Friday, December 30, 2011

Break Free But Be Sure to Have Guard Rails

Mountain island of Chiricuahua National Mon't
After a one hour side trip off the interstate, I eagerly anticipated the promised big views on the eight mile scenic loop in Chiricuahua National Monument, AZ.  Somewhat surprised to see only a couple cars in the lot at the visitor’s center, I noticed a man sitting on his bumper and quaffing a beer in the noon day sun.  The unhurried vibe was exposed.  Following my practice of getting a map for reconnaissance when I get to a national park, I inquired about the scenic loop.  “Sorry” the ranger said, “It is shut down to replace the guard rails which were burned out in the big fire in May.”  That thought ricocheted through my experience on this road trip.  You can drive around but without guard rails (structures) you are in danger. 

Living in the Los Angeles megalopolis my whole life, I have always enjoyed the peace and space of the open road.  On this long solo trip I had experienced something very different.  The open road became a confrontation with my insecurities.  The open ended format of my trip with no fixed itinerary or appointments, worked on my mental state like the road without the guard rails.  I could drive around but my peace of mind was at risk.  Boundaries, commitments, and plans were absent and what I had was a vague plan to drive to the East Coast for the first time in my adult life. I had to rely on my inner guidance totally.  That strategy was intentional because I wanted to strengthen trust in my intuition and the synchronicities that arose.  I did NOT account for the value of  PFD (personal flotation device).  I have often laughed at the mandated PFD for scuba diving or boating, because I am an excellent swimmer.  On the road trip, I figured that building my inner guidance precluded the value of a PFD or back up plan.   To mix metaphors, that is like removing the training wheels on a bicycle before the rider is confident. 

No Guard Rails in Bolivia
Building my inner confidence was my primary goals, while I had a notion seek, meet and interview individuals across the country who had reinvented into a new, more exciting lifestyle.  Unaccounted in this scheme was the need for structure to support that work.  The result was excessive preoccupation with the basics; where to go, when, and whom to interview.  I discovered  without the structure of appointments, activities, and assignments, my focus was constantly distracted into external and internal bogeymen and doubt.  Like the guardrail at Chiricuahua (which is probably rarely used but serves to provide a security and comfort for the driver), my daily barrage of all manner of decisions became the prominent discourse in my thoughts.  With the neurotic in charge, there was no room for the Creative to come in.

Feeling Secure
At times for those of us coming from highly structured work environments, it seems that the greatest goal and satisfaction is to be without schedule.  It is liberating to enjoy that freedom but denying the value of structure can come from a reactive space that may backfire.  As employees we all get used to structure and routines, especially men (the root word for patriarchy is the same as pattern), we seek and make patterns in life.  When that is largely excised at retirement, there is often a disorientation and flailing about until we reach the optimum level of equilibrium of structure and openness.  Finding that balance was the biggest take away of my driveabout.  My journey to the American outback without plan, destination, or schedule.  My experiment in the unknown with no script showed me my freedom edge and how to work with it.  The lack of guardrails at Chiricuahua did not prevent me from seeing the spectacular mountain island with its tall minaret like spires formed by erosion.   I hiked a couple miles into the canyon and basked in the great view without the buzz of cars coming into and out of pull outs.  I totally enjoyed the place and recommend it when traveling between Tucson and New Mexico.  But I do wish I had seen the eight mile scenic drive, complete with guard rails.   And on my next road trip I’ll make an itinerary and plan (in pencil).


  1. I feel it! Great piece of writing Ran!It made me re-think some things...

  2. Each of us in that lifestage needs to search for that balance. I have not foundit myself yet, perhaps partly because I have not done a driveabout like that.
    Absence of structure is not the same as absence of responsibility, however. They can both be at once comforting and restricting.
    The interplay of freedom, responsibility, and stucture are the dance of life.