Windows with a View

At any given moment, rush hour traffic can introduce one of two components for the hapless driving captive: stress or boredom. Either one makes for a good reason to look around for more than the piece of the road immediately in front of us. Just be prepared to get what you asked for – and what you didn’t.

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

“Maya Angelou.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2016. 7 August 2016. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mayaangelo578841.html

Walking to the car, I marvel at the surreal colors of the cloudscape above me and, driving through a residential area before joining rush hour traffic, I take the opportunity to appreciate the flowering trees lining the road and the widely varying landscaping of the homes I’m passing. I’m fortunate my drive takes me through this lovely patch.

I join with rush hour traffic. It’s a day of good flow. No one’s bullying into someone else’s lane during merging; no one’s refusing to allow drivers from the merging lane through and creating a traffic clump. I exit onto a busy street in the business sector and hit a red light at the first intersection.

Hwuh! I jumped at the sound of a man’s loud and angry voice. Looking out of my open passenger window, I see a frightened young woman gripping the steering wheel, resolutely looking straight ahead. The man was leaning out of the driver’s side of a large white van, edging the van within inches of her passenger door. Although she had the right of way, he was angry she hadn’t let him turn in front of her.  He yelled foul, demeaning explicatives at her – one after the other. I put my hand on my cell phone in case he got out of the van. The young woman was in a turn lane, so traffic allowed her to move forward, and the van turned in behind her. On the side of the van was a logo advertising a Christian church.

George Hodan http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=171235&picture=dark-stormy-sky
George Hodan
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=171235&picture=dark-stormy-sky

Several miles later and seeing landmarks of home, I stop at another red light. I wonder what’s caught the attention of the other drivers. I turn my head in the same direction. There’s a little boy crying on the sidewalk. What’s the practically-a-toddler doing alone on a sidewalk next to three lanes of traffic? I spotted his mother pushing her infant in a stroller too far ahead of the little boy for my comfort. For the comfort of the other motorists as well because heads were swiveling. It was a zeitgeist moment: there’s a crying practically-a-toddler on the sidewalk and the horrific was all too possible. It was obvious he was tired and badly in need of mommy backtracking to pick him up. She turned back to look at her crying baby and called to him. Frickin’ woman!! Walk back to your left-too-far-behind baby! Geez, I would have settled for just having him appropriately next to her but would dearly have loved it if she’d shown some inclination to comfort the itty-bitty. Was it just me or did three lanes of traffic just agree that we were going to miss the green light in a show of support for the little tyke if his mommy didn’t do the right thing? A door opened. Mommy started walking back to her little one. The door closed. Mommy continued walking to her baby, who didn’t show any signs of moving into the full street. The light turned green. Three lanes hesitated without anyone honking. Mommy and the small one were walking toward one another. Traffic flowed forward.

 CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/cloud-sky-yellow-radius-sunshine-143152/
CC0 Public Domain
https://pixabay.com/en/cloud-sky-yellow-radius-sunshine-143152/

Wherever there is choice, there is dichotomy. Because we have use of free will, there are always choices to be made. The homebound vignettes stayed with me as I pulled into my driveway, evaporating only as the front door opened and my own little one called to me. He was happy. He was safe. I couldn’t wait to hold him in my arms. My personal vignette assuaged the whisper trail of sadness within me. I held my precious child and walked into my home.

 

 

 

Miles of Opportunity

It’s summer and I’ve got miles to go. With a car full of family headed toward vacationsville, I’m relaxed but trying to be traffic alert at the same time. So far, it’s been a good day, a good drive. I wonder, though, about the blue sedan keeping a steady, too close bead on the darker blue truck in front of it. I check my speed: 80mph. The two cars just ahead in the left lane have to be going faster ’cause they’ve been creeping ahead for a while now – at least the dark blue Tundra has been creeping. Looks like, if Lexus had its way, it would be flying at 100mph, or faster. Another speed limit sign zips behind me: 65mph.

The right lane has adequate gaps between cars, so Lexus has had several opportunities to switch lanes to the right and then switch back into the left lane ahead of Tundra, but its nose remains steadfastly up Tundra’s tailpipe. I can’t help but wonder why Lexus is passing up one opportunity after another and choosing to pick a fight with Tundra instead. No doubt, distorted thinking is at work.

Selective focus is a lot like selective hearing. When used negatively, one takes a certain stance or holds a specific viewpoint despite all evidence to the contrary and that offers a differing option. This evidence, these options, they don’t want to know about – or be reminded of. Those using selective focus negatively will take the victim stance and want the one outcome they have in mind. In their fixation (“the act of fixing or the state of being fixed”), they’ll resort to force and intimidation to get a result.

