Losing Traction

This winter, most side streets in southeast Michigan have been covered with snow and ice. My car has a device that emits a gentle buzz to warn me when I lose traction; it has sounded many times during the past couple of months.

When it buzzes, I know to take my foot off the gas pedal, to ease up until I regain traction.

I sometimes think it would be wonderful to have an external buzzer when I am losing traction in other parts of my life, when I need to back off a bit.

A friend once told me the phrase “ready, shoot, aim” was an apt description of me. I have always been a very determined person (some might say stubborn, proud) and a risk-taker.

When I was a teenager, I wanted my driver’s license the minute I was eligible. On my 16th birthday, we had an ice storm and the roads were slick. Looking back, I am surprised driving tests were not cancelled, but they weren’t, and I took my test. I remember approaching one particular corner which was covered in ice. Fear gripped me. A lost-traction signal in my car would have been blaring, but they did not yet exist. An internal siren sounded though—what a dumb idea it was to take my driving test on icy roads.

But it was too late to do anything about it. Somehow I managed to navigate that icy corner and complete the turn. I think the examiner gave me my license out of gratitude that I had not crashed and killed him. But we survived and I went onto other adventures.

In addition to being a determined teen, I was also a bit sassy (“mouthy” was a word I heard more than once). A year and half after I got my license, after an argument with my father, I stormed out of the house and headed for Virginia—the state. My boyfriend was there and I decided I would drive from Detroit to see him.

Without a map and only a vague idea of where Virginia was, I headed south, figuring road signs would direct me. “Loss of traction” does not even begin to describe the foolishness of that venture. Whatever warning sirens went off inside my head were overruled by my pride. I made it safely to Virginia and back—a sure sign that angels watch over me.

When parents of teens angst over their incorrigible offspring, I sometimes share some of my teenage misadventures and conclude, “I turned out ok.” I tell them that losing traction and righting myself time and again built character.

But, frankly, there have been times when an air horn blaring at me, telling me that I was losing traction, would have been very helpful.






6 thoughts on “Losing Traction

  1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    I seem to recall telling you the story of my trip to Virginia; hopefully your daughter has settled a bit.
    It is a funny thing to look at me now and to ponder the road that brought me here.

  2. Sister Anne Marie Lom

    I, too, have had the “losing traction” signal a lot this winter. I am happy that you saw beneath it to a greater significance. I will think of you when the light goes on. (We have lights instead of buzzers or horns).

  3. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    Paul Simon’s song, “Slip sliding away” comes to mind (“slip sliding away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away….”) It is so easy to believe we are doing the best/right thing when actually we are on ice. Regular, good spiritual direction is key (it seems to me)–and lots of prayer.


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