A few posts ago I think I may have boasted about how I wasn’t going to let things like incessant barking dogs and tailgaters rattle my cage. (A simplification, but that was the gist). Anyhoo the universe has decided to test/teach me (many) times since then. And as a teacher, I appreciate this. I know that to really synthesize our learning at a deeper level, we need multiple experiences in different contexts to apply and solidify our learning.
Turns out I, my friends, am a slow learner.
This morning as I dropped my son at school, I pulled out of the parking lot onto the road at my regular pace of slow. Knowing the 30 km speed limit ends at the speed bump heading toward town. I do admit I was a bit distracted because I was thinking about logistics in dropping the truck at Ford because it is having some mechanical issues this week (another story in teaching and learning patience and I have virtually no control over everything around me, but anyway…)
On the short stretch of road that accelerates to a whopping 50 km, I noticed (suddenly due to my inattention) that I had company. An older model Pathfinder, in jewel-tone gold appeared to be either trying to read my insurance date on my license plate or trying to catch a tow, like Marty McFly dragging along on his skateboard. She was in fact, so close that all I could see was her windshield, no hood at all. There was a vehicle behind her that was staying well back, probably anticipating a possible accident that he wanted nothing to do with. I wished I was him.
I looked at the odometer and thank goodness, “I Wasn’t Wrong” I was bang on 50. So I thought maybe she is having a mindless moment or depth perception difficulty, and gently pumped my break lights to kindly ask her to back off.
She then responded with a very animated throwing of arms in the air, tossed her ball capped head around a few times and I think I could see the eye roll through her black sunglasses…and then her foot pushed the gas pedal as if she could move my beastly truck out of her way, inching closer! I was flabbergasted and thinking, No! Keep your hands on the wheel lady!!
My instinct was to remove my foot from my gas pedal and as I began to coast, loosing a precious 2 or 3 kms an hour, I mimicked her body language, attempting to communicate in the language of her native tongue, road rage. I threw my hands up with a shoulder shrug. She began mouthing (possibly shouting) some choice words at me through her windshield to my rear view mirror and into my brain. It was clear she wasn’t interested in my driving lessons about safe travel distance between vehicles.
5 seconds later we reached the Shell gas station and she veered to the left, but not before she mouthed a final farewell and a friendly (extremely prolonged) flip of the middle digit (a hard eff you, if I’ve ever seen one) to send me and my snails pace on my way in the continuing direction towards downtown and my appointment.
So this is how my mind and body responded to her final action, because in the end I was thinking she had won our fight…she got the last word…the last eff you! My mind was like “whaaaaaat?!” in a pitch inaudible to the human ear. “Oh no she didn’t” followed by a rapid fire of comebacks and meanness if I only had the chance…she’s lucky I have an appointment or I’d…eff me? Um no…eff you!…she could have caused a serious accident driving like that…what if my son had been in the vehicle with me?!….karma will take care of her later…. And my body was literally drawn toward her direction, I was looking over my shoulder, despite my neck pain, my arms wanted to turn the wheel and make the truck follow her. And then that Facebook post entered my head…
A friend had posted a video yesterday about being nice to assholes. I was intrigued and so I watched. The speaker was a woman, a poster child for don’t judge a book by its cover, adorned in body art, a cool haircut and is a pastor. At the time, I was like ya, uh-huh, copy that. She spoke about the need to break the chain that connects you to a person and their negative actions, the only way to do this is to give them forgiveness. Otherwise you create a link between you and them.
Little did I know it would serve a purpose so quickly! So thanks world, for that pop quiz.
As I drove further away from that woman and our shared experience I realized the biology in my body was negatively reacting, I could feel it at a cellular level. It was like drinking poison. Before I could let it spread any further I said to myself, “it’s time to break that chain now, forgive her and put space between you both, like you are physically able to do, spiritually put space between you and this moment, you don’t want to be connected to this for one more minute.”
Like all new concepts, this is gonna take some practice. And perhaps I’m not there yet because I am writing about it to process it (writing also being a strategy for deepening our understanding). Therefore I acknowledge I just relived it and gave the experience more power. But the buck stops here. And remember…I am a slow learner.
But, I feel vastly different after exploring this further. I am not worried if I am wrong, even though a complete stranger sign-languaged me to “fuck off” this morning before 8:30 am, I am not a bad person. And neither is she, whoever she is, it doesn’t matter other than she was my teacher who effectively taught me a very important lesson this morning. Not only do I forgive her, I send her gratitude. And that is within my control, and that feels incredibly powerful. So thank you tailgating, disgruntled, bird flipping lady. I wish you a better day and hope things turn around for you because they have for me.