The Driver’s Seat

When we have peace in our hearts and minds, we draw peace into our lives.

–Iyanla Vanzant

When was the last time you genuinely flowed with life? When have you practiced radical acceptance of people and life events? When did you last free yourself to breathe and be?

When I parented my young children, I noticed I often held my breath, curled my toes, and grasped tightly to goals, schedules, and agendas. Driven would be a word to describe me. My children observed I lacked spontaneity. I demanded that people schedule time with me. Being early was being on time.  When plans fell through or I was late due to uncontrollable traffic, I felt agitated on top of terrified. Attempting to control the world around me became my fierce commitment.  I rarely laughed. Tense and serious, I constricted my life which suffocated most experiences of joy.

This directive often interrupted my meltdowns without allowing safe space for processing really difficult experiences.

As a child, I lived surrounded by unpredictable chaos which created this feeling that something awful would happen at any moment. Those challenging things shocked me every single time. I could not ever lean into stability, safety, structure, or support. Just when I’d think I’d done all the right things another difficult situation erupted. When I’d burst into tears my dad used to yell at me, “Get in the Driver’s Seat, Laurie!” This directive often interrupted my meltdowns without allowing safe space for processing really difficult experiences. I now see that he needed me to keep my emotions in lockdown. He felt out of control. In many ways, I became the emotional movie of my family’s internal world. Some professionals call this role, the “symptom bearer.” Labeled the crazy one, the crybaby, and the lightning rod, I remained the one willing to express that which remained repressed inside the family’s difficult dynamics.

While you may not have lived through this type of “training,”, you most likely struggle with fears about the uncertainties of life. The fervent drive to control your outside world may be something you do with limited results. You may have become the “control freak.” You are angry with how people drive their cars, how others eat or waste food, what other people are doing “wrong” according to your rules, standards, and beliefs. You also may feel like the freak others are attempting to control. Most likely you’ve experienced the both/and of this tug of struggle.

We are the only creatures that know we are going to die, that others we love will die. This awareness tends to make us terrified about the how, what, when, and where. We demand order to quell our terror of really not knowing what will happen next in our lives or our world. We attempt to control others from this black hole of the unknown.

The uncertainty of living life creates this yearning for knowing, for certainty over all that is utterly uncontrollable including traffic, weather, and other people’s words and behavior. Being hyper-vigilant becomes a way of coping as you may not ever seem to be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. Being bossed or being bossy can begin to feel bankrupt. You cannot save people from their misery or righteousness. You can only save yourself from your own if you choose this brave path.

Five years ago, I consciously chose to bear witness to my now ex-husband’s dynamics. I detached completely from a long-term fierce agenda to change him. This choice allowed the full implode of our unworkable marriage to unfold. I let go of my need to be right about how wrong his choices were. I began to confront fully in an even deeper dive my own fire-breathing dragons of toxic shame, abandonment, and chronic experiences of worthlessness and powerlessness.

With great clarity, I now see that my inner world contained a hot mess. I needed to invest in clean up on aisle “Laura’s heart and soul.”  I chose to use my energy to heal and transform from the inside out. I simply had to do the work to resolve all that chaos that lived inside of me. I learned that softening my grasp and letting go of layers of clutter in my being created longer moments of dynamic equanimity, and enduring contentment. Purging safely the volcanic pot of pain, I discovered, once again, that part of me that knew how to notice, to be curious.

The practice of connecting with this inner observer became a commitment for a lifetime. Strengthening the capacity to respond rather than react began to alter my experience of living. My power and freedom reside in that pause between being poked and the yelp, giggle, or stare.

You can use your life experiences to guide you to this deeper awakening.

Connecting with nature becomes a pathway to that inner world where your angst resides. The quiet observer of your turmoil waits for you too. Sitting with the trees, looking at a beautiful piece of artwork, listening to music that opens your heart, smelling a favorite scent, tasting that first bite of homemade tomato soup can become gateways to holding space, healing, and transforming your inner world. You must be willing to courageously excavate the past hurts of your own making, the unconscionable deeds of others.

Realizing that people cannot be stopped with their pick-a-lot-talk-a-lot can create this existential AHA of shifting to the world of silence, retreat, and imagination. While becoming a quiet observing scientist you can begin to uncoil, shed the hurts inside you, and discover a treasure trove of passionate love. May you gently breathe in the driver’s seat of your life with much softness, peace, and compassion for yourself and others while traveling to the world of inner fulfillment, outer beauty, and inspired creative expression through total surrender.

Laura Staley
Laura Staleyhttp://www.cherishyourworld.com
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla.

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  1. I am smiling as I just commented on the way you inspire others with your own story on my piece. And then I read, well, a powerful read of your own surrender. Everything about your transformation of your life is as you so poignantly said “ the willingness to excavate your past hurts of your own making, the unconscionable deeds of others”. I am so with you with that line, it is not even funny. Just seeing your soul untethered, you running in the mountains areas of your home, free in your expression, and joyfully helping others – the surrender seems so possible with courage at hand. I appreciate you and this soulful article. Big thanks to you!

    • Oh, your words lift me greatly, Maureen! Yes, my soul, in many ways, has been freed to sing in the mountains, to be of love and service to others. As many times we circle around surrender another piece often shows itself. Forgiveness can become this gracious acceptance of life exactly as it was/is right now, a shedding of all those expectations, limited beliefs of what “should” have happened/happen, or how we “should” respond/have responded. Thank you so much for receiving my writings, for your generous reflections, insights, and enthusiastic support. Grateful for you.

  2. This is a powerfully moving article that has so much emotion in it. It takes a lot of courage to put your life or life experiences in front of the public. You are obviously very strong. I wish you a long, happy, healthy, and successful life.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words and for your good wishes, Joel. I’m grateful to be in a place of great health-heart, mind, body, soul-after years of deep healing/transforming. As a lifelong learner and curious one I will continue to learn and grow. I wish you a wonderful, long, happy, and successful life too!

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