Sometimes I just sit in my car. I sit there for as long as I can filling my car with minutes of me not being a mom or a chauffeur or a wife or a stay-at-home anything. I sit thinking or not thinking. Breathing so only I can hear it.
Parked in my driveway, I wait to be ready to go into the house. Just before I open the car door, I wonder if I can eke out any more alone time. Maybe I’ve forgotten something “urgent” that requires backing out of the driveway once more before heading into the high-energy together time that awaits me in the house for the rest of the day and on into the evening. Maybe I need to pick up the dry cleaning. Is it ready today or tomorrow? What day is it anyway? Do we need more milk? We always need more milk. Do I have time to go to the vet for more flea medicine? Wait, are they even still open? What time is it? Oh, perfect, they’re already closed. Who closes at 3 p.m. on a Monday anyway?
I sit in my car and check email or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. I do this throughout the day wherever I am, but alone in my car, I take my time. I scroll through other people’s lives with their smiley, happy pictures and shared links and witty or completely mundane status updates. On a micro level, it seems everyone is “blessed” and had the “best summer ever” and is raising awareness for ALS by pouring icy cold water over their heads. On a macro level, the world is a shit storm of evil. Over a matter of minutes I feel joyous, jealous, big-hearted, anxious and depressed. A friend of mine from high school passed away from ALS some years ago. Even if no one nominates me for the ALS challenge, I decide to write a check anyway.
After I’m done being emotionally chewed up and spit out by social media, I check the digital vehicle messages. How many more miles until I’m out of gas? How many more weeks until I need an oil change? Is the traction control still on? There’s something reassuring about these clear data points. I check how many miles I’ve driven total: 43,621 in three and a half years. Some are road trip miles to Napa and Disneyland and Tahoe, but most of them are carpool miles and grocery store miles and a few girls-night-out-in-the-city miles. Those miles tell the story of my life and the way each day is a spiral that begins in my driveway and circles out and around then back around again the way it came.
I also sit in my car in parking lots. That’s when I eat lunch. I grab tofu spring rolls from Trader Joe’s while shopping for my family’s seemingly endless food demands. We have six to eight boxes of cereal in the pantry at all times and they are all open and in play. This is why we always need more milk. I click the key fob remote to open the door to the way back, load the groceries and gallons of milk and then sit in the front seat, eating my spring rolls. Even if someone is waiting for my parking spot. Yes, that’s me with the engine running and the car in park. Move on.
I make a lot of calls when I’m alone in my car. To friends back east and my parents just down the road in Tiburon, to the hairdresser and the dog groomer. I make orthodontist and doctor and waxing appointments. It’s a delightful thing, making it through several phone conversations without interruption. When I’m done with the calls, I turn on the radio as I’m backing out. I listen to whatever I want, even if the song has bad words in it or is about an inappropriate theme, like burning down your cheating asshole boyfriend’s house. Mostly I listen to Alt-Nation, but if I come across “Nobody Does It Better” on the 70s channel, get ready to hear me belt it out. I’m sure people can hear me. Even with the windows up. Even if I’m driving.
A friend of mine who is newly enamored with meditation told me I can even meditate in my car. Really? That’s awesome news: another just-for-me activity I can do alone in my beloved car after eating a tofu spring roll and channeling my inner Carly Simon.