The Rear View Mirror Versus the Windshield

Originally Published on MomsGetReal 

This morning, I crawled on a plane at a ridiculous hour and hoped beyond hope that I’d just be able to put my headphones in and sleep. This usually isn’t a problem for me. I have a Go Away vibe that goes toe to toe with Captain Von Trapp at the first sight of Maria in The Sound of Music.

For some reason, however, flights to Chicago always seem to contain passengers that are impervious to my steely morning glare and cranky attitude. Today was no exception.

I chatted for three and a half hours with a guy from Boise – he had a girl name and I have boy name.  He told me how much he loved his wife, how he was grateful to marry a great friend (though it was rife with issues in that sometimes friends know details that significant others are slower to find out – like how you handled a one night stand or the details behind your divorce), and how his autistic daughter brought unbelievable joy into his life.

But the most important thing he said today was about focus – is it on the rear view mirror or the windshield?

He gave the caveat that it was a corny bumper sticker at best, and we carried on with the remaining hour and a half of conversation. At the time, it seemed like a pebble in a pond. The more that the day has unfolded, it’s given me a framework to hang what I’ve been struggling with lately.

He said too many people keep their eyes on the rear view mirror and forget about the windshield, an analogy that dropped a boulder in a puddle today when I picked up my rental car.  The rear view mirror in the Chevy I was driving was small – maybe six inches across, couple inches high.  I stopped and stared at it.  It seemed like I could see infinity in the road that was behind me. When the car was was stopped, I could pick out imperfections in the cars and buildings behind me, but when I kept  moving forward looking out the windshield and only glanced backward, I could see a vast, perfectly blue Midwest sky, gorgeous trees and an eclectic collection of kitschy houses that gave me a new appreciation for suburbia.

The boulder finally splashed down in the middle of my well of self-criticism. My doubts, fears, missed opportunities and stupid decisions are all in a 6″x2″ box. And as I move forward, I have to stop if I want to look back.

Stopping to look back on the past is important, but it’s not nearly as important as my keeping my eyes on the road in front of me, celebrating the blue sky and everything that lay ahead.

That’s worth building thoughts around.



Published by Christine Wilcox Anderson

Writer, former corporate communications exec, and perpetual student of life on this rock.

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