I came to the roundabout to enter the tunnel freeway under the Oslo Fjord, only to be met with a lowered rail and blinking red lights. I swung around and took the next exit. After some GPS recalculating I descended the eastern side of the Fjord and entered a new roundabout to the tunnel freeway only to be met with another lowered rail and blinking red lights. I joined a long line of traffic filing away from the tunnel. Their brake lights blinked menacingly at me in the dark. Panic set in. Apparently the tunnel was closed for the night and my GPS didn’t know about it.
My husband answered his phone with a sleep-tinged voice. He gave me a new address that he was sure would take me to the northern tunnel under the Fjord and hung up. I frantically tried to prompt my phone to send me to the route – Yes! – A right turn out of traffic! I took it. And then as I made several more turns my heart sank, it was taking me right back to the same roundabout that was blocked. I ended up where I had been in traffic, only much further back in line.
By now it was 8:20 pm and I was feeling the pull of my bedtime. I gripped the steering wheel as my mind raced through options. There was no way I would make it to the 8:30 pm meeting. Was it even worth it? Should I just turn around and head home, and crawl into bed in defeat and disappointment? It somehow felt like a familiar dilemma: face an obstacle with an unknown outcome or return to safety and certainty. Safety was my usual choice. I swayed between the options.
Between braking I attempted to find another GPS route to the northern tunnel. Success! I pressed on the route, seeing it would take me through a myriad of streets and turns for another 25 minutes. I took a breath and pressed, “Go!”
Within ten minutes I had left the line of traffic and was winding my way through tall buildings downtown. In the darkness I searched the crosswalks for pedestrians and double-checked for bikers as I eased through the populated city streets, trying to keep track of roundabout exits, speed bumps and red lights. I had never driven such a complicated route in the dark.
The dilemma continued to weigh on me. Would I ever make it to the tunnel? Would I even make the meeting? Was this just a big misadventure that I would lose sleep over? Should I turn around?
Somehow in all the doubts crowding my mind I saw a vision of sorts – I felt a pull to believe that something good awaited me. I pictured it as the first hint of dawn on the horizon. If I kept going I would eventually stand in the full light of the sun and it would be glorious. I felt pulled towards this inner resolve; this belief that something good was beckoning just beyond the horizon and I kept making turn after turn, driving onward into the darkness and the unknown.
Eventually I came to the northern tunnel and crossed the Fjord. In palpable, shaky relief I slid into a parking spot. It was 9 pm. The speaker had just started. That night the vision came true, something good had awaited me. Surmounting the obstacles to get there had absolutely been worth it.
As I told the story of my adventure I knew the implications for my life were big. But I didn’t quite know how to put words around them. Later as I was reading Brené Browns book, The Gifts of Imperfection, I found these words:
“Hope happens when
- We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go).
- We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).
- We believe in ourselves (I can do this!)”
In Browns research she found that hope is learned, it is a conscious choice to persevere through the hard stuff and believe in a good outcome.
And there it was in black and white: I had literally chosen to hope that night. Hope is what I need to know in my bones. Reading a few paragraphs about it may not have made any lasting impression, but driving hope for a night sure did.
My wish for the world, for you my friend, is that you know hope. That it pulls you onward to something better and that just the process of hoping is good enough to keep at it, no matter where life takes you. May we all journey onward in hope.