I don’t know if you live in a part of the country where you are affected by train crossings. If you are, then you understand what I mean when I mention that phrase. If not, let me give you a snapshot. A freight train crossing is an unpredictable thing. Trains come at irregular intervals. They are irregular lengths. So, if the red lights flash and the gates come down before you are safely on your destination side, you might be sitting for two minutes or for ten. And ten minutes can be the difference between a child delivered to school on time, or a child bringing home a tardy notice. Or getting to the office. Or making it to any other life event that has a start time.
I may have been caught by a few trains.
On days when those ten minutes were precious.
My heart rate would rise, and I would sit in the car. Frustrated. Helpless. Trapped. And the rest of my day would be colored by that feeling of always being behind.
I hated that. But I realized that, if I couldn’t control the trains, then I needed to look at myself. I started leaving the house a few minutes earlier each day. That means waking up earlier. And getting myself in gear a bit faster (not an easy feat for me–I’m hardwired for night-owl status). These aren’t changes that I love. But I love the results.
I don’t get as stressed if one of the kids forgets a backpack. Or a lunch. Or a pair of gloves. Those extra minutes mean that I can handle the challenges of the morning. A train means that I get to let the seven- year old be happy about spending some time with one of his favorite vehicles, not that I’m starting the day in panic.
I still don’t have any control over the trains. The schedule is just as unpredictable as it was a year ago. They can still keep me sitting, just moments from school, for long, uncontrollable stretches. But I have control over when I leave the house. I have the ability to give myself that cushion, so that most days, I’m a little early. And if it’s a train day, I’m still on time.
A lot of what we encounter in life is like the trains. We don’t know when it’s coming. We don’t know how long it will last. We can’t do a darn thing to change it.
So our chance for control is centered around our own choices. We can’t stop the trains or predict the trains. But we can look at our daily choices and be honest about their evaluations. I don’t like early mornings, and I used to drag my feet. That turned into a pattern of leaving the house at the last possible minute. In a rush. Racing. And a train meant that I was absolutely late. My later starts gave the trains the power to disrupt my life. Leaving earlier took that power away.
Preparing for the train doesn’t mean that I’m insulated from the big disruptions in life. There are still plenty of things that I can’t control. I’m not protected from illness, or loss. But I am cushioned from one of the daily stressors that used to shake up my day.
Are there any trains you can prepare for? Any choices you can make to protect yourself from the small stresses that add up to large ones? Feel free to share in the comments or reach out for support if you need it.