The other day I did something I never do. I drove without taking a known route. I had driven with Google maps on the way to the dentist, but on the way back, I decided to try my memory.
I did well until one of the four tiny towns that start with M. I took a right to enter the town. A block later I took a left to exit the town.
Or was I supposed to keep going straight?
I shrugged. “I basically know where I want to get to. I don’t have to know which way I’m going.”
I knew it might grow dark before I had seen anything familiar, but I went on. Chevy trucks are supposed to find new roads, so I forged ahead.
I’m trying to start a public awareness campaign: Headlights On For Safety.* My mom taught me to turn on my headlights both to see and to be seen, but that got missed by a lot of people in cars the color of a drizzly day around here.
So I turned my husband’s truck dial to the headlight symbol. I wasn’t going to rely on the “automatic” setting to turn on lights whenever the truck’s sensor felt like it. I wanted them on.
Up and down the winding roads, slowing for piles of tree limbs gathered at the road’s edge from our recent ice storm (yes, it was historic), and feeling confident, I leaned toward my destination.
I encountered very few vehicles as I traversed the road less traveled. And that made all the difference. Because in the fading light of day, not all was as it seemed.
But how liberating to just follow my heart. I don’t generally like that expression since my mind is where my emotions come from, but I went with it this time.
Eventually I made it to a large town, and I knew how to get home from there. And how to pick up some good burgers to bring home.
As I left the shopping area, I was surprised at how poorly the lines were marked at the main intersection. My left turn nearly landed me in the oncoming traffic lane.
Must be from the wet roads and some worn down reflective paint, I reasoned.
I headed through town and out to the highway. I then turned right into a “town” that boasted maybe ten houses.That’s when I noticed how dark the town was.
Power outages were all over the area after the ice storm. It’s why my dentist appointment was 22 miles from “home.” We were staying with my in-laws five towns away since no power for us meant inadequate water, heat, food options, and internet. No power for them meant a challenge they were ready to tackle head on.
We also lived there for a week during the nearby fires of early September. First fire and now ice.
But I’d just driven through the first major town in the area to get their power back. And the adjoining “town” I’d just turned into also had power.
What was missing were my headlights.
I had driven for probably 30 miles in smug certainty that I could see and be seen. Who cares where my heart was taking me! I was using parking lights to guide my way through darkness.
Fortunately, I noticed in time, and I think someone might have flashed their lights at me. In any case, I think my emotional reaction is where my inner light shone a little more than usual.
I didn’t berate myself or dwell on what could have happened. I just continued on while feeling particularly grateful. Regret would do me no good.
I often fear “following my heart” because I don’t want to get lost or hurt. But if I’m following my values, isn’t that like doing my best to drive safely? Which means I’m open to correction if I am violating my values?
So perhaps I can safely follow my heart? Maybe that just means I’m willing to take the route that is right for me, the one that speaks to me as I make my way home.
And no one has to make that journey in darkness. Especially if we double-check that our lights and other safety strategies are in use.
As I drove down the final road before my in-laws’ house, I spotted the welcome sight of linemen tackling my the broken power lines. I slowed down and called out thank you. It was my best attempt at a forward pass, but I like to think that intentional grounding might be a good idea when it comes to electricity.
When the lights at my in-laws’ suddenly turned on a couple hours later, I shouted for joy. Later I knelt in prayer and thanked God for those workers. Having light restored meant everything in the darkness of night.
And even though I always tell God, “I’m grateful I was safe in my travels today,” that night I felt it. Gratitude lights a path home that regret never will because headlights look forward. Following my heart while remaining grateful for course corrections–that is how my dreams bring me home.
My in-laws’ deck after the historic ice storm. My husband built the crushed picnic table, and we like to think it helped route the tree away from the house.
*The linked blog post is thought-provoking but doesn’t show any sources. This article discusses the efficacy of headlights on day-or-night laws. This article is also quick and summarizes a lot of what I found in my reading as to when and why to turn on headlights.