Stalled in Seattle

Alright, maybe it’s an excuse.  october 2014 108

Maybe, if I’d been better organized, more on top of things, I could have got it done.  But sometimes, I don’t want to be so organized – or can’t. But for whatever reason, excuses or not, last Thursday instead of standing here at my computer desk, writing this blog, I was sitting in traffic. Almost two hours back from the airport where I’d been a nice friend and dropped my friend off early this morning.

october 2014 090But instead of a smooth half-hour drive back to the start of my day, a flashing warning light, “Three lanes closed ahead”.

Sirens.  Police cars speeding down the HOV lane.  The ambulance ahead of me flips on its flashing lights.

The announcer on the radio says traffic is at a standstill, (yes, that is true from where I am sitting) and advises drivers to find alternate routes.  A nice idea, and yes, I just passed the exit I should have taken.

When I’m sitting in traffic I sometimes flip on the radio to one of myoctober 2014 111 favorite stations that plays the same “Top 40” pop and hip hop songs over and over and, once again, over again. Over time, they become like familiar friends.   I learn enough of the lyrics to make up the rest.  I find myself clapping and singing loudly, swaying to the beat – much to the amusement, I am sure, of the drivers who pass me. If it was my father, in that car next to me, he’d remind me that even when I am stuck in traffic I should always keep both hands on the wheel. (I do Dad – mostly.)

october 2014 115On these stations, they periodically interrupt the same endless round of songs with quirky statistics. Things like, “5 of the biggest turn-offs on a first date” or questions like, “What do we do today 400% more now than we did 20 years ago?”  (Translation: if we did it for one hour back then, what do we do for four hours now?)

The answer?  What I was doing: sitting stuck in traffic.

Seattle has the eighth worst traffic in the country.  In fact, one of our early urban planners noted that one of the biggest challenges we would face was getting around here, given the tumultuous terrain of lakes, hills, inlets, streams and ravines.

Our city planners, however, seemed to think that if only we designed the october 2014 110city on a grid and made the streets sound like the streets of Chicago that run smooth and straight for hundreds of miles – maybe we wouldn’t realize that it doesn’t happen so easily that way out here.  Instead, try to go east to west just about anywhere in this city and you will find yourself cutting over and around a terrain of obstructions.

The consequence?

Sitting stuck in traffic.


my blog doesn’t get done….

or I am late for the meeting…

or I can’t…

and I didn’t…

december 2014 028Sure, I like to outsmart being stuck. Try to think, jump, pole vault, dream, push and pontificate my way around all the traffic jams in my life.

But, you know, none of it gets me there any faster than if I just gave into the reality of being right here, and stuck. And sat, right here, and looked out the window.

And along the way I do better when I sing my way through instead of stress my way through. Turn off the news, turn on the songs.

Turn off the songs, and listen to what otherwise I can so often push dec 2014 121through – the tumultuous terrain of feeling and frustration, joy and jubilation, grief and pain, decisions and deliberations that are my life.

When else do I have a chance to stop and listen if not now?

Yes, I do better when I let myself be in the uncomfortable realization that there really is no way around it but through it.

No way around the grief, but through the pain.

dec 2014 068No way around the slow path of healing, but getting up each day and walking the path.

No way to the right answer but listening for call.

Yes, going through it, gets me to it.


Now, far past my plans, the schedule that I’d set, planned and organized 1374for my day, last Thursday, I gave up. Stopped at a quirky little stand to have a cup of coffee on a little stool under an awning in the rain.   I stopped, I breathed. I waited. I listened. Laughed when I thought of myself arriving as I might have done the other way – arriving 10 minutes earlier and full of frustration. My colleagues and the people in my day wishing that I still might have stayed out there stuck on the road!

Better, yes, this slow way.

Happy Advent.

Happy getting through it on the way to it. I’ve heard it said the journey’s worth it.


One thought on “Stalled in Seattle”

  1. Yes, Peter, it does indeed seem being stuck, or asleep when awake, is necessary, and opens into yet another opportunity to notice that we are all carried along by a great buoyant mystery.

    Thank you for the chance to notice this buoyant reality, to to notice I am afloat on it, and to reflect on being (afloat).

    Especially I like your choice use of the word pontificate… That really woke something in me! It’s maybe that wordiness is the excess ballast that bogs down the boat… why it won’t float right. So now, I hear a shanty– pull my mates!

    May we all pull gracefully together. Such is the gift of Christmas!


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