I drove up the lane yesterday morning, took a left turn, and found myself on the right side of the road. Or wrong side of the road if you’re driving here in Cornwall. I’ve been thinking about what happened, and I decided that the problem is that I’ve been driving on the wrong side of my brain.
One of the first things we did upon our arrival in England was buy a car. We finally settled on an automatic, a 2002 Ford Galaxy mini-van with automatic transmission to be precise. This was a little surprising, partly because I enjoy driving a manual, and partly because automatics aren’t all that common here.
We’d driven a bunch of cars, all manuals, and then I drove an automatic. Immediately I had the feeling that part of my brain had been freed up, that I was no longer using all of my brain cycles to drive. It was a most freeing feeling. I realized that I hadn’t really been able to look at the scenery, or hold a proper conversation while driving any of the manual transmission cars. I’m sure there’s a physical explanation for the feeling, which has to do with having to use my left hand for shifting, as opposed to using my right hand which had become so second nature that I no longer had to think about it.
But driving on the wrong side of the road has benefits as well as drawbacks. Because it’s new and different, you have to concentrate more, and as a result you see things that you might not see otherwise.
The same is true for our lives here. The rythym of our lives here is so different from our old lives that we have been concentrating more, thinking more carefully about what we are doing, and what we want to do next. One simple example is that we have been trying to go somewhere new every morning, a cheese factory, a farm, a beach; that’s something we never used to do in our old life.
But already I can sense that we are becoming used to being here. We know where the shops are. We don’t have to ask as many questions to get things done. And we don’t laugh at the road signs as much as we did when we first arrived. I know it will require vigilance to keep the newness alive. And all I can hope is that even though we have switched sides of the road we will not also switch sides of our brains. That we will instead find a way to keep both sides of our brains open at the same time.
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