Archives for posts with tag: be the change

Last night’s commute was an interesting test of my intent to continue and grow as a human being, and learn better skills for experiencing and expressing anger without doing harm, or degrading the quality of life or emotional experience of other beings. Yep. I think it can be done. I see other people doing it. So. Doable. πŸ™‚ I figure my detestable commute is worthy territory for practice, too, because… people piss me off pretty reliably when all I want to do is drive home without bullshit. LOL

As I pulled out of the parking lot at the office, I reminded myself that the goal was to get home safely, skillfully, following traffic rules, remaining within the speed limit, and to do so without “being provoked” by the behavior of other drivers, who are definitely having their own experience. So far so good. Intentions set.

All was well a good portion of the drive, in spite of people just… yeah. Omg. Human beings are not at all at their best on their evening commute, driving in traffic at the end of the day. Everyone seems to be 100% entirely out for themselves without any regard whatsoever for the other human beings literally surrounding them. I pulled up to a stoplight along the way. I stopped. Cars behind me stopped. The empty lane the right, in this instance, in clearly marked in several locations (signage, on the pavement, a reminder literally hanging from the light pole, too) that this is “right turn only” and “traffic in right lane must turn right”. It’s a complicated intersection, but this point is made very clear. The large pick up who pulled up next to me and inched forward a bit at a time was in my periphery, but on my mind; this is a favorite spot for douchebags to attempt to get around waiting traffic for which they, themselves, are too good to endure along with the rest of us. Fuckheads. Yeah, this is a thing that pisses me off enormously. The light turned green, and I purposely, with intent, skill, and my full conscious attention, quickly accelerated to the speed limit and pulled ahead of the truck and through the intersection. Yep. He (I could see him) immediately pulled in behind me, cutting off the less aware/attentive/committed driver behind me. I drove on.

I let it go and drove on. He was still mad, and tail-gating me in his unnecessarily huge truck. Eventually, there was some distance between us, and a couple cars turned into that space. Then end of it, I figured. Nope. I stopped at a light with a left turn only signal – two lanes, the one on the right continuing, the one on the left turning left. Oh, you know where this goes, right? If you were reading along thinking “well, you’re just guessing that he was trying to get around the traffic, maybe he just didn’t see the right turn only, then saw it, and hurriedly pulled into the correct lane? That could happen… so human.” Sure, sure, only… there’s this; with no one in that left turn lane at the time I was waiting for that red light so I could continue? Yep. Who comes hauling ass up that left hand only turn lane? The big pick up. Same truck. He pulled past that line of cars, and even I caught myself thinking “well, finally, he’s turning…”. Nope. He not only didn’t turn, it wasn’t ever his intention to turn. As soon as the left turn light went green he pulled through the intersection around all the stopped traffic – it was only the left turn light that was green, and he took advantage of it. I was, admittedly, immediately enraged. Nothing much I could do about it, and I choked on my anger, struggling to both feel my feelings, and also to behave in the way I most want to do. It was fucking hard. I wanted to scream at him, and I wanted to do him real harm. For an instant, I was viscerally aware why I choose not to own a firearm.

I’m still angry about that guy’s shitty behavior, thinking about it this morning. For me, this is the sort of thing that is representative of the downhill slide of our national culture and society, generally. Entitled inconsiderate douche-baggery. Fuck that guy. Don’t be that guy.

Some distance down the road later, insisting with myself that I breathe deeply, calm myself, and stay focused on skillful safe driving, being attentive, and making “the game of life” about something other than winning at the expense of others, I’d calmed myself and moved on from all that. It was hard. Worthwhile, though, in the sense that I arrived home feeling comfortable in my own skin, not especially stressed out, and actually having already forgotten most of the stress of the commute within minutes of stopping the car. That feels pretty good. I’ll give it another go again today.

Today is a good day to begin again.

Oh, hey, that’s an attention-getter, yeah? I mean, I’m not usually down on emotions; we are creatures of both emotion and reason, and I point that out often. Hell, I even point out that emotion – a fully subjective experience – is not really subject to argument. I believe that.

Then, there’s road rage. Then there’s domestic violence. Then there are people attacking “cheating” lovers. We treat anger differently than we do other emotions; we let anger have its way with us.

It’s not the anger that is actually the problem. It’s how we excuse it, rationalize it, justify it, even laud people for their passionate nature, when what we mean is that we want to like them in spite of their terrible temper (and wish they’d get some fucking help for that bullshit). We don’t want to tell suffering friends going through break-ups that their expressed anger, and the actions they allow themselves to take, and the things they allow themselves to say, are uncomfortable, unpleasant, and in some cases both inexcusable and unacceptable. We allow anger to lie. We allow anger to yell. We allow anger to misbehave in public spaces in a way that encroaches on the quality of life of others. We overstep boundaries when we are angry, and expect to be allowed to do so. Not a bit of any of that is actually okay.

