By Susan Becker, RDC
Driving in Ireland can be daunting . . . More so out in the countryside. Added to the “wrong side” are the “loose chippings.” The back roads can be little more than beds of loose gravel, just slightly more than one lane wide, so actually the wrong side is only about where the driver sits. The hedges or stone walls seem dangerously close. Every so often the oil truck comes through and sprays a fine mist to keep stones from flying off in all directions. From time to time a steamroller lumbers over it to pack the whole thing tight. For a little while, anyway. Nonetheless, cars regularly kick up small particles of roadbed, and an unsuspecting driver or walker can be the recipient of a wayward pebble. The local department of public works’ solution is to post a warning sign every so often: Caution, Loose Chippings.
A while back on a couple of visits, I traveled those roads – driving on the “wrong” side, and every time, the driver of the car in front of me, whose roads these obviously were, randomly threw up a little spray of dirt and a pebble or two onto my windshield. Annoying? Yes, until I grasped the reality of travel on rural Irish roads made of gravel.
For some reason, of all the wondrous sights I saw and awesome experiences I had on my two trips there more than a decade ago, the singular thing that has stayed with and still gives me a chuckle is that little sign tacked onto a tree or just stuck in the dirt at the side of the road, “Caution, Loose Chippings.”
A few years ago, as I was preparing for an adventure of sorts, a friend of mine urged me to “have expectancy,” to let expectancy take the place of expectation. “You’ll be surprised, “she said, “at what will appear when you’re not expecting something else.”
The memories of both the adventure and the advice have stuck. True, there are some things in life I have a right to expect. Often, though, I confuse expectation with wishful thinking, or an exaggerated sense of my own abilities, or simply hope. When this happens, as it does all too often, I spend unnecessary energy being annoyed at interruptions, inconveniences, and the unanticipated, when I could be applying the “loose chippings” principle: some variation of “Well, isn’t that interesting! I wonder what it’s about?”
Expectancy is about being curious at what emerges, rather than about deciding what should emerge and just how things should go. If I am free to be curious rather than annoyed (or self-satisfied), my day feels a little lighter. I can wonder what gift this unexpected moment has for me. And any day is full of possibilities . . . all those loose chippings that come in from left field to short circuit my neatly planned – and tightly packed-- day. The lesson learned over and over is that the loose chippings are part of it all; otherwise they wouldn’t have made the signs.
And what of my “inner chippings”? (Apologies to you therapists.) I have them; I imagine we all do. I am capable of ridiculous reactions to the most benign prompts. My personal loose chippings are usually the words, the actions that I don’t like to think of as still part of me (any more, at my age). The bad news is they still seem to somehow get tossed out every so often. The good news is I might learn a little humility and get to provide someone else an opportunity to practice the LC Principle. Expectations pressure me to measure myself against some imagined standard.
Expectancy takes the judgment out of it and allows me to hold lightly what I still need to learn. No matter how tightly packed I may think I am, a loose chipping alert is never a bad thing.
So the next time you’re in Ireland, or on any one of the gravel or dirt roads that show up almost anywhere, or just checking off your “to do” list, be aware of the inevitability of loose chippings. Take a deep breath, plan to be surprised and curious, and have a chuckle at your own expense.