Confessions of a Carless Commuter

What 40,000 motorless miles taught me about life

‘Confessions of a Carless Commuter’ book cover
‘Confessions of a Carless Commuter’ book cover (photo: James F. Schroeder)

I recently officially launched my newest book, which is entitled Confessions of a Carless Commuter: What 40,000+ Motorless Miles Taught Me About Life. As the title would indicate, it is a book born out of thousands and thousands of quiet miles spent on the road, ultimately reflecting on the application of core Christian messages into everyday life. Here’s a synopsis:

In the Spring of 2007, I pulled into an intersection in St. Louis after the light turned green. Suddenly, a van crashed into the side of my car. Although I fortunately emerged unharmed, our once reliable vehicle was totaled. With finances limited, and a friend encouraging me to consider public transportation, I started busing to work despite many reservations. A short time after relocating back home, I replaced most of my bus rides with bike and run commutes. For well over a decade, even with up to eight kids and a very busy practice, most days began and ended in a motorless fashion.
On the surface, my commuting life was great for fitness, finances, stress relief, productivity, and the environment among many other gains. Gradually, it became an adventure full of trials and triumphs, one replete with lessons of everyday life — not just for those who chose to commute this way, but for all of us. Through the blazing sun, torrential downpours, and frigid, dark mornings, the lessons kept coming just as miles did, too. 
Confessions of a Carless Commuter: What 40,000+ Motorless Miles Taught Me About Life is a brief, frank compilation of these insights. Stories on the road are intertwined with lessons of the mind, heart, and soul; each of the lessons are part of a larger fabric of life driven by purpose, awe, and love. It's where the revolutions and revelations begin. 

Small changes in perspectives and habits can make a big difference in our happiness, health, and harmony with others. We’d all like to feel less anxious and more at peace. That’s what this book is all about. 

Here are a couple of brief passages taken from the chapter called “Time and Space”:

In the early predawn hours, while most of the world sleeps, a fantastical phenomenon arises. I notice it on my commutes: Time seems to stand still. Even in anticipation of a busy day, I sense this in the stillness on the road. It is in such moments that I’m reminded of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which proposed that time isn’t a constant (as we think of it) — but relative.
Alone on the Greenway, a paved trail near our home, I have spent many a quiet mornings headed into downtown and then to work on 10- to 13-mile training runs. I have completed the routes hundreds of times. Without streetlights to illuminate my path, passing houses and a city park that sit silently over the levee near a tributary (Pigeon Creek) to the Ohio River, I have found more space than any other time during my work week. Although this segment is just a couple of miles in length, it is there that time seems only measured by the rhythms of my feet and my breathing. I usually do these runs in the cooler months, when the crisp darkness allows me to escape a world of deadlines and demands, as I set my own pace.
One of the true gifts of my carless commuting is having built-in periods throughout the week when, quite frankly, I can’t be reached. Whether I’m riding or running, I’m unconnected from technology. I decided long ago that I would refrain from any type of tech input during my carless commutes, and instead allow my mind to wander to whatever places and spaces I was so called. The more my roles and demands have grown, the more I find that I crave this physical and psychological space. …
I have learned critical lessons about time and space that have led to opportunities during a busy season of life. Think about the last time you lamented, “I just don’t have the time,” when it came to doing something you wanted or felt called to do? If ever there was a phrase uttered in resignation, it is this one. Yet, I would argue that what we really should be talking about is not physical time but rather what might be described as psychological time and space. Yes, I understand there’s no escaping the reality that time is finite, and we only have so many hours in the day to get things done. I know what it means to be busy, and to see boredom as rare and desirable. 
Nevertheless, I think what we tend to struggle with most is actually finding psychological time and space, and I believe there are three primary culprits…

Our Catholic faith is full of rich lessons that apply to every aspect of living. But often, we find it difficult to translate these lessons into what we perceive as the mundane aspects of our day. In the process, we also risk separating ourselves from other people who may not share our faith background, or even consider themselves religious or spiritual at all.

And yet, each day, we live in a world where so much of what we do, regardless of our creed, culture or even circumstances, overlaps with one another. We are faced with shared questions and crises of work, mission, communication, perspective, mood, silence, purpose, challenge, transcendence and many other daily presses. It is here in these commonalities that each of us, no matter how different we feel we may be, can grow together in meaning, beauty and love. 

In world full of division and fear, we are all in greater need of peace and harmony. In a simple, yet thought-provoking way, Confessions of a Carless Commuter: What 40,000+ Motorless Miles Taught Me About Life is an introspective look at this daily, unified journey. Ultimately, as indicated in the book, “Every day we have a choice. Just what will our commute be?”