Anger is one emotion that fairly easily becomes violence.

It’s frustrating not to be heard. It’s emotionally provocative to be diminished, disregarded, ignored, mocked, or mistreated. It’s still not okay to weaponize our anger and use it to hurt other people.

Anger is a tricky one (for me, too). We feel it before we think about the root cause. We act on it before we more closely examine circumstances fully to be certain every detail is real and accurate. We behave as though our experience of this singular emotion excuses bad behavior.

I can do better.

You can do better, too.

Let’s begin again. ❀

I took the espresso machine down to the countryside this past weekend. I used the last k-cup for the Keurig, too. I woke this morning, and began again; I made a pour over. Rich, dark, delicious… the kitchen filled with the fragrance of freshly ground coffee, and I sipped it happily wondering how I strayed from this simple path?

This morning, I begin again. πŸ™‚ Intent. Will. Choice. Action. Practice.

And again.

And still again, if necessary – and sometimes it will be quite necessary indeed. That’s okay too. There are steps. These are practices. There are verbs involved and my results vary.

I finish my very excellent cup of coffee with a smile and begin the day.

Friday was efficient. Purposeful. Carefully planned. Strictly and professionally executed to plan. Wrapped up neatly with a clear-headed, safe, and calm drive down the highway, arriving at my destination “on time” (meaning to say I got there when I said I would).

Saturday was beyond complete. Spent in the company of close friends and loved ones, the sort of assortment commonly called family by a great many people, it was a day of sunshine, of laughter, of heartfelt worship, of sharing, of celebration, of healing, of wonder, of joy, and of music. It was a fantastic fucking day all around.

Sometime in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I grabbed a nap, knowing I would be heading back up the highway in just a few hours. I woke and enjoyed being surrounded by warmth, good humor, and merriment before packing up the car to make the journey back to this place that I live. I had a good cup of coffee. I shared the morning sunshine. I cuddled dogs, and hugged friends, and held my Traveling Partner so so so close, for an endless moment of such intense love that I feel it still, even now.

What a perfectly lovely weekend!! I sip my Monday morning coffee soaking in the memories, smiling.

I’d kind of like to erase my memory of the drive back…but that’s not really how having a shitty memory actually works. Not quite. Being able to simply choose to erase a memory isn’t so easily done with wisdom, anyway; there’s something to learn here. It’s the hard bits that teach us the most. So.

The drive home sucked. lol It’s that simple. What can I learn from that? What can I learn from the juxtaposition of the deliciously loving weekend with that shit drive? Could I point the finger to having made the trip on less than ideal sleep? (Not really; I was feeling well-rested when I woke, and I was very-well-caffeinated when I started down the road.) Was it the weather? (Clear weather, dry pavement, sunny morning, partly cloudy – so, no.) The traffic? (Traffic was light, and generally moving at or faster than the posted speed, so… it’s hard to say it was the traffic.) Was it… the people? (Here’s where it gets complicated…) I had some of the most hair-raising experiences on this particular commute. I maintained a comfortable (for me) speed without much difficulty, and was generally in good humor and patient about moments of congestion near cities and towns, and I want very much to say it wasn’t the people… because… if it was…? I was one of those, too. Was it… me?

By the end of the drive, it is enough to say, I wasn’t just glad to have parked the car, and finish the journey, I was sort of feeling regretful that there would soon (this morning) be yet another requirement to get behind the wheel at all. :-\ (It was that bad, yeah.) I feel nervous and reluctant. I feel anxious in advance. I feel hesitant and insecure.

Fuck, that was a shitty drive. lol

That drive was also just a blip on life’s radar. Just a moment. A single journey from point to point, and completed demonstrably safely inasmuch as I am safely here, and no collisions, no tickets, nothing “really happened” that had any lingering obvious consequence on the participants of the day. I’m okay right now. I take a deep breath and let it go (again). Making myself mindful that it is behind me, and aware of how spectacular the weekend was in other ways. I think about those things, and make a point of thinking more about them than about the aggravations of the drive back. That’s what works.

A few minutes into this practice, and it becomes easier to acknowledge my own role in the drive back; I was feeling annoyed to be leaving what now feels like home to head to a place that doesn’t at all. To live a life that has begun to feel more lonely than solitary. I was feeling more energetic than enthusiastic about the drive, and that energy was more artificial (caffeine) than natural (mood). I felt a strong visceral sense of real frustration anytime my speed or flow of movement down the highway was impaired or constrained by another driver’s “shitty decision-making” – nearly always defining that as “getting in my way”, without taking any time to consider the scenario from their perspective, what they hoped to achieve, and what the purpose of their decision really was. I was taking shit exceedingly personally – which, by the way, makes for an incredibly crappy drive. Few things feel as irritatingly unpleasant as the perception of a hostile universe undermining my experience in the moment. Few things that feel that unpleasant are also so entirely and completely made up and “all in my head”… right?

