Good Self Awareness, Bad Spatial Awareness
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
"I have an announcement to make," I told my husband and kids at dinner last week. "I am not a good driver."
They look back at me with as much surprise as if I just told them that water is wet. I go on.
"So what I'm saying is, I recognize that I have hit a lot of stationary objects over the years. And so, honey, you should not let me drive your car."
My husband, who really deserves some kind of medal for forbearance, takes a deep breath, and says, "I know."
Some background: I have never gotten a speeding ticket. I don't tailgate and I don't cross over the double line in the carpool lane (Here in California, that could cost me at least $400). I have, in fact never gotten into any kind of accident going more than ten miles an hour.
But I have a pretty serious spatial awareness problem. In reverse, I have backed into mailboxes, low brick garden walls, high building walls and other cars. In drive, I hit a car wash ticket kiosk (well, technically I hit the concrete pylon that's in place to make sure you don't hit the kiosk), parked cars, curbs (so many), cars in front of me at the traffic signal that didn't go when the light turned green but I did anyway. I have driven over those concrete curbs at the front of parking spaces designed to keep you from pulling forward (in college, I actually got my Toyota Tercel hatchback stuck on one), and when I was pregnant, I pulled the big plastic piece under the fender of my Volkswagen Jetta off on those concrete curbs. Three times. The third time, I didn't notice and drove home. We still don't know where that piece is.
And last week, on the day of my daughter's graduation from elementary school, I side-swiped another parent's parked car in front of the school while I was pulling into a parking space. It did not increase the joy of that special day for either of us.
So. Time to own up to this. My husband is a very good driver, and he also keeps his car pristine. It still has that new car smell after three years of ownership, and he hand washes it himself. And also, he lets me drive it sometimes though it makes him very, very nervous. I sincerely think it's time for him to stop that.
In the two times I've been to traffic school (stop laughing, okay?) they taught us something interesting: Over 85% of drivers polled in traffic school say they are a better-than-average driver. And they are in traffic school. Do you see what I'm saying? Almost everyone thinks they are better behind the wheel than everyone else. And so most of us are wrong. I, with my poor little white Highlander that has been beaten to heck on every single bumper and fender, certainly am.
This leads me to a deep thought about self-awareness: If we look at our lives and there is evidence in multiple areas that we have an issue, we should admit we have an issue. If you take multiple personality tests that tell you that you are impatient, it's safe to assume you are. If people in multiple walks of life tell you that your temper is a problem, it probably is. If multiple teachers tell you your child has an issue with authority, she probably does. In my little family of four, we will sometimes remind one member of the family who insists that they are not shouting, or not cranky, or not being judgemental that the other three of us are all experiencing them that way, so they should probably consider their behavior.
Being in relationship with people who refuse to admit their issues and want you to proceed as if they don't have them is extremely crazy-making. Which is why my husband is relieved that I have vowed not to drive his car until I can show signs of improvement in my spatial awareness and presence behind the wheel. My friend Gina -- who is very spiritual and very loving -- says I should not claim the identity of "clumsy and distracted" but rebuke that spirit and believe I can improve, which is great advice. But the important first step is acknowledging I have a problem that needs attention. My bumpers are telling me the truth.
Now, for an important qualifier: Not all outside influences who tell you have a problem are correct. In fact, you can be part of a whole family system, church culture or toxic office environment that devalues certain traits -- honesty, freedom, boundary setting, even empathy, and others -- and seeks to make you conform to those they prize more highly. Which is why it's important to pursue authentic relationships with safe people and communities across several different platforms of your life. For help with this, may I suggest some reading? Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend is a great clinical, Christian resource. I'd also love you to check out my book, which is releasing July 9: All My Friends Have Issues: Building Remarkable Relationships with Imperfect People (Like Me). A major focus of the book is recognizing safe friends who can help you develop self-awareness and work on your issues in loving community. Visit www.allmyfriendshaveissuesbook.com to pre-order and receive the introduction, first chapter, and a bonus chapter right away.