Just because I write about the human condition doesn’t mean I am immune from it. In fact, it is through my own trials and tribulations that I can better understand the rest of the world’s struggles.
In most cases, it takes a lot to get me angry. I am usually able to recognize what is stirring within me soon enough to prevent a heated outburst. I attempt to remain composed in order to observe a situation and learn from it rather than react quickly and regret my response. If I do get angry, it is usually after multiple irritations have accumulated or when someone has either neglected or intentionally avoided hearing my frustrations. However, if anything is going to quickly send me through the roof, it is the behavior or other drivers.
I am continually amazed at the lack of awareness of others when on the road. As a result, I feel that my job is to be a defensive driver in order to protect myself from others’ mindless, or even seemingly outright inconsiderate behavior. I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone suddenly cut me off in traffic, rode my bumper, or neglected to signal when they got in my path.
I realize I am not a “perfect” anything, let alone driver. But I do find myself using choice words when someone makes a move that could potentially put me or others in danger. I am not proud of this behavior and feel less than lady-like when certain words fall from my mouth. And I always feel as if I’m not practicing what I preach about stepping back from a situation to show compassion and learn whatever I can from a frustrating situation.
Recently I was once again cut off as I was driving to work. However, this time I found myself more frustrated with myself for reacting than with the other driver. For whatever reason, my immediate thought was that Mother Teresa would not be seen cursing another driver; in my mind she would have somehow responded with complete and utter compassion for the other person. I immediately felt embarrassed that I’d lost my composure and the shame and guilt set in.
Then I realized that Mother Teresa probably never drove a car. She probably never HAD to compassionately respond to someone who cut in front of her or rode her bumper. She probably never had to feel as if someone some other nitwit was putting her in needless danger as she steered for her life.
“Peace begins with a smile.” — Mother Teresa
Needless to say, these thoughts lightened the situation—not only because it was comical to think about Mother Teresa driving a compact SUV, convertible or some other sporty vehicle, but also that there was no comparison between our circumstances. My guess is that given a similar scenario, even Mother Teresa could have lost her cool. Having this thought helped to not only humble, but also liberate me from my status as human.
No doubt, our human condition is tricky. And our responses are all relative to the situation. The most we can do is examine our reactions and learn about whatever has gotten under our skin. Although we rarely see our saint-like role models throwing tantrums, it is comforting to remember that they weren’t spared from the human condition, and that they, in fact, had bigger concerns. My own consciousness about this situation has cooled my jets with driving since. I have been less frustrated, and more appreciative of the drivers who do show consideration.
My sister called as I was writing this blog entry and I shared with her the story. It served her well as she had just experienced the lack of consideration for her time by a client she had seen earlier today. We chuckled as we talked about our “Mother Teresa Moments”, and will both likely remember this as an opportunity to reframe our frustrations.
The human condition can certainly get in our face, but mastering it is the key to our evolution.
I feel more secure knowing that Mama Teresa is perpetually in the passenger seat.
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry