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.
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.