Side of the Road


Driving home from a trip north to visit old friends, my husband and I were enjoying the mellow afternoon light on autumn hills and fields as we raced along a Pennsylvania highway. We felt a sudden jolt in the steering and the rumble of a front wheel, and pulled over to discover we had a completely flat tire. I felt an immediate rush of emotions: fear that we could have been hurt; bewilderment that this could have happened to my almost-new tires; disappointment that our lovely, calm drive had been interrupted; irritation that I had to deal with this now; more fear that we still had a long drive on a spare tire and it would be dark soon. I can handle this, I reminded myself and took a deep breath. I thought of a phrase I’d just read in The Book of Joy: “mental immunity.” The Dalai Lama uses this phrase to describe our ability to use our minds to get perspective on our emotions. Emotions are just information—often useful and definitely necessary—but we don’t have to be ruled by them. I took another breath and looked around me. The sun was still shining, the air was warm, I was unharmed, and my dear husband was standing by me. I looked at the trees by the side of the road just as a ray of sun lit up a puddle. Beauty! My phone was in my hand and I took a picture to remind myself of this moment. Then I dialed our roadside service. They responded quickly with an extremely helpful driver, and we were back on the road not long afterwards. I glanced back at the trees as we moved onto the highway and murmured my thanks.