I'm going to give myself a medal for patience and let it hang from the rear view mirror of my car.
I drive almost 50 miles a day, 4 days a week to get to my job where I work as a yoga and meditation teacher.
That gives me at least an hour and a half each day to practice patience and a bit of forgiveness.
Traffic isn't as bad as it is in L.A. or other big cities but the constant waves of construction, snowbirds and texters can make for a challenging commute.
There is only one road that gets me to work so it is easy for me to become angry as I make my way to and from, however, I've gotten pretty good at catching myself and redirecting my attention to the road, the mountain views and reminding myself that everyone else is just like me...
Wanting to get somewhere sooner than later.
Navigating traffic with equanimity was a big first step for me as replacing anger with patience has only recently become a strength of mine. Somewhere during these long drives, I have finally realized that I don't have control over how quickly the red light changes or need to know why someone cut me off in traffic. I can just take a breath and keep on my way without dragging all the little things that annoyed me into the rest of my day.
I mean, I still have my moments but they aren't as bad as they used to be or as regular.
If I'm bored enough, I can still plant seeds of paranoia throughout my brain and then incessantly feed them with attention until they grow like weeds.
But, honestly I'm just getting too old for some of this stuff, I'm tired and don't want to have to deal with the overgrowth of tension that winds up planting itself all over my mental landscape, anymore. I'm trying to notice when I'm even considering about giving an impromptu performance of an adult temper tantrum so that I can talk myself down before embarrassing myself or hurting someone else with careless words.
It ain't easy.
I was born into a family dynasty of drama queens and over the years I honed my skills.
I've had many great moments worthy of an award or two: I've stormed out of parties and restaurants, accused boyfriends of affairs, thrown dishes, run away, cried myself to sleep over stories that never happened and argued endlessly in my head with people over situations that were totally made up so that I could at least win a debate within the jury of my semi-conscience mind.
As a teacher, I might be wise not to share so much of my madness but it is a new year, after all and I'm hoping somewhere in this rant I will finally come to reveal the improved me, the better me (which is really the same old me but not so full of bravado me) within these paragraphs of self reflection so please try not to be too critical.
I'm just like you and thankfully, I have the benefit of knowing some very pleasant but straight forward people who are able to see when I'm starting to walk up the stairs to my podium of self righteous self pity and say "are you serious, right now?" Often, they are greeted with my very confident "Fuck off" but after I lick my wounds, drink some water and eat, I'm usually grateful to know that even though my madness may be solitary, it's only temporary and I can always choose to be a bit more gracious, a bit more patient and a lot more forgiving.
It's taken me a long time to understand that forgiving someone wasn't a weakness.
Forgiveness and patience is courageous and liberating.
It doesn't erase the scars that are left once the pain has subsided but it does allow you to itch and stare at them less. It gives you the opportunity to see the bigger picture and for me it was much needed.
Anger and resentment has been a companion that I have carried with me throughout my life.
Like any addiction, I have allowed it to own me in every way.
It's kept me from living, it has kept me from experiencing joy and laughter. Instead of looking around me, instead of seeing what was good in my life, I've often reached for anger and found ways to be offended even when it wasn't justified.
I've drunk it down over and over, believing that eventually the bottle would go dry but it turns out that anger can be infinite.
You can try to swear it off but eventually it shows up like a shot glass poured by a charming bartender who smiles and says " it's on the house" so you smile back, throw it down and then snap your fingers so you can order another.
For me, it finally came down to asking myself how do I want to continue to live?
Do I always need be right, to be in a hurry, to be angry?
And oh my...is it a hard habit to break. When you've become very good at something it's hard to walk away from it no matter how destructive it can be but I started it by simply taking my time as I drove up a long road.
Taking my time as I walk from my car to my front door.
Making myself slow the fuck down which is so not how I've down things.
It's not how I was raised, that's for sure.
I'm going to continue to get pissed off over really dumb stuff from time to time but the reality is that there is real injustice that deserves my attention.
There is much in the world to be angry about but if I spend all of my energy fuming about the stop and go traffic, the person in the left lane going too slow or the ridiculous caller on NPR, then I don't have energy for the things that require real tenacity.
I can't pause and think clearly about the things that matter like standing up for my kid or calling out bigotry and inequality. That sort of bravery requires patience. It requires the ability to stay calm in traffic for hours on end and most certainly wasn't what I expected when i first found myself gritting my teeth and waiting for the light to change.
Man, it's a long drive.
But, please excuse me, I've got a medal to go craft for myself.