As the headlights swerve toward you, don’t panic

It wasn’t until long after the car had passed, and I had escaped unscathed, that I realized I hadn’t panicked.  I remember hearing once that traffic incidents often happen near home, probably because we let our guards down.

Maybe that was in the back of my mind as I rode my scooter, on my street, three houses from my home, and I saw the headlights veering toward me.  Cars park along one side of my street, so it’s not unusual for a car to drift farther than necessary.  I watched closely though, shifting closer to the sidewalk on my side of the street.  The headlights kept coming. The speed was noticeable.  I moved even farther to the sidewalk.  Then the headlights swerved quickly toward me, then away, and the car passed.

I stopped, letting my scooter lean beneath me toward the sidewalk as I looked at the car, waiting for some sign that the driver was aware.  It appeared to run a stop sign and hurry away.  After continuing home, and taking stock of what had happened, I realized: I didn’t panic.

It may seem like a silly thing to think about, “did I, or didn’t I, panic, and why, or why not?”  But I’m very aware of how much control over my reactions I do or don’t have in situations.  As a radio host, I’ve been told I’m uncannily cool under pressure, under deadline, under the constraints of a clock. The fact about radio, though, is whether or not I hit a post (speak within my allotted time) or not, is not a life or death matter.  Of course I have pride in my work, a deep work ethic, and a desire to do my best for my listeners, employer, and self.

But that’s not enough to trigger panic.

I recall during my open water SCUBA training that one exercise was to lose your regulator (breathing device) and have to calmly sweep your arm to retrieve it and breathe again.  In the same way you lose your mask, and feel around for it, and have to clear out the water and carry on–all while under water.  If you struggle too much, you can lose air and stamina quickly, so you have to keep cool. I could’ve panicked during this training, but I didn’t. Some students did, and I remember thinking that I wanted to gain as much knowledge as I could so I wouldn’t easily feel outmatched by the elements.

Often times the stress and drama of life can push us toward instability.  We can feel overwhelmed, we can feel outmatched, we can feel out-classed.  But if we take a step back, we can see that there is a way forward and a way out.  We don’t need to be a deer in the headlights, we can shift and watch and act to get out of the way.  We don’t need to gasp for air and grasp toward the surface, we can calmly feel around for the tools we need to recover.

Of course stress is a part of life, and sometimes we have to hold fast through difficult situations.  It’s hard.

But it’s even harder if we panic, and harder to use the experience to make it to another day.

A “Fourth” Away from “Home”

Home of the free

Editor’s note: Here are some past thoughts about living a Fourth away from home, from 4July2009. A new post will be coming soon.

Regular readers of AnthonyGanzer.com may be surprised by this, given my frequent jaunts to Europe over the last few years, but this is my first “Fourth of July” not on American soil.  The “Fourth” has taken its hits as a holiday just as others have.  Christmas was adorned with Santa and commercialism, Easter with rabbits and biologically inaccurate eggs, and the “Fourth” has its customary PBS concert specials and sales on charcoal briquettes–the things on which freedom was built, of course.  And who can forget the elaborate fireworks displays, and toddlers running around with “harmless” sparklers in the front yard.

But even those subtle remembrances to our country’s founding are absent here in Germany, though a faint sense of patriotism still wafts in the air.

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Reflections on a falling crucifix

CBS

I’d like to begin this post by expressing my regret that, after enduring the pain and emotional exhaustion of a wife battling cancer, a man lost his leg in an accident involving a falling crucifix.  I begin with that expression of regret because I want to be clear that I don’t bear any negative feelings toward the man described in this CBS 2 story from New York.  It was tragic.  But in reading this story I was presented with a few theological considerations, perhaps prompted by poor or unclear writing–“David Jimenez believed his devotion to a crucifix was responsible for his wife being cured of cancer,” it says.  This sentence infers the man had a devotion to a particular object, a crucifix.  And in his desire to show reverence for that object, it dislodged and crushed his leg.  What is this story saying, or not, about faith, and about God?

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Musical Introspection

Urban beauty

Editor’s note: This is a post about  projecting our own experiences, troubles, and musings on prose of all kinds, and how it relates to my times of spiritual renaissance.

With each breath the wheat stalks seemed to blur into golden oceans begging for navigation.  Though I have sailed true blue water, these golden waves of grain could not be traversed by wind, but by will.  My breathing and straining formed the cadence.  My mind drifted in and out of the large and small problems of me.

The Chipman Trail connects Moscow, Idaho with Pullman, Washington—two university towns in the agriculture-rich Palouse region.  Chipman is a smoothly paved pathway for bicycles and runners traveling between the towns, running parallel to the highway.  Despite traffic nearby, the grain, barns, bridges, and animals give a uniquely American impression: that space is wide-open, and nature can still seem unlimited.

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