There wasΒ one guy, one moment, one time out of my weekend driving which clearly was indeed “personal”, intentional, and an attack on my perceived self by another human being (definitely having his own experience) who – rather randomly and at great personal and community risk – slammed on his brakes on the highway, in the fast lane, at high-speed, immediately in front of me, while flipping me off, after I flashed my high beams at him as a request to move to the right hand lane when it was clear (to me) that I was closing in on him pretty fast, and he was “just camping out” in the passing lane with no traffic alongside him, ahead of him, or anywhere near him at all. I did so from many car lengths back. He waited to execute his potentially deadly maneuver until I had closed the distance to about 2 car lengths. When I moved to go around him (figuring slamming into him made a lot less sense) he whipped into that lane immediately ahead of me, still flipping me off. He did this twice more, accelerating, then slamming on his brakes, and blocking my ability to safely get past him. It was clearly personal for him. He was definitely having his own experience. That also happened on the trip down, not the trip back. When I think back on the drive home, there’s really nothing of significance to consider. Turns out, as it happens, my crappy experience yesterday may have been 100% purely entirely my own. I feel the looks of puzzlement and awareness try to form on my face at the same time; that angry man was likely having a shit drive, or a bad day, himself. It wasn’t anything more to do with me than my drive yesterday was really anything to do with anyone but me. Huh.

I laugh and finish my coffee. We covered this in the very beginning, I tell myself, with a smile and a shake of my head. It’s in The Four Agreements. It’s at the top of my reading list. lol

A new day. A new commute. And also – not new, or different, at all. Routine. Practices. I have another chance to be a better human being behind the wheel of my car. So do you. It’s a good day to begin again. πŸ™‚

…Or maybe even just care.

I’m sipping my coffee. Scrolling through social media. I’m stunned by the quantity of anger, of propaganda, of knee-jerk reactions to both of those – I’m stunned by how often and how easily I am, myself, baited.

I reach a repeat of a meme that is some version of the “I don’t know how to convince you to care about people” meme. It’s one that resonates with me. Why are we even still trying to convince each other? Well, obviously; because we do care. But.

(And it’s a big but)

We’re each having our own experience. Some people really don’t care about other people at all.Β That’s real. It’s who they are. It’s who they choose to be. They practice that whole not caring thing, daily. Other people care so much, so hard, so publicly, that they become an abstraction of caring, a caricature of caring, an advertisement for caring – so emotionally invested in the pain of the whole world that they become immobilized with grief and outrage, and all of that without actually acting on their caring, except, possibly, through some Facebook posts, Tweets, and charitable online donations, with just enough energy left over to shame others who appear to care less. Some people care less publicly. They care quietly. They care privately. They help when and where they can. They don’t talk much about it. Maybe they don’t think their effort is enough, or that it doesn’t really matter. (Of course, it matters if you are a person needing help, right?) Maybe they worry that if undefined mobs of people know they care, they won’t have enough resources to share that caring with all of them. Some people help those they love, and only those they love. Others help only strangers. (Fuck family and friends, don’t they have jobs??* Those losers…*) Some people care, and help, and support, and nurture, and really deliver on their commitment to care… except for themselves. There is, as with so many other human behaviors, a definitely spectrum, a range, an assortment, a real variety of choices and experiences.

I sit sipping my coffee and thinking about who I am in the context of caring about others. Where do I fit in? Is it “enough” – from my own perspective? Do I “wish I could do more”? Is that something I can manage more efficiently? Considering the matter of “caring” – do I communicate well and clearly, expressing my appreciate, my gratitude, my loving concern, my support? Could I do that better? Is there someone yearning for my time, my presence, my help, my companionship, that I’ve been overlooking? Someone I could reach out to, who needs me? Am I giving myself enough of my time, enough of my effort, enough of my good-natured regard and consideration?

We can care without spending a dime. We can be considerate of others without giving more than a moment to slow down and really be aware of the needs and experience of other people in the moment. We can be present. We can make a point to understand, and experience compassion for, circumstances we’ve never endured. We can listen deeply – what a priceless treasure to really be heard by another human being.

I smile and sip my coffee. Of all the things I am learning in life, the most cherished detail may be learning to love, to care, to consider, to listen, to share a human connection with another traveler on life’s journey for some little while. To experience and understand things that aren’t “about me”. Today is a good day to care and to love. Today is a good day to change the world – even just this tiny corner.

Today is a good day to begin again. πŸ™‚



*that was sarcasm – seemed worth pointing that out in this instance to avoid confusion.