When you’re stuck in traffic, you’re immediately grateful for two things: full tank of fuel and empty bladder.

Don’t you just hate it when interstate traffic suddenly stops and you haven’t seen any warning signs that construction is ahead? Then you wonder if there’s been an accident and hope no one has been seriously injured. Then you wonder if people are just being stupid and not paying attention on merging if there’s a lane closure.

Two solid lanes of motorized metal sputter ahead and behind me as far as I can see. I ain’t going nowhere for a while.

During the endless thousands of miles I’ve driven to stroke and brain injury camps, to care for family, and for work and fun, I’ve had to learn extreme patience for what is simply out of my control: traffic delays. I got past the initial frustrations of banging my fist on the steering wheel, because it hurt and didn’t accomplish anything … and wanting to curse, though an occasional “jackass!” still slips my lips when idiots are on the loose.

You can’t zone out because vehicles may crawl a few feet or zip a quarter mile. You never know what other drivers will do, especially impatient ones who will do anything to be a bigger creep … I mean, creep past you.

During Saturday’s lengthy delay east of Albuquerque, N.M., as I headed west to Arizona in our Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp van, I listened to music on my iPad, when was in the disco era of the thousand tunes loaded. I discovered that I had the 10-minute version of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby,” instead of the usual 3-minute track. Oh my, oh my, oh my …

Switching to an audio book, I returned to a self-helpish volume that had been prompting me to do a lot of self-reflection all day … positive not beat-yourself-up. I’ve done far too much of that my entire life. Still healing so many self-inflicted wounds of inadequacy, not fulfilling my potential, trying to do everything right, etc.

Hey, make your own list!

The book also addressed losses … from physical to emotional to spiritual … from acceptance to denial to those moments when you feel like you’re teetering on the edge. Yep, been there, done that. The brutal life lessons that make no sense to our human brains … the decisions we make and don’t make … how we exercise our freewill on this earth … what we can and cannot change … Ditto …

I turned off all sound, except for the van’s engine … moving forward a few inches or yards at a time … thinking of my destination on this trip … what I want to accomplish … reunite with beloved Stroke Camp staff … engage with amazing volunteers … bring hope, joy and undeniable proof that life is worth living to our stroke survivors and their caregivers … and that they are surviving this journey for a reason.

And my list of life to-do’s became much longer … what I must do when I get home because I WANT to … where I must go next because I WANT to … who I must engage with because I WANT to … why God’s keeping me around … just to see what I will do next.

After the 90-minute construction delay, I looked at big old Bob the Bear in the passenger seat and said, “Let’s do this.”

Yes, you and me, all of us, let’s do this …

As soon as I fuel up again and empty the bladder … 

Hey, drop me a line at monicavestwheeler@gmail.com or leave a comment below. I’d love to speak to your group, organization or company about working our way through the pain and challenges of everyday life. You want straight talk? You got me!