Why I Drive

In the apple trees | Somewhere on I-5

I get asked about this (ancient) sweater all the time, and fiiinally found a similar one.

Whenever I make the drive down to L.A. – as I have at least once every two months since we moved to San Jose – I make up excuses to explain why I’m going. This time, for example, my excuses were: 1) I have a couple of meetings scheduled, 2) Francesca and I always have our own little mini-holiday celebration together, and 3) I just took a “special trip” with Goldie, and wanted to give Indy a special trip of his own.

All of these things are true. But the real reason I drove to Los Angeles is the same reason it always is: I wanted to drive.

At one point during the trip, there was an hour when Indy fell asleep and I turned on NPR, which happened to be featuring a series of TED talks on the topic of compassion. Journalist Krista Tippet (whose TED talk you can listen to here) was a guest on the show, and she talked about how compassion often amounts to nothing more complex than listening. Showing up, being present, and letting the person you’re talking to know that you hear them.

I do not hear my children nearly enough. Sometimes night will fall, and I’ll realize that I spent the entire day telling them what not to do, thinking ahead to the next thing we needed to do before the thing we were doing was even over. Ping-ponging between my phone and my computer and whatever needed to be cleaned up and put away. I’ll be on a conference call while simultaneously stacking dishes and scooting Lucy into the backyard, and my son will have to ask for orange juice three times before the words actually hit my brain.

I am not okay with the idea that my son might feel like his mother doesn’t hear him when all he wants is a glass of juice.

And yet in the weeks since the election I’ve been even worse, because the amount of headspace I typically reserve for living my life has been consumed by whatever brand-new catastrophe comes with the dawn of each new day. My insomnia hasn’t returned to what it was, but I can feel it nibbling at the edges of my brain, shaking me awake at 3AM to send me hunting for updates on my news app, and reminding me that I better not get too comfortable with this whole “sleeping through the night thing.”

A couple of days ago I saw my therapist for the first time in a few weeks, and she started our session by saying, “So how’ve you been?”

And do you know what I did? I paused for a moment, thought about it, and then burst into tears and cried out, “THE WORLD IS BROKEN.” (I really did do this, and was absolutely as dramatic as it sounds like I was. In my defense, I later asked my therapist how many of her other patients have been experiencing insane post-election anxiety and depression, and she said “All of them.”)

So that’s why I’m here in Los Angeles, sleeping on my best friend’s couch for a couple of days while my son sleeps on the floor next to me in his Taun Taun sleeping bag: I needed a break. I needed to put my hands on a wheel and spend five hours focused on nothing more complicated than a road. I needed to not have the option to check my email, or Facebook, or Instagram; to have thinking or talking to my son be the only things I could do. And speaking of talking to my son: I needed to talk to him about how cows make milk, and which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle has the purple sword and which one has the orange sword. Mostly I needed to just sit there and listen to what he had to say without that tiny, constant voice in the back of my brain reminding me of all those things I really need to be doing instead.

That voice is always there. But something about driving helps me to tell it to shut up for a hot minute.

While Indy slept, I listened to the entire NPR broadcast on compassion, and while I listened I thought about the fact that I don’t hear my children (or my husband, or my friends, or my family) nearly enough. I also realized that included in the category of People Who I Don’t Hear is – yes, of course – myself. And then I thought about the fact that that, right there, is why I drive. So I can turn down the volume on everything else and hear my own head.

When the show was over, I turned off the radio and drove in silence, and the quiet and the road reminded me of being a little girl in the backseat of my parents’ car, driving home from a party or a weekend trip, with nothing to do except look out the window and see what was there. Night fell around the time I hit the Grapevine on I-5, and so I just focused on the road, piloting our car through the winding dark. And what I found out right then was so simple: All I want is to be bored and peaceful for a moment, nothing more to do than watch the white lines on the highway shoot back into the places I’ve left behind.

driving down 1-5 from san jose to los angeles  driving down 1-5 from san jose to los angelesdriving down 1-5 from san jose to los angeles


  • kristinbooker

    And to steal a moment from your beautiful writing, this — THIS — is why we read your site with relentless fervor. Thank you for this moment of sanity. Thank you.

    • jordanreid

      <3 <3 <3 <3

  • Break from a perpetual break

    This is why I drive: #can’tcopewithbasiclife #runningaway #thankgodIhaveanannytodumpmytwoyearoldon #needabreakeventhoughIjusthadabreak

    • Hope Varnedoe

      karma’s gonna getcha

    • kim

      You forgot a few more: #whiteprivilege #mustbenicehavemoneyfortherapist #justkillyourselfalready

  • Beca

    Hey Jordan,

    first off, love your entries. Honestly, above all the superb artsy ideas and fashion advice, this is probably the biggest reason why I keep coming back to this blog time and time again. Because I relate to you, a lot. I am a 35 mom to an almost 2 year old daughter, living in California, consider myself fairly intelligent, and alas also deal with anxiety ( with at times the insomniac side effects-ugh). I actually think there are a lot of us out here.

    Anyways I just felt compelled to share a couple things with you if I may,,
    1.) Meditation – has been amazing for me. I’ve downloaded the headspace app and try to get in at least 10-15 mins every night. It’s definitely a practice, the more you do it the better you are at it. And when i’ve got a good groove going, thoughts that would usually annoy me, or send me on a negative thinking tangent – I can let them pass and not effect me. That is kind of what I am realizing the meditation has really helped me to do. Also HUGE bonus – it helps me get to sleep when I’m wound up.
    2.) Intentional Mantras – I’ve realized especially now as a mom, these tapes of negative self talk play in my head, about how I am not doing this right or how I am failing at that, or how I am not doing enough for my daughter, etc. I may not be able to stop those thoughts entirely, but you are damn well right I am going to actively tell myself that I AM doing a good job, that I AM everything my daughter needs, that I AM doing a LOT of things right. It may sound crazy, but kind of talking to myself in that way makes a difference. And there are a couple of affirmations I want share with you: ” I have everything I need right now to be happy”. Just repeating it over and over again makes it feel more accurate. And on shit days when I just can’t catch a break I tell myself ” If all I do today is hug my daughter for 2 minutes, than I have done more than enough”. And its true!

    Lastly, I just wanted to say wow, this post election anxiety is unbelievable. Who knew it would affect so many people, myself included. Annnndd.. just wanted to let you know as an outsider reading your post, I think you are ALREADY listening to your children. Look at you! Taking each of your children on a 1-on-1 mommy and me trip,, sounds like you are already listening to you internal intuitions and those of your children. Just wanted to say it, you are doing a great job mama!

    One love!-beca

    • jordanreid

      This means so much to me, Beca. Thank you. Re: meditation, I was actually doing a fairly serious practice for a few months – meeting with an online coach and everything – and then it fell off for precisely the reason it shouldn’t have: because I was so stressed out and exhausted that every time I tried to meditate I either couldn’t sit still…or fell instantly asleep. I need to get back to that ASAP. Thank you for the reminder. And for the suggestion re: affirmations, as well.

      One love <3

  • Hope Varnedoe

    this was so beautifully written jordan and really touched me. “compassion often amounts to nothing more complex than listening. Showing up, being present, and letting the person you’re talking to know that you hear them.” i don’t listen to my teen daughter nearly enough (i.e. putting away all the distractions and just really focus on her) and then i wonder why she doesn’t want to talk to me. this really made me think. thank you for that. ((also the post election anxiety is REAL and sometimes it feels crippling, it’s not just you))

  • Cheryl

    This was so good, I read this twice. Seriously.

    • jordanreid

      Cheryl, thank you. <3