The Zen of Changing Lanes

Everything I need to know about Zen I learned from changing lanes.

Or, more accurately, not changing lanes.

My onramp to the freeway is a long, two lane stretch with a traffic light at the end.

Everyday I’m a-fluster when I decide which lane to move into. There’s the truck up front on the right side—that’s worth two cars for sure. But the left has two vans. Quick, left!

This happens everyday in the echo chamber in my head. It’s a weird thing to worry about. We all do it.

It’s silly–honestly–to think of how scared we are of picking a lane. Choosing wrong. The finality of it. It’s 37 seconds—I timed it. It’s 37 seconds in the slower lane. 28 in the faster one.

And for what? To get my turn to merge into the bulging freeway so I can wait and worry there about what lane’s best?

And for what? For it all to happen again and again at the offramp, the parking lot, the email, the staff meeting, the project, the career, the first 50 years of my life?

Today I got worked. I landed in the wrong lane. And I mean it was THE wrong lane. The car behind me got 5 spaces in front of me… yea, that bad.

And a little zen sunk in, infiltrated the echo chamber. (Note: not the real Zen where you have to wear different clothes and be flexible. This was the fake Zen, the one we call out to when we organize our desk).

The zen said, “All this worry is meaningless. Your place in the onramp is meaningless. What matters is happiness. That’s the big nut.”

He continued, “What does happiness look like here? Does it look like always choosing the fastest lane? Can you control and have knowledge over which lane will be quickest? No. You don’t have that, man.”

It was then that I started to wonder if “Zen” wasn’t actually The Dude… Zen had the same kind of slow way of talking, and bowling shoes.

“I’m talking here,” he said, a bit perturbed. “Where was I? Oh yes, happiness. Happiness isn’t about control. You can’t control your chances for cancer or birth or the weather or rain and shit. You can’t control that, so happiness in this situation can’t require control.

Happiness here is about awareness and acceptance. It’s about realizing your lane doesn’t matter as much as the smile you bring home to your wife. It’s about not allowing the sludge of minor worries to build up on your spirit and discolor the good things in your life.”

There’s some really great shit in your life, man. And you’re spending cycles, giving care to what fucking lane you’re in? Only people who have too much stuff do that.”

“And one more thing: I’m the little “z” zen, I’m not the other guy. He’s an asshole. I can never know what he actually thinks. All acceptance and ‘that’s wonderful’ all the time. It’s wishy-washy. I don’t like it.”

“So this ‘happiness is about acceptance’ thing is not for everything. It’s just for this thing… and a lot of other things. But not everything. Don’t be an asshole, man.”

There you have it. Fucking zen, man. Total character. But he’s right. You’re an idiot if you think you can control it all. You’ll just turn into a little man, brittle, breakable, white-knuckling it through.

That’s not the big nut. Your success and your nature are much deeper, alive, pliable. Notice what matters and what doesn’t. Steward your care.

Because no matter who you are you can’t control the fact that penises are incredibly weird looking.

The Matterful Monthly

A monthly for modern meaning makers from Chase Reeves about building lifestyles of significance.

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