By RustySmokebox - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30939315
By RustySmokebox – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30939315

Exits come and go, and the Lexus is still caught up in the Tundra’s exhaust. No doubt, Lexus thinks it’s got some quasi-power thing going by virtue of its brilliance in munching at Tundra’s mudflaps until Tundra does its bidding. But Tundra doesn’t flinch. It stays true to its course. Lexus is looking like a pit bull that’s lost the ability to use its rational mind – why else give up miles of opportunities for a senseless act of harassment? Lexus is pretending to itself that it’s got the power when, really, Lexus gave power away.

The only time that selective focus works to the benefit of all, and especially yourself, is when you recognize that wherever you are is your point of power. Selective focus is powerful when you disallow others to define you or the situation you’re in. Tundra held power in place despite Lexus’s attempts to create a sense of anxiety, stress, anger or to garner a reaction from Tundra, such as an abrupt slowing or capitulation. Watching Lexus cross two lanes to the right to exit, I mentally give Tundra two thumbs up. Tundra would not be bullied or intimidated. Instead, what I saw was a driver who was causing no harm or inconvenience to another. Let’s be clear here: Lexus was the actor driving action toward another. Lexus chose to feel put out despite miles of opportunity to move into another lane or to exit. Tundra was exceeding the speed limit by at least 20-25mph. And despite this very generous overage, Lexus for some perverse reason really needed to push to have a certain outcome from Tundra.

I’ve seen this scenario turn ugly and even dangerous when folks get stressed or fearful. Folks get angry. So, steady as she goes. Never let an aggressive driver pull you off course.

Kicking it Down the Road

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?

-Confucious

Passing scenery is a metaphor for our lives streaming along the time continuum:  we’re constantly viewing the road ahead while contemplating what we’ve left in the past – and what we face in our present.  Our vehicular journeying leads us to pivotal moments of contemplation, our thoughts cascading like dominos.

It’s a beautiful summer morning.  Being a morning person, I give thanks for the season, the way the air smells this early in the morning and for bird song.  I glance about, pop my gear shift into reverse and realize there’s a father holding a small child in his arms too close to the rear of my car.  He’s slowly walking and is now glaring at me as I mouth, “Sorry!”  Did I mention all of me, myself and I were in the car?  So, of course, there begins a dialogue of “Why are you apologizing, he saw you get in the car – heard the engine running – he shouldn’t have been walking practically up against the car.”

The father continues to glare at me as I mouth another “Sorry!”  “Well,” the internal dialogue continues, “I’m not going to slit my wrists for something that didn’t happen, that I took accountability for and for which you also have some accountability.”  I glanced about again and backed out of my driveway, the young father still glaring back at me for what might have been – but wasn’t.

SAMSUNG

I used to play skipping stones with my uncle at a pond near his house.  He’d also take my siblings and I in tow with his own brood along the dirt roads for a treat, joining in as we kicked a stone down the road.  As I grew older, I’d hear him say that a thought could get kicked down the road so that one thing leads to another; and it happened to me that morning. The young father’s animosity kept him in focus: He was of a different culture – He had a son in his arms which, perhaps, has given the child more value to him than if it had been female – I am, perhaps, a materialistic American who has a pricier car – I am female and, perhaps, I had been admonished for daring to possibly bring even the slight intimation of harm to him and his male child.

In my imaginings, I was no longer just a woman taking pleasure in my simple morning routine of fueling up for tomorrow’s Monday and getting my morning cuppa.  I was a nation of Americans – I was without a nation because I was a lowly female always meant to be at the service of – I was a lone individual in a world huge and violent, where the slightest of slights to someone’s ego could result in a glare resonant of a will to assault another.

Then I reasserted my wiser self, realizing I had momentarily been caught in fearful assumptions of another I know nothing about.  As I turned into the intersection, I took a deep breath.  I can only live my own life to the best of my ability.  By the time I turned back into my residential community, my thoughts were on all of us who do not will to harm another.  We who, around the world, live under religious, political and national identities that pull us into maelstroms of willful misunderstandings and power mongering.  In my smallness, I listen to the happy bird song, freely given.  As humanity has done throughout history, I tap into hope and courage and I smile.  A shadow follows me.

Vicariously

R: 136 G: 255 B: 198 X:39852 Y: 0 S: 422 Zs: 0 Zp: 0 F: 782 I: 0 ImgVer:08.05.07.23

My position is that we’re not just lookie-loos enjoying the spectacle of someone else’s misfortune.  I’m not naïve enough to discount that this behavior is probably a part of some human’s nature; I’m just saying it’s also an important learning behavior as well.  Another aspect of the human’s being is the fact that we’re able to learn from watching, listening as others go through an experience.  We don’t have to have that first-hand, personal encounter in order to determine “good for us” or “bad for us”; pull this into my life or avoid.

The sight of something going awry immediately connects us with a sense of place-holding: I’m here.  That’s happening there.  A part of me is also there just by my thinking about it.  In my consideration of what I’ve become aware of, an emotion is engaged.  I’ve just had a vicarious experience.

Vicariously

Thoughts