous after a while. Sometimes it’s good to shake things up a bit and go off road. It’s good for the kids too. We work so hard to get them into routines. To maintain nap schedules, eating schedules, being on time for everything, rushing here, rushing there. We do everything in our power to give them a strong foundation that helps them stay on track. Which is obviously important don’t get me wrong. But it’s so easy to fall into the trap of maintaining that foundation at all costs that we often fail to prepare them for the reality that life doesn’t always go according to the structure we’ve worked so hard to create. Teaching them to roll with the punches and take what life throws at them in stride, and even enjoy it, is as important a lesson as any.
Does it suck when life forces you off road when you’re not really ready? Abso-freakin-lutely. And it’s easy to get shaken when you’re forced to go a direction you weren’t planning to. That’s when you figure out how to throw it into four-wheel-drive on the fly. Meet the challenge head on. Let the kids see you take on the challenges life throws at you the way you would any washed out, mud laden, dirt road. Teach them that it can be fun to get muddy once in a while. Especially when you’re wearing your sunday best. Life has a way of getting messy and that’s OK. In fact it can help us learn to take life a little less seriously and enjoy the muck as much as the sun.
So the next time you find yourself driving into an unexpected swamp … smile, strap in, shift down and give it some gas.