Every now and then I rent a car to leave the city. The first few minutes behind the wheel are always a little foggy, as things that were once automatic and habitual need to be remembered one by one. Check the fuel gauge. Scoot the seat forward. Adjust the side mirrors so the blind spots are covered.
Here’s the deal about blind spots: we all have them. But not all of us like to admit to having them. Yes, yes, of course, someone will say, in the same tone of voice they use to say, *Nobody’s* perfect. But there’s a difference between admitting to them as an abstract concept and really owning them in all their specificity and fragility and taking active measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the places where we are careening in the dark.
Enlisting the help of trusted friends to be side mirrors is probably the primary trait that separates safe people from unsafe people in my world. Being a safe person isn’t about being good or perfect or exquisitely evolved so much as it is about being aware and being responsible for the things that are not easy to see, as well as for the things that are.
My side mirror friends are the first ones to tell me:
when I’m worrying too much about what other people think or feel
when I’m working too hard
when I need to rest
when I’m holding the gun to my own head
when I mistake the thing we’re making for the important part, instead of who our souls are becoming
when I lose perspective
when there’s too much spinning and not enough idling.
(Can you guess where some of my blind spots are?)
It’s their feedback and accountability that keeps me in my own lane, at a sane speed and from veering off track.
So how do you enlist side mirror friends of your own?
Step One: Learn your blindspots.
If you listen, people are trying to tell you. It’s difficult to hear–especially when we think (as we so often do) that we must be without weaknesses or insufficiencies in order to be worthy of love and belonging. When that belief is running the show, we dismiss, discredit or turn a deaf ear to what people are saying. We need to try on the possibility that we can be loved, just as we are and just as we are not, in order to hear what the people around us are trying to say.
Step Two: Spread the word.
This seems counterintuitive in a culture where we’re taught to hide our blemishes and flaws, but the whole point of blind spots is that they are out of our own field of view and we need help watching them. I’m not advocating a tell-everyone-in-the-world approach, but we do well to start with our most trusted circle, those who can be kind and loving even while delivering potentially bad news.
Step Three: Listen and adjust.
When it takes courage on the part of others to speak up about something we’re missing, it’s important to acknowledge that and express gratitude. When we’ve given people permission to speak into our lives in this way, we need to stop and really listen whenever they have something to say. When our side mirrors warn us, we take a closer look and check our perspective. Then we adjust whatever is amiss to avoid harming ourselves or others.
Listening to trusted words of warning and adjusting accordingly helps us develop new ways of being in the world that expand beyond our own limited awareness and are guided by the awareness of a community. We become more trusted, more whole and more effective than before.
I can’t imagine who I would be without the dear ones who advise and guide me every day, who help me see all that I would miss without them. My hope is that we would all be able to give this gift to and receive it from one another. That we would all be safe drivers on this road.