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Posted Sep 07 2008 8:34pm

I just got a global positioning system (GPS) for my car. In preparation for using it on long, unknown trips, I put it to the test and had it navigate while we ran errands. Things I learned from the GPS (nick-named Gina) apply to recovery, creativity, and many other tasks in our complicated lives.

Gina sometimes gets insistent when I don’t follow her directions, but she doesn’t yell and she helps me recoup and find a new way home. Often we have to find our own way to do things. We might know something that others don’t. Gina didn’t seem to know about a new road that I was heading down. She assumed I was on the highway next to it. “U-turn,” she advised, but I didn’t. At the first traffic light, she recalculated and caught up with my position. Once again, we worked together. Others can give advice, but sometimes you know what’s best. Sometimes you have additional knowledge.

Gina has taken me on roads that I had never been on before. When my doubting family complained that surely there was a shorter way, we discovered new sights and beautiful scenic views. Sometimes, you have to go beyond your comfort zone to discover something new and exciting.

We also discovered the hilarious fun of laughing together as we all questioned and guessed at Gina’s next set of directions. Sometimes simple things can provide enjoyment, bonding, and fun.

When I take a wrong turn or discover a roadblock, Gina always has advice about how to turn things around. She’s always willing to recalculate. Sometimes we have to recalculate in life when a situation or recovery doesn’t go exactly according to plan.

There are moments when Gina loses track of her satellites. This is a tad unnerving, especially when I’m looking for a new place, with not a clear idea of where to go. I have headed in the right direction, hoping that Gina will find her connection before we get too far along. And, usually, she jumps back in before I can go too far astray. Sometimes with recovery, one needs to head in what feels like the right direction with blind faith that signposts and instructions will appear to guide you. And so I have motored along, waiting for Gina to reconnect, enjoying the scenery and the cackles of laughter coming from the back seat, and suddenly she’ll spring to life and let me know that at the next exit I need to turn right.

o Journal about your direction in life. Maybe others are telling you what you want to do, where you want your life to head, but if it doesn’t feel right for you. You have to bring your beliefs and ideas to the equation. Write about what you enjoy and about your dreams. Try to discover the direction you want your life to head. Gina can’t give me directions, if she doesn’t know where I’m going. I can’t program in my destination, if I don’t know where I want to go. Write about where you’d like to head. Repeat this exercise at different times because your goals might change.

o Be open to new opportunities and change. Yes, they are scary, but they can be fun—it depends on how you look at it. If you’re worried about something or something new is coming up, journal about your fears, but also about the good things related to the change. Excitement and fear have similar physical effects. If you’re feeling nervous, write about those fears. But in your journaling see if you can find some element of excitement lurking underneath.

o Journal some joy into your life. Is there anything that made you laugh today? A funny scene, thought, joke? Write it down. Laughter can raise your spirits and improve your physical health.

o Hitting a roadblock? Journal about that—what are your thoughts, fears, ideas? Brainstorming on paper can lead to new ways at looking at thing. Your mind, like Gina, will help you find a new road, plot a new course, send you back in the right direction.

So go and Write On!

Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.

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