Monday, July 13, 2009

Driving in my car

And the value of public, private spaces.

I have lately had occasion to spend a lot of time in my car, driving back and forth to visit with ill friends, to stressful jobs and to other difficult places. There has been little opportunity to breath and ponder this convergence of events and even less time to check in with myself to see how I am.

My family and loving friends ask me how I’m doing, they’re justifiably concerned, but whenever they ask I smile automatically and say, “I’m okay. I’m holding up. I’m fine. There’s too much to do to worry about it right now.” While they may know this isn’t true they know better than to push. I would love to confide my worries and anxieties, but somehow opening that door seems like too much to do right now, as though once I were to start I just wouldn’t quite be able to stop. Frankly, I don’t feel as though I have the time for the release or the energy to worry about taking care of them taking care of me.

The people who know me best ask how I’m taking care of myself. I’m exercising. I’m writing (though you may not believe it). I’m taking a lot of baths. And I’m driving. It’s when I’m in the false privacy of my own car that I can really let go. I’m sure you know how it is: You turn the radio on far too loud and wail to some song or another, pretending the tears on your cheeks are for the lyrics or the memories they evoke. You know why you’re really crying, but right then you don’t have to explain it.

Other times I rant. I roll up the windows and yell at the universe, asking it why it does what it does. The people driving by either assume I’m on a hands-free call or a loon. It doesn’t really matter. I can rave and finally tell myself whatever it is I need most to hear.

I think these public, private spaces give us a freedom to express ourselves that we may not have with loved ones (we worry about what they may think of us afterwards or if they will be distressed by our pain) or with paid listeners (therapists sometimes think the therapy is more important than the listening and get in the way of letting us hear ourselves). When I’m in my car or writing in my journal in a cafĂ© or part of an emotional crowd at a movie, I can let myself feel and process without worrying about anyone else.

Some people say cities create a devastating social isolation. This is certainly true sometimes, but I also think these kinds of conglomerations of people give us the opportunity to be alone in public, gives me a chance to sort things out in my own mind and heart without question or interruption but with the reminder that I am one of many. Nothing I feel is utterly unique. I take comfort in that sometimes.

Next time you’re out driving, look around. You might see me, singing my heart out to some Beatles song or another. Smile. And drive away.

(c) 2009 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. two great posts (Context) thanks.

  2. Good post. Troubling topic. I hope you're coping OK.

    Bill G.

  3. Ahhhh Laura, I know THAT feeling - the PLEASE don't ask how I am because I REALLY don't want to tell you feeling! Another great place to go when you want to be with people but be left alone is the mall - great people watching and at the same time pretty much total anonymity - the best of both worlds...

    (and in the car I listen to books on CD and just drive probably not great for the environment but neither is a person's brain exploding. Try it - it lets you feel connected (hearing the book) and at the same time leaves you to your own self - story CDs sometimes work too EE's meddling at Walmart is a favorite of mine for this as is demeter and persephone)

    THIS was my LONNNNNNNNG winded way of saying take care of you!


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