I understand that there isn’t really a person inside my GPS, but when I’m driving and need some assistance, I kind of picture that someone is really there. I know some people live by the mantra that “God is my co-pilot,” but I don’t. My co-pilot is a very balanced woman who somehow squeezes inside my GPS system and successfully guides me to my intended destination.
But it isn’t always pretty. While she seems comfortable in her leadership role, a guiding guru so to speak, I am not always a great follower or a committed disciple. Add that to the fact that I’m super-sensitive and overly attuned to other people’s emotional states, and that I tend to over think certain relationships, and you can understand the quandary I find myself in.
I think the GPS lady is mad at me.
Just the other day I had to go a meeting in an unfamiliar town, and so I programmed in the address. Now, the first part of the trip was no big deal; I knew my preferred route to get me onto a particular highway, and so I drove the way I like to go, despite the GPS directions. And poor GPS woman had to keep chiming in with: Recalculating Route. And for the first thirty minutes, every time I ignored her directions, she had to repeat that refrain: Recalculating Route. And I know you might think I’m crazy, but I began to detect and edge to her voice, a growing irritation that I wasn’t being a good listener and follower. And I didn’t want her to be mad at me, because once I was in unfamiliar territory, I wanted her on my side, showing me where I needed to go. I worried that with my passive aggressive behavior toward her, she might rebel and reject me just when I needed her most.
Like when I was supposed to turn left in .2 miles, and I was going over a bridge where the left was coming up and beckoning, but I couldn’t decide if this was the left .2 miles ahead of which she was speaking. I’m not a good judge of distances. I looked up and beyond, and didn’t see another left in sight so I took it, and I was wrong. I had no idea where I was, but this time when she said: Recalculating Route, I was relieved. It was so different than her statements earlier in the drive when I was overriding her because I knew the way I wanted to go. Like a judge in a courtroom, when she said: Recalculating Route, I knew I would sustain. And she guided me to my destination perfectly. In that moment, the GPS proved to me how much I needed her, and that I should learn to listen and comply more readily.
Perhaps Ms. GPS and I should go to counseling together.
I think other people have complicated relationships with the GPS woman; I don’t think it’s just me. I can remember a family vacation in California about eight years ago. We had our then school-aged kids in the back seat, and we excitedly mapped out our journey from San Diego to San Francisco. Now, on family vacations, especially ones that necessitate some family time in the car, there’s bound to be some fighting. The problem was, the fighting wasn’t about the kids being cranky with each other or with us. The problem was between my husband and myself. And another woman. Ms. GPS.
There were times when the GPS woman would tell Steve to go one way, but I had it on good authority from the hotel concierge to go a different way. My husband would side with HER. At other times, the GPS lady would tell us to turn right where it was a left turn only. Steve just made excuses for her. Still on other occasions, she would instruct us to enter an intersection that didn’t exist. When I finally challenged him about this, he replied, “It’s okay, sometimes she just does this,” as if this were merely a cute little flaw in his beloved.
Our son observed, “Gee mom, dad is taking her side over yours.” And I realized how right he was.
He defended her over me. And I think it’s because she soothes the masculine ego in the way I wife of a long marriage doesn’t have the patience for. She never said, to Steve, “You schmuch, how many times do I have to tell you that you’re going the wrong way?!” She doesn’t bring up other times to Steve when she felt ignored by him. No, in a soothing voice she just suggests that he recalculate his route. And it’s strange because the voice she uses with him doesn’t seem to have the edge in it that I detect when she is telling me for the tenth time: Recalculating Route.
Oh, and get this. Sometimes, Steve would change the voice of the GPS woman to the British accent. After all, variety is the spice of life. The GPS lady offered such a fantasy, using fancy phrases in her seductive voice as she said things like, “Enter Roundabout,” and he would eagerly comply, as if he were taking her in his arms for a dance.
But I digress. Steve and I have agreed to disagree over the attributes we have assigned to the third wheel in our marriage. Sure, sometimes we love her and depend on her to take care of us and keep us from that wrong turn that will send us far off course. But other times, well, like they say, “Three is a crowd.”
Still, I have to own my own part in this. I can’t really be a fair weather friend to Ms. GPS. If I am willing to rely on someone else to show me the way, I have to offer a healthy amount of trust. I have to question my tendency to imagine an edge in a voice that may or may not be there, and to stop being so competitive in deciding who should lead and who should follow.
So not to push the point too far, but it reminds me a bit like driving along the path toward Nirvana. Like Syd, in my novel, Syd Arthur, I have had to discern what I can take from a spiritual teacher, and what I should leave behind. The Buddha taught that one should, “Be a lamp unto yourself.” In other words, trust your own inner wisdom to guide you. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others as you travel your spiritual path, but ultimately, you must decide for yourself where your authentic truth lies, and make the decision to listen to the inner knowing of your own heart and soul. Sure, during those dark times we all inevitably encounter, we can draw strength from a philosophy, a religious teaching or a spiritual guide, but then we go back to the balance of taking what nourishes us on the outside, to cultivating what sustains us on the inside.
Which is pretty much the relationship I am working on with the GPS lady. When I’m lost, it would be silly to ignore the wisdom she offers to direct me to where I want to go. But sometimes, when I’m pretty sure I know where I’m going, or when I prefer the scenic road that meanders past the ocean, or the bridge instead of the tunnel, I’m going to keep following my own compass and just ignore her refrain of: Recalculating Route.