Merging

I was driving from my home in Arden, NC to our twice-yearly writers retreat–which now takes place on Norris Lake in Tennessee. I wound around the mountains, a light snow blowing about–the kind that just whirls on the road without sticking. As the cars ahead of me slowed, I glanced at my Waze app and learned I was about to spend 30 minutes in a traffic jam, but I was so delighted to be heading out of town for a weekend I didn’t much care. I took the opportunity to look out the side windows at the snow falling over the layers of mountains.

A few minutes later I saw a road sign. “Merge point ahead. Use both lanes until merge point.” Finally! There is was! In blinking lights! What I’d been preaching to friends for years: when it says we’re going to merge soon, why do people immediately all go to one lane, leaving the second lane completely open? Until we need to merge, I’m using both lanes. And so should you! Yes, I’m that car. I don’t fly down that empty lane. I slowly cruise. Staring straight ahead as if I have blinders on. As I see it, no one told me this lane was closed yet, so why back up traffic unnecessarily?

And then I wondered: is this what goes wrong in relationships? Do people merge too early–unnecessarily? My friend Lois once said that my husband Michael and I are such a great pair because we don’t need each other. We enjoy each other, but neither of us are looking for the other to fill some missing need in our lives. As I see it, we use both lanes until the merge point. Michael goes to band practice, choir practice. I have my after school tutoring students, dates with friends. And we use both lanes until it’s time to merge. Like the other day when we went for a walk in the woods behind our house. We talked about upcoming travel plans to visit our respective families. House projects on the horizon. As our feet crunched the dried leaves we made tentative plans for who was going to do what to move forward on those things.

Which brings me back to my drive. Eventually, a sign told us we were merging in 1500 feet. Then another said, “Merge now. Take Turns.” And that’s exactly what we cars did. And it’s what Michael and I do. We take turns during the merged parts of our lives. Turns sharing our thoughts and concerns. Turns answering the clues in the crossword puzzle. We are civil. There is no horn honking. Most of the time.

May you all have a delightful day. Stay in your lane until you need to merge. And when you get to your merge point, please . . . take turns.