Joyful Musings
By Joy Birnbach Dunstan, MA, LPC, MAC
joy@dunstan.org
The Four Agreements Go to Guadalajara

     As I was driving home from Guadalajara today, my mind, as it often does, got to wandering. I found myself considering the Four Agreements I wrote about last month and how they might apply on a very practical level on a day like this. This was no ordinary day in Guadalajara, you see. I’ve been living here nearly five years now, and today was my first solo drive to the Big G. I’d learned to drive in New York City, but the streets of Guadalajara terrify me.
     Psychological doctrines can often sound pretty good in theory. Let’s see how the Four Agreements helped when put to the test on a difficult day.
     Be impeccable with your word. Being that this was a solo trip, you might think this first agreement would be a slam dunk. Despite being alone in my car, I found that I still had plenty to say to the crazed drivers careening around me. But not one sullied word passed my lips as I drove amidst countless drivers who cut me off, turned without signaling, tailgated (because I was driving only 110 kph in a zone posted for 80) and hosts of other offenses. I even held my tongue when a scruffy little dog decided to cross Lazaro Cardenas right in front of my car as I changed lanes.
     Instead of focusing my energy outward and hurling epithets at everyone else, I focused inward. I calmed my nerves and bolstered my courage with positive thoughts and encouraging “attagirl” with every successfully maneuvered glorieta. I felt a rush of bravado as I considered whether I wanted to be “Thelma” or “Louise” as I hit the highway and headed in on this major undertaking. I took those old Johnny Mercer lyrics to heart as I “accentuated the positive, eliminated the negative, and latched on to the affirmative” for a round trip of about 80 miles.
     Don’t take anything personally. Remember all those drivers I just told you about? The ones who cut me off, turned without signaling and tailgated? Let them drive like madmen. Let them risk life and limb. Maybe they’re late for an appointment or had a bad day. They’ve been driving here much longer than me, and they’re used to the kamikaze-style of Guadalajara traffic.
     Those huge, slow-moving semis didn’t specifically get in front of me on the uphill on purpose. None of it was about me. I drove cool, calm and collected and quickly quashed any thoughts they were picking on me because of my South Dakota plates.
     Don’t make assumptions. This one was a little tougher to abide by. Why shouldn’t I assume the guy in front of me with his turn signal blinking is going to turn at any moment? I finally let go of that little assumption after he’d been driving with his signal on for more than five miles. For that matter, I also learned not to assume the guy in front of me was going to continue driving straight ahead just because he didn’t have his blinker on. The only thing I found it prudent to assume after my first full day of Guadalajara driving, is to assume the unexpected can and will happen at any time. When driving in Guadalajara, as in all of life, you need to be flexible and ready to deal with whatever surprises and curve balls come your way.
     Always do your best. Today, I patted myself on the back for doing a darn good job. After five years here, I’m finally conquering my fear of driving in Guadalajara. I turned up the radio, wrapped my white knuckles around the steering wheel and put out my best effort. Sure I could have changed lanes a little smoother if I’d known my exit was coming right around the bend. Next trip I’ll get over sooner. But for a first solo run, I done good. Anyone want to come for a ride on my next trip?
     (Ed. Note: Joy has a new phone number 766 4265 for receiving comments about this or other psychological issues. Email remains the same: joy@dunstan.org.)