If someone were to make a pie chart of what has been the source of all of the times my husband and I have argued, a rather large slice would be labeled “navigation.” Before GPS and Google Maps, our trips more often than not went something like this:
Husband (in driver’s seat): Where am I supposed to turn?
Me (passenger): Uhhhh…
Husband: Get the map out! Quick!
Me: Which map?
Husband: The one in the glove box! Hurry!
Me: (pulling map out and fumbling to get it open) Where are we?
Husband: I don’t know, look at that street sign. The turn is coming up, better figure it out quick!
Me: Did that say Ash or Cash? I couldn’t read it with that truck in the way.
Husand: Ash! It said Ash!
Me: What side of town are we on?
Husband: Ahhhhh! Seriously?
Me: Found it! Ok, turn right here.
Husband: (turning right)
Me: No turn left!
Husband: You said turn right!
Me: I meant turn LEFT right here.
Husband: (making u-turn) Then why didn’t you say that???
By the time we would reach our destination, my husband would have smoke coming out of his ears while I would be missing patches of hair from pulling it out. Then along came the glorious invention of the Global Positioning System. I can’t decide if I owe that bodiless woman in Google Maps giving us directions a huge thank you card attached to a lifetime supply of chocolate, or if I should be insanely jealous. My husband has made it abundantly clear on countless occasions that he prefers to hear her voice directing us around town over mine. Regardless, I’m thankful we now arrive at our destination without wanting to tear each other apart limb-for-limb.
I grew up in a small town with only one stop light. The need for GPS or maps was pretty much null due to the fact that we only ever drove six places, all basically within 4 blocks of each other. Sure, I could have walked, but I was oh, so cool driving around in my beat-up, red Geo Tracker with no heat or air conditioning.
Before leaving for college the summer after my high school senior year, some friends and I from that little town decided to put together a time capsule to be opened every 10 years after graduation. We gathered up newspaper articles, old high school trinkets, awards, and we filled out a bunch of papers we’d printed on what we planned to accomplish and where we saw ourselves in the years ahead, along with predictions we had for each other. We might have even sung some Disney Karaoke that night and ate a ridiculous amount of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Skittles (because when you have an 18-year-old metabolism, why the heck not?) until an unspeakable morning hour my nearly middle-aged body shudders to think of. All six of us girls had some pretty ambitious goals. At 18, life was calling to us, and we were ready to answer. We were going to conquer the world! Those papers hidden away in a box at the back of my closet are proof of our confidence and optimism… and possibly naivety about what the world was going to dish up.
Somehow back then I pictured life following a nice, tidy set of maps, possibly even with Google Lady giving me easy, straightforward directions to follow in her monotonous voice: “At the next intersection, take College Street. Take a left to continue on Family Avenue. Exit here and continue on Career Parkway for 45 miles.” No re-routing, no U-turns.
Since our final hurrah as high school buddies we’ve all taken different roads. And despite our best predictions, I’m positive not a single one of our drives has been perfectly in line with how we imagined when we tucked the papers away in our time capsule. But I think we would all agree, with its unexpected turns, flat tires and speed bumps, the road has been good.
Maybe life is less like a highway and more like a series of one-way streets, wrong turns, u-turns, side roads, traffic jams, pot holes, missed exits, and detours. Maybe life was never meant to follow a GPS. Maybe concrete plans were meant to be broken. Maybe we were meant to scream from time to time, “Crap! I didn’t want to exit here!” so that we can experience that scenic byway we had no idea was on the other side of the hill. And maybe we are even occasionally supposed to find ourselves unpleasantly in a dark alleyway on the wrong side of town so we can someday help navigate someone else to the wide open streets again.
“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”
― Marjorie Pay Hinckley
While my husband might think it’s sound advice to beg every starry-eyed newly-married couple to “…just always use the GPS!” (who knows? Maybe such words of wisdom will, in fact, save a marriage or two), I believe life in general is meant for experiencing the unexpected, getting a little lost, going down a one-way street, and parking for a second on the top of the mountain to watch the sunset. So next time you find yourself metaphorically cussing at the guy in front of you going 35 in a 65 mph zone or miraculously finding a rest stop right as your recently potty-trained 2-year old starts to wail that he needs to go, just remember, good or bad, life is meant for moments just like this.