Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Passengers

"I don't want to be a passenger in my own life" - Diane Ackerman

I have an immediate sense of what this quote means, but does it hold up on thinking about it more closely? She is talking, I think, about taking control. About not being passive. Being a passenger conjures up images of those long family trips, children in the back seat of the car saying "Are we nearly there yet?" Of course, they had little say over where "there" might be - and they may have no clear idea of where "there" is going to be when they get there. It was mum and dad who chose.

The other night at our quilt group we had an inspiring speaker: an embroiderer who for the past twentyfive years has been cycling around Europe. No, not non-stop! But each year at least, she takes a trip for around two months at a time, staying in camping grounds, alone, and seeing whatever she pleases when she pleases. She is free to travel at the speed she wants and stop when she wants.

Being a passenger means giving up that control over our lives. But who is in total control, really? The most independent minded person - one who is self-employed, who lives alone,who never asks or receives favours from anyone, still depends on a vast number of other people for their existence. They are not independent of the laws of the land. They are not independent of the laws of nature. They can't always dictate their physical health. They rely on those who produce the goods in the shops, who do the medical research, who get the oil out of the ground and transport it, and many many more. And it's lonely, living alone. We might want companions - but we can't make all the decisions for them. As soon as we share our lives with someone else we have to give up some of the control.

It's good to be a passenger sometimes. When I head to the UK next year I'll be a passenger in the plane that takes me there. That's my decision. I don't want to sail a yacht around the world. When we get there I'll be a passenger in the car much of the time while my husband drives. Of course, we'll probably share. But you can see more if you're not concentrating on the driving. If I went alone I could make all the decisions about what to see, instead of only some of them. But I don't want to go alone. So I give up some control for companionship, and someone to rely on in case of difficulty. If we didn't plan to drive, we could use trains and buses and guided tours. Passengers again.

There are many kinds of passengers. Those who go through life trying to avoid decisions altogether, like the children in the back seat of the car. Will they recognise "there" when they arrive? And there are those who make decisions which shape the course of their lives, like those who board the plane for the round the world trip. They may give up control, but it is because they think they know where that decision will take them. And sometimes they might even buy a ticket for a mystery trip, not knowing where they are headed, but sure it will shake up their lives a little.

We are all passengers much of the time. Which sort of passenger are you?

More Sunday Scribblings here.


ren powell said...

I'm the sort who spills cola all over the backseat. (Sorry, couldn't help myself). Nice essay!

Anonymous said...

I'm the kind of passenger who sometimes takes control and only gives it up when it suits me, other times I'm like the kids in the car and I just go along with whatever I'm being told/expected to do.

Great post!

Here via Michele's al the way from England!! Hiya!

atpanda said...

I think you made a really good point in the middle there. Sometimes being the passenger affords you the ability to really appreciate what's going on around you. But I do prefer to drive. :-) We usually get to the destination faster when I do.

Michele sent me. And I may stay for a while.

Deb R said...

That was a very thought-provoking post. Very insightful too, as I think even when we try to take control of our lives a certain amount of that control is an illusion and we do the best we can with the things we can't control. I liked your thoughts on when it can be better to compromise in order to achieve certain things. And I agree.

Michele said...

What a wonderfully thoughtful and thought-provoking post. You truly have a wonderful way with words and for a few glorious moments I was the passenger of a well crafted wordsmith.

Although I consider myself mostly independent, I also know that there is numerous people that I depend upon and who depend upon me. I would not have it any other way.

Often I am the driver but I am always willing to hand over the wheel.

I truly do LOVE this post.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I don't drive so in that sense i'm always a passenger, and I like to look out of the window or sometimes read, think a lot. I am often inspired when my mind is wandering like this! In life, I would hate to feel that I had no control and I feel that I have usually a good balance between keeping my life in some kind of balance while accepting that there are a lot of people I rely on and things I hcannot have control over.

Good post you've written.

craziequeen said...

I'm the sort of passenger who lets the driver be in control, but who won't go if she doesn't want to.

Michele sent me


sundaycynce said...

"...I give up some control for companionship..." I love that!!! and I totally agree!! and to paraphrase the rest of that sentence have some one to work and share with if there is difficulty.

I do not ever want decisions forced on me, and sometimes I want the decision to be absolutely my own, but most of the time I am content to share the decision making with the companion I am sharing the vacation or experience with because I have discovered about myself that I am NOT a loner. I do not enjoy experiences not shared. I also agree that often you see more if you are the passenger, not the driver.

great post!!

paris parfait said...

I'm an engaged passenger - who shares the driving and decision-making. But quite often in my life I've been the sole driver! Great post!

Bobkat said...

I'm more of a driver, but if I am a passenger from time to time I prefer it if it's becasue I choose to be one. For me it's all about choice as you allude to in your post. Very thought provoking!

srp said...

Here from Michele.
Great post! Sometimes after being in control of a job and a daughter and a home and having to do it all alone, it is nice to become a TOTAL passenger for a little while. Being a passenger gives me time to let my wounded spirit heal, work through disappointments and losses and just rest. I needed to be a passenger a long time ago, but had no opportunity; so there was a lot of riding to do.

twilightspider said...

I love your mix of the literal and figurative senses of being a passenger - and also the point that it's not always a sacrifice or a detriment to do so. Wonderful musings!