A 13 hour car ride with my senior parents. Does that sound intimidating to you? Believe it or not, it went well but there were definitely opportunities to practice yoga off the mat.
For the last two months, I’ve been working for colleagues to cover their holidays. I knew that I’d need a break at the end of all that. This trip had been planned for months and I’d been anticipating it all summer.
Booked a weeklong vacation with my sister’s family in Massachusetts. We didn’t depart as early as in previous years. I had stayed up late to check the driving directions on Google maps. My mom forgot where she had hidden her passport in her luggage. My dad wanted the trunk unpacked because he needed something inside his suitcase.
There were a few other occasions of note. My dad couldn’t decide, until the day before, if he wanted to travel straight there or break up the trip into two days. My mom kept asking me if I was ok, only because she was tired and wanted to nap but needed reassurance that I was fine to keep driving without her being awake. My mom wasn’t used to reading Google map directions, even though we’ve done this same trip yearly for the last 5 years. My mom had difficulty sending text messages without a keyboard on my tiny screen cell phone. My dad needed frequent pit stops.
I had my moments of frustration towards my folks. I know that I raised my voice. I know that I was impatient. I could feel how all those things, that seem so petty now to me now as I put them into words, would trigger these reactions in me. I recognized that I was not practicing ahimsa, or non-violence, towards others as well as I should.
“We learn compassion as we stop trying to change ourselves and others and choose instead to soften the boundaries that keep us separated from what we don’t understand.” – Deborah Adele, “The Yamas and Niyamas“
“I’m on vacation”, I thought to myself. “Why do I need to get all worked up?” So I tried to experiment with this yama, or restraint, and change my hold on the situation. There were still hours of driving ahead. What else could I focus on and be more positive about?
There were no major road delays due to construction or traffic. We didn’t get lost (I’d gotten us really turned around on past trips!). The minivan was good on gas and didn’t have a breakdown. The skies were clear and sunny. Skipped the fast food, and indigestion, at the rest stops in favour of a picnic lunch. My parents’ music selection was eclectic – Beethovan, Italian opera, Russian marching music sung in Chinese. Classical music is ok but normally, I would not open my ears (or mind) to these other styles of music.
I don’t know if it was my change in attitude or what. I do know that the three of us seemed more relaxed for the last third of the drive. It wasn’t about getting down there before darkness set in. It was about being able to spend the time in the car with my parents, in an adult relationship, and experiencing the trip itself. After all, who knows how many more of these trips will there be?