I recently had the opportunity to visit Paris with my family. The second day in the City of Lights, we visited the Arc de Triomphe. Looking down from the top of the Arc, you get an amazing view of the city, the grand avenue, Champs-Élysées, and the other eleven avenues that form the étoile (star) at the center of which sits the Arc.
You also get a great view of the “bumper car” like display of motorcycles, buses, cars and, yes, even bicycles making their way around what looks like it would probably be a six lane roadway that encircles the Arc. To the American eye, it looks like pure chaos.
The thought of this makes me laugh and my 10 year old daughter furrows her brow (she being the stereotypically responsible first born).
“Why don’t they have any lanes?” she asks. “They look like they’re all going to run into one another!”
And it is true (not to mention incredibly amusing to watch!).
Apparently, “the traffic circle at The Arc de Triomphe is the only place in Paris where accidents are not judged. No matter what the circumstances, insurance companies split the costs 50-50,” wrote Rick Steves in his article, “Circling In On Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
So, this brings up an interesting observation. It makes sense not to have lanes if there isn’t going to be any accountability for personal responsibility. There is a reason the term “laissez faire” comes from the French, perhaps, yet it becomes even more apparent to me the importance of lanes and why they do exist, to begin with. Without them, it seems that “live and let live” cannot truly work the way in which it’s meant.
Could you imagine bowling, driving on the highway or checking out at the grocery store without lanes? It would look and feel like, well … driving in the traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe! Funny to watch, but not so much fun or efficient from the point of view of the individuals involved.
One of the reasons seeing the chaotic traffic patterns at the Arc de Triomphe hit such a cord for me is that for the two weeks prior to my trip to Paris, I had found myself in conversation after conversation with clients where the importance of “staying in your own lane” had come up.
It first surfaced in a session with a client who was expressing concern over his pattern of, as he put it, “doing too much and then feeling anxious.”
I had asked him if the moments of “doing too much” constituted focusing on things that were in his own lane.
“What do you mean, ‘in my own lane’,” he asked.
“I find,” I replied, “that anxiety emerges when we are doing things out of our lane. Things that are really someone else’s responsibility. The anxiety is a signal that we have veered out of our lane and into someone else’s.”
“Hmm,” he responded, simply.
“I believe we all came to our individual lives to experience and learn. Our independent life journeys, as it were, are our way to have lessons and grow. If each path is a ‘lane,’ it’s easier to see why me driving into your lane can disrupt your ability to experience the things and have the lessons you came here to have. It also keeps me from having the ones in my own lane that I came here to encounter.”
“So, what about our interactions with others and helping?” my client inquired.
“The way I see it,” I said, “it depends on your intent. It is possible to supportively interact with others without leaving your own lane. It’s when you are rescuing, trying to fix or control another or the circumstances in their lane that you have exited yours. I believe we are all creators of our own lives, and as such, are here to take full responsibility, ourselves, for what is going on in our perspective lanes.
We can certainly ask for support, guidance and positive reinforcement, but there again, it depends on our intention whether or not we are taking the responsibility ourselves or trying to get another to leave their lane to fix something in ours.”
I continue to have conversations about this “lane” concept, so this tells me it’s a pattern coming up for many of us.
Taking mature responsibility for our lives means seeing ourselves as creator, not as victim, perpetrator or savior. We, alone, manifest what we experience and attending to what is in our own lane, while allowing others to do the same, IS the most loving and mature thing to do.
As you consider this piece within your own life and your desire to be your own creator, it’s helpful to think about patterns from the past, especially around putting others ahead of your own self love and nurturance. This also applies to you expecting others to put you ahead of theirs.
How can you become more mindful of the practice of “staying in your own lane?” Consider the impact of being the rescuer or the victim who either takes on the full responsibility of another’s physical & emotional well-being or expects another to do this for you. Have you experienced a sense of obligation or “duty” about something and felt resentful about it? This could be because you are out of your lane doing something that is not your responsibility instead of allowing yourself to experience and choose action from a place of desired support.
Now contemplate being the mature creator who steps up to take complete responsibility for their own life and desires. Or the supporter for others who is there to share information and themselves as an energetic space-holder, allowing others the place and opportunity to be responsible for making it okay physically & emotionally for themselves.
What does each consideration feel like to you? What new insights can you get from this?
We all get overwhelmed from time to time, and remembering that when a moment “seems too much,” is when we have the opportunity to see that we have been stepping outside of our lane of responsibility or have been asking another to do this for us. In these moments, we can compassionately redirect ourselves back into our own lane and communicate whatever is necessary to correct our overstepping.
Here’s to observing and abiding by those double yellow lines!