For a long time I did not have a need to drive in the UK. Back in Poland, our family home was situated next to a railway line and so the thought of travelling by train was as natural to me as eating bread for breakfast. I’m never shy of taking a bus either. I like collective travel and am always fond of meeting people at bus stops, on trains and trams and striking up a conversation with them. In fact, travelling by public transport has given me some beautiful memories and associations. My wonderful friendships have been made stronger when sitting at a table in a cross-country train.
With our son growing up, however, I feel that I would like to be able to go to places with him which are not so well connected by public transport. My desire was always to bring him up in a way that allows him to connect with people of different walks of life, to see how differently people work and live (I wrote about it here). I wish this for myself too, of course. I like to learn about people, learn about their lives, lifestyles, values and customs (like I did here and here). I think what I really like seeing is their sense of pride, of who they are and what they do. I like when people value themselves. Both their work and their toils. There are many great, bitter-sweet stories that could be written out of our daily experiences. Noticing the stories to tell is perhaps the first step on our road to self-worth and life-appreciation.
So in order to tell a few more stories on this blog and to meet more people, I have summoned my courage to drive a bit more, to drive beyond my very small driving-comfort zone. I paid for a few refresher classes and asked my driving instructor if we could go to places that he knows well around my area – I love that very much when people show me what they find important and fascinating. It is then that I stretch myself most when I go to places that I might not normally go to. (Perhaps that is why I love to read blogs, because I feel that blogs take me where I would probably never gone on my own :))
One of my dreams as a mum is to be able to show my son that he has options. That there are mainstream and not-so-mainstream things that he can do in life. I want him to see that there are many different things worth doing and to develop a good sense of respect towards the value of human endeavor. Very often, in Zadie Smith’s words, we “mask self-doubt with contempt” – we scorn the skills that we would like to possess or mock decisions that other people make. It’s this less graceful part of our human condition. It’s also the part that is actually very often responsible for our fall, or for the fact that we never develop the potential that’s in us. When we criticize what people do, what they have, how they behave, we always send a message to ourselves that we do not want to become like them; but actually there is also another side to this story. Too often we criticise because actually we would like to be like them. I am a firm believer that appreciation of another human being and respect towards who they are and what they do make us notice quicker what’s alive in us.
My driving instructor loves fishing so he took me to places where he would normally fish. Around those fishing spots you can often find some amazing English pubs that anglers can visit after a decent catch. I was telling my husband a lot about my driving instructor’s tales. My three-year-old son was eavesdropping. Next morning he climbed on to our bedside cabinet, took my belt and said: ‘Mama, look, I’m fishing.’
Appreciation of the stories of others alerts us to what’s alive in us.
For a long time I was using public transport because, of course I feared driving, but also because I enjoyed the companionship that comes with journeying with others. The camaraderie was my reward. Since I no longer do those commutes I miss that daily dosage of human stories. Maybe driving will become the habit which will earn me my reward (new places, new stories). What are the habits that you would like to develop? What are the stories that you pay a particular attention to these days? Are they making you more alive?