By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers
I have a checkered driving history, which reveals more than my driving habits over the past two decades. It speaks volumes about each three-year increment, the time my insurance company goes back to count tickets.
My friend Bernard says I’m a crazy driver, usually while telling me to slow down, watch the road or not tail other cars. My only defense is, “If you think I’m a bad driver now, you should have seen me 10 years ago!”
I know I have a driving problem. It’s like something happens to me when I get behind the wheel. I turn into another person and just want to get from point A to point B, and I want everyone and everything to get out of my way so I can get there as fast as possible. And what really makes me mad, is when a slow car or a diesel or vending trucks gets in front of me and obscures my view.
But with each passing year, I’ve started to realize that all I’m doing is stressing myself out and am missing opportunities to enjoy the world around me.
When my daughter was in elementary school and I got really angry one time when a traffic light turned red, Laura said: “But mommy, it gives you a chance to rest.” I try to keep this in mind.
Besides trying to slow down lately, my driving time has become my thinking time, especially when I’m alone. I enjoy listening to Catholic radio or to religious music. This week I purchased a Mother Theresa key chain because Lord knows I can use all of the humility I can get as I drive.
It may take more than two hands for me to count the number of traffic tickets I’ve received since I got my driver’s license at age 17, the majority of these being in my mid-20s and early 30s, which just happened to be during one of the most stressful times of my life, working as a full-time reporter and being the single mom of an active grade-schooler: soccer, basketball, ballet folklorico, catechism, Girl Scouts, you name it.
But while the job was an influence, I can’t blame it all on the job. We all have stress and we each make a conscious decision each day on how to deal with stress. I’ve learned that we experience the most stress during times when we need the most spiritual growth.
For me, that was when I was on my own for the first time and working in Hobbs. Those were the most eye-opening years of my life. I grew so much professionally as well as spiritually. That’s when adopted mothers like Sister Margaret, Irene Salgado and my Aunt Matilda, who moved to Hobbs at just the right time, came into the picture and encouraged me when I was down and ready to run home.
As for Irene, she told me I was making a difference through my writing and she invited me to her home several times for prayer group meetings.
Sister Margaret made me realize there was a bigger world outside of my small bubble, and she showed me, through her example, that by stepping out and becoming a part of that bigger world, my own little world became not only more bearable, but more fulfilling. It was by being a part of something bigger, a community, giving a little bit of my time I thought I didn’t have, and soon I began to find more purpose in my life and job.
That helped me slow down behind the wheel and my speeding tickets, then averaging two or three a year between 1995 to 2000, started disappearing.
I still get a little crazy behind the wheel. I had one speeding ticket about two years ago, not to mention a couple of warnings, but that’s progress. It’s a challenge for me every day.
I still need backseat drivers to sometimes remind me not to run down pedestrians. My recent response to Bernard was: “But they’re not using the crosswalk.”
Of course, my conscience knew better. I stopped and the people smiled and waved in thanks. I smiled too because I had done a good deed, however small.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: