Rain has washed away whole sections of country roads. Wherever I look there are potholes, thoroughfares which are no longer passable and ‘rough surface’ signs to alert drivers to the obvious. I recently punctured a tyre as I plunged into a hole much deeper than anticipated and last Thursday, a loose rock hit my windscreen leaving it with a sizable crack.
I have had ample opportunity to ponder the pothole, both real and figurative, as I white-knuckle clench the steering wheel. There have certainly been some rough rides. Last week as I drove along a dark country highway, trying to avoid both kangaroos and potholes, I suddenly found myself going over a flooded roadway. I could hear the safety ads loud and clear, ‘Do not enter floodwaters’ but it was too late. I was already deep in the water and accelerating out. The sun had dropped behind the horizon, and I was left to navigate unfamiliar, rugged roads at night.
While potholes are perilous for travellers, I find solace in the fact that we haven’t been able to bend nature to our will altogether. In the great battle between the elements and bitumen, the elements win every time.
And as I navigate the great and small potholes in my life, I draw some lessons from driving along country roads. If I am lucky to see the pothole ahead, I can always move over to the other side, as long as there is no oncoming traffic. There are often ways to mitigate the great and small disasters in life by course correcting.
Potholes make me slow down. Instead of rushing from A to B, I need to be measured and disciplined to get there safely. This is a lesson I need to learn over and over. When confronted with overwhelm, it is best to slow down and approach tasks with a well-considered plan rather than plough ahead at full speed.
Then there is the detour. At times it is well worth obeying the sign. It may take longer to get wherever I’m going but there’s a reason for the diversion. These roads are often scenic and may lead to unexpected pleasures along the way. A detour whether forced or voluntary can provide insights which otherwise could easily be missed.
I am learning to approach potholes as moments to pause and reflect. They may be an unwanted disruption, but they teach me that I can’t control everything. And ever so slowly, I am learning to accept the things I cannot change.