By Joy Birnbach Dunstan, MA, LPC, MAC
The Four Agreements Go to Guadalajara
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Note: Joy has a new phone number 766 4265 for receiving
comments about this or other psychological issues. Email remains the