My morning commute an exercise in gratitude and mindfulness.
by Gabrielle Martin
After a long summer spent working from home settled before a screen, I’ve developed an enormous appreciation for my morning commute.
Something I’ve discovered from this development of gratitude is that we all-too-often go through the day-to-day on autopilot, but there’s so much to be found in opening your eyes and taking a good look around! Mind you, most of this mindfulness stemmed from my keeping an eye out for deer—moose, too. My morning drive winds through the mountains of Western Maine, running parallel to the Carrabasset River. It’s a beautiful and brisk winter wonderland, though when I’m making the journey, you wouldn’t know any of that is there: at the bright-and-early hour of 5:00am, everything is obscured in absolute darkness.
At first, the 20-minute commute to work was nothing short of treacherous: it was a topsy-turvy death trap with a 50 mile-per-hour speed limit, something akin to Mad Max’s Fury Road—if Mad Max lived in the shadow of the Bigelows. But slowly, surely, I gained a genuine appreciation to my morning drives into work. It helped that Taylor Swift consecutively released two albums with transcendentalist vibes, perfect for the wild winter wilderness, that transforms the ride into an immersive experience. It also helped that I was gifted snow tires for Christmas, so my Prius and I can shoot forward fearlessly into the early Maine morning.
I’m a snow reporter at a ski resort, and the role has made me become more mindful of the weather, of the winds. I look up a lot more, to see what the skies are looking like, to observe the clouds. Sometimes on the way to work, I’ll pull over to a scenic viewing spot roadside, turn out the headlights, and look up at the stars.
I think sometimes we appreciate things once we have lost them, once we have missed them; for example, when I was living in Athens what feels like a lifetime ago, you could nearly never see the stars with all the light pollution—that’s not to say Athens didn’t offer an assortment of other amazing things, but sometimes it takes absence for you to appreciate something. Not that I need to tell you that: I believe we’ve all learned this lesson since the pandemic came to be. Like going to work. Like seeing the stars.
I also probably don’t need to tell you that there’s a magic in appreciation-in-advance. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this, but I truly think gratitude is one simple way to combat anxiety. It’s a way I’ve been coping living through these unprecedented historic times, to combat the hopelessness of graduating college in a global pandemic (yeah, yikes). For me, gratitude has replaced these things with inspiration, with focus. It’s reinvigorated me from a point of burnout, which I also think (unfortunately) is probably pretty relatable these days.
Being thankful for what you have is empowering. Just because they’re “little things” doesn’t mean they’re inconsequential! So many of my gratitudes may seem unimportant: “Thank you for this day, for the weather, for my eyes being able to see the snow on the trees from this faraway. Thank you for the moonlight guiding my drive, for my favorite song on this playlist, for my friend from college texting me yesterday to check-in. I’m grateful I remembered a mask, and a back-up mask, and a back-up back-up. I’m grateful I brought a lunch I’m excited to eat. I’m grateful to go into work today, and I’m grateful to be excited about what’s in store. I'm happy to be alive and to be here.”
Gratitudes are my way of manifesting good things, by appreciating the positive aspects and elements of your life presently. And sometimes, when it feels like there’s nothing good to say, I’m able to be grateful that I can acknowledge I feel that way. What I’m saying is—in a very round-about way, like my morning route along the river—is slow down.
I’m about to unleash a long string of cliches, but I mean them: enjoy the ride. Make the most of the little moments. Don’t cruise through your day-to-day on autopilot anymore, even when you find it difficult to do so. Even if your morning ride isn’t like mine—maybe you’re nowhere near the mountains, and you’re not scanning the roads because you’re not on moose alert. It doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of this time by practicing a little mindfulness, which is all-encompassing of appreciating your surroundings, of giving gratitude, even encompassing playing music you love. If Swift isn’t your singer of choice, play some Beach Boys or Bowie. Take this time to immerse yourself in positivity and carry it with you throughout the day.
Crack a window, let a little air in; take a deep breath.