This is the story of my trip into the city last week:

Here is what happened as I drove 50 miles per hour on a Los Angeles freeway, with cars whizzing by at 70 mph.

Some of the drivers glared at me as they passed. Occasionally, someone honked. Now and then a driver pulled within a few feet of the back of my car, perhaps to inform me that I was on a freeway and needed to be going faster.

I knew I was on a freeway. And I knew that I “should” be driving faster. But I had driven over a screw which caused all the the air to leak out of my rear tire, and spare tires can’t be driven faster than 50 miles mph, so I was driving carefully on the only road that would get me to Costco’s tire repair.

Of course, the other drivers had no way of knowing that. They just saw somebody driving slowly for no apparent reason.

At first it felt strange and a bit scary to not go with the flow of traffic. But I’ve had a blowout on a freeway before (I was 8 months pregnant at the time) and didn’t want to repeat it, so I made my peace with going slowly.

So I put my hazard lights on, took some slow, calming breaths, and accepted that even if people honked or gave me “The Look,” I would be okay as long as I arrived safely at my destination.

As it happened, I was on my way into the city to spend time with a precious family member who is in hospice care. The day before, another loved one had been admitted to the hospital with something serious but as yet undiagnosed. My heart was hurting and I felt wobbly on the inside…and slow. My car and I were in synch.

My friend Robyn Posin wrote a beautiful book called, Go Only as Fast as Your Slowest Part Feels Safe to Go. The title alone makes me relax. When I call and get her answering machine, her outgoing message says: “Hi, this is Robyn. I’m not here right now but….remember, go only as fast as your slowest part feels safe to go.”

Sometimes I call Robyn just to hear that tender message. (If she answers, I politely ask her to hang up so I can call again and hear the recording.)

On that day, on that freeway, I was going as fast as my slowest part could go. My car and my heart were attuned. I felt quiet and sad. So we went slowly, and I was okay with it, even if no one else understood.

I got to thinking about how many people around us are driving on their spare tires, figuratively speaking. Often, someone’s pain isn’t detectable, so we may “lean on the horn” to try to get them to speed up; we criticize or judge them for not keeping pace.

But what if we went through life assuming that people are “driving” as fast as they can on the “tires” they have?

And what if we honored ourselves when we couldn’t keep up with the pace of those around us?

These are the things I was thinking as I puttered along on the freeway. Maybe we can remember that we don’t know what difficulties those around us are facing. Maybe we can show more mercy and less judgment: to others, and to ourselves.

The goal of any journey is to arrive safely. Thankfully, I made it to Costco, got my tire repaired, and was able to spend a precious day with my loved one.

I hope that on your difficult days, you can accept that your pace might not match those around you. And I hope that you find your way to offering the same kindness to those sharing your road.

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