Episode 055: Stay in Your Own Car

Episode 055: Stay in Your Own Car

A simple (but not always easy) way to avoid drama in our lives.

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Hi, there, and welcome. You are listening to the Happiness Hacks Podcast, formally Stories from a Quest to Live Happier. It’s the same format, just a different name. I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a licensed professional counselor, and in this podcast, I share my stories, lessons, and hacks I’ve learned, and I continue to learn on my quest to live happier. This is episode 54, called Stay In Your Own Car.

Hey, everyone. Excited to be here today to talk about one of my favorite analogies and one of my favorite like, life-changing topics, and that is the reminder to stay in your own car. A lot of times I hear the phrase, “Stay in your own lane,” which means when you’re driving like, keep your eye on the road and stay in your lane. Don’t be swerving into other people’s lanes, but I like the analogy of Stay In Your Own Car because it takes it one step forward.

Stay in your own car means, stay in your own car, in your own lane. We tend to, when we get overwhelmed in our own cars, we then want to get into other people’s cars and tell them how they should live their lives. So instead of dealing with what’s happening in our car, the kids that might be screaming, the radio that might be too loud and the phone that might be ringing, we decide we’re going to flop cars.  Hop in the passenger’s seat of the car next door and eventually start driving it because we think we know better. Or we think we can fix them or we think we can help or whatever positive reason in our brains telling us to do that.

It is never helpful to join someone else’s car without being invited, and the main reason we find ourselves doing this is because we can’t handle what’s happening in our own car, and so we like to jump over and help someone else in their car. We get bored in our car, or we get overwhelmed in our car, and so we want to jump over and help someone else. This can show up in a variety of ways. This could be you are the kindest person in the world and, you’re watching your girlfriend who is struggling in a relationship.  Maybe you have gone through a similar struggle, or you might have dated a guy that you struggled with, and so you want to help her. You want to give her advice and tell her how to drive her car, and at times even take over driving for her.

The bottom line is, she needs to learn the lesson that she needs to learn, and that lesson may take her car careening 80 miles an hour down a curvy road. It may take her close to the brink. It may be scary to watch her drive in that car, but that is her lesson to learn. Now, if you are invited into her car and she asks you, “What do I do? How do I get around this?” then you can calmly sit next to her and support her as she’s driving 80 miles an hour down the road, freaking out. Your job is to simply ride next to her and support her.

Your job is not to take over driving for her. We come at it with these really kind intentions of, “I want to help someone not have to go through all of the stuff that I’ve gone through, and I know better, and so I can save them from heartache by jumping in their car and starting to drive their car.” When in reality, I believe we all have lessons we need to learn in our own time. Sometimes you might have learned the lesson of the guy that cheats on you one time. You might have had a guy cheat on you once, and you got the lesson. Your friend may need that lesson five times, and you don’t know how many times she needs that lesson, and it’s not up to you to protect her from the lesson. It’s up to her to protect herself from the lesson. That’s one of the ways it shows up. We’re just really kind.

Another way it shows up is when we get super stressed, and we’re overwhelmed in our own lives, and we’re feeling really out of control in our own cars. We will start to look around for other cars that we can control because our car is a lost cause. We are out of control. We seem overwhelmed. There’s just nothing we can do, so let’s look around to find other cars that we can solve their problems and make ourselves feel better about life. You have to know what I mean here. I mean, we’re all guilty of this. We think we can fix it. We do it with our kids. We do it with our spouses. We come up with these great solutions to all their problems. Meanwhile, our car is careening down the road at 80 miles an hour, and everyone is screaming, but we’re over in the next car telling them what they need to do and how they could live their lives better.

That’s a great time for us to realize, “Whoa. Whose car am I driving here and why have I exited my vehicle? I need to get back into my own car.” I use this analogy all the time when I’m worrying about my husband, and I’m concerned about something that he’s going to be doing. I need to remind myself, “Stay in your own car.”, “Just do you” is another one of my favorite phrases around that. Just do you. He is responsible for himself, and if something happens, he can handle it. He is a grown up. You know, just do you. Paying attention to how often you get out of your car and get into someone else’s car uninvited, A, but also get into their car and start driving, start taking over, that you know better, and that can get us in trouble.

When we’re at work, and we think we can teach someone how to do their job better. Or we start monitoring other people that we work with, we monitor the hours they work or how long it takes for them to do a project, and we get stuck in this comparison thing. That’s getting out of our own car because then we’re comparing our cars to other people’s cars rather than staying in our own car and just seeing what our own car has to offer. It does not matter what the other cars are doing. It’s what your car is doing. That’s the important part of life. You need to stay in your own car and take care of it, and everyone else needs to stay in their own car and take care of it.  And then if we need to get in other people’s cars when invited, we can do so in a calm, gentle way, riding next to them and support them in their journey, wherever that may take them. I love this analogy because it provides a clear way of thinking about the idea of staying in your car.

Another place that shows up a lot is in families. When your mom is having an issue with your brother, and so she calls you to talk to you about your brother.  And then you call your brother and say, “Hey, mom is having an issue,” and there’s this whole big triangulation.  A telephone game that happens rather than staying in your own car. When your mom calls you to complain about your brother, for you to say to your mom, “You know what, mom? That’s between you and my brother. That doesn’t have anything to do with me, so you need to contact him. You need to talk to him. It’s your two cars that are having the issue.” But what happens other times is we get that phone call from our mom, and we immediately jump into our brother’s car and start driving for him and hijacking his car to head over to mom’s when he’s like, “I got my own stuff going on. That’s my relationship with mom. I don’t need you to take over this,” so pay attention.

Get curious how often you feel the need in the spirit of helping and taking care of and being kind, how often you feel the need to get into other people’s business and teach them your better way. Sometimes your way isn’t necessarily better. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes we need to give other people the journey of figuring it out. Your mom, in that scenario, needs to learn how to talk to your brother so for the rest of your life you’re not triangulating that whole mess. She needs to learn how to talk to him so that she can call him and have a conversation without you.

We think we’re helpful, but we’re stunting the people in our lives and not giving them their own journey. We’re not allowing them to grow and change and become stronger people. This week, I want you to pay attention to how often you get out of your car and hop into someone else’s.  And how hard it is for you to stay in our own car and how amazingly freeing it is to have the realization of, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have to solve this problem. I just have to stay in my own car. I just have to stay here.” It’s freeing not to have to take on all of the problems of the world, to not have to be curing everybody, to just take care of yourself.

Weekly Ritual Segment:

One thing that has really helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it

Place your Hands Over Your Heart

Hand over your heart

When you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed and ready to scream, take a breath and place your hands over your heart. The warmth of your hands naturally calms you down. You can do this when you are feeling stressed or randomly throughout the day.

Check out my Instagram where I share my daily check in with the weekly ritual practice. It is a helpful way for both of us to stay accountable to the practice.

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