My Driveway Adventures: 2014 Edition

20 Feb

About a year ago, I wrote a post here about my extreme difficulties backing down the long driveway of our new house – and the subsequent muddy tire tracks that crisscrossed our yard, driveway and street like a bad Jackson Pollack painting.

Photo credit - MyBallard.com

Giving up wasn’t an option, unless I wanted to become a recluse, so I kept on lurching up, down and sideways on this concrete slab until I actually got reasonably good at it. Just a few weeks ago in fact, I found myself confidently accelerating in reverse down the entire length of the driveway in an almost perfectly straight line.

“Your Dad has finally mastered this challenge,” I told my kids, who sat in the backseat looking much less nauseous than a year ago. “If you follow my example and don’t give up on your own challenges, you’ll be crushing your multiplication tables in no time.”

Then last week we got a winter storm that taught me a couple things. First, our driveway seems even longer when it’s covered with six inches of snow and ice. Second, I can’t back down a driveway covered with six inches of snow and ice.

Rather than shoveling their entire driveways, most of my neighbors dug out two tracks wide enough to drive their cars through. It seemed like a good idea, until I tried aligning our SUV’s tires with those tracks while driving in reverse.

To summarize, I nearly hit our chimney and just missed running down several newly planted trees before swerving to the other side, where I swiped a hedge and tore through the narrow grassy strip between our driveway and my neighbor’s.

Upon reaching the bottom of the driveway, I experienced something even more unfortunate. My neighbor had been sitting in his car at the bottom of his driveway watching the entire thing. I nodded to him like nothing had happened. He nodded back with a look that said, “Don’t worry, man, I didn’t see anything. But take a look at YouTube in a few minutes.”

It would be easier to put this incident in the past if I didn’t have to look each day at the 12-foot-long trench just to the left of my driveway, a lasting monument to incompetence that magically transforms into a Panama Canal of mud every time it rains.

Seeking solace, I recalled some wisdom from one of my favorite books:  Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. He discusses how we’re all heavily invested in self-images we’ve constructed for ourselves. We get trapped by our need to feel important and capable as a professional or parent or volunteer or SUV driver. The more seriously we take ourselves, the more prideful we become, the more our self-awareness shrinks.

Rohr writes that “I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day” to keep himself honest. I appreciate his candor. And he’s more than welcome to take a spin down my driveway any time he wants.

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8 Responses to “My Driveway Adventures: 2014 Edition”

  1. Ann Marie February 21, 2014 at 2:51 am #

    This year I have been working through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius with one of the Jesuits I work with. Recently the concept of spiritual poverty has been challenging for me. I read, and kind of understood, that it means realizing our total dependence on God, but it wasn’t really sinking in. Then my spiritual director gave me a great image: Sometimes we think we’re pretty self-sufficient and that we don’t really need God, but that’s when we have to remind ourselves, “Hey, I’m not the one making my heart beat.” That really resonated with me. Talk about humility. (If I lived where I had to drive in the snow, however, I would get daily reminders as well!)

    • Stephen February 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

      Hi Ann Marie — well said! Wonderful that you’re working through the Spiritual Exercises. I’ve read a lot about them — the next step should be to follow your example and actually do them. That’s some great advice from your spiritual director.

  2. brian price February 21, 2014 at 3:08 am #

    You should come up and try it in NW Minnesota. 30 straight days of below zero temps, plenty of wind and we need the snow to insulate the ground to keep our water pipes from freezing!

    • Stephen February 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Brian — I always knew there was a reason I don’t live in Minnesota and you’ve articulated it well here. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Andrea February 28, 2014 at 1:01 am #

    I know it’s an online cliche, but truly: LOL. Great story well told. And always glad for your book recommendations. I’ll check that one out.

    • Stephen March 3, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

      Thanks, Andrea — always glad when you stop by here!

  4. Dolly Rose March 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    Having had the pleasure of living next door to you in the past, with our short straight
    driveway on your line, I appreciate your not mentioning the ruts I so often left…snow or no!

    • Stephen March 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Dolly — I always assumed those ruts were Mark’s fault! Good to hear from you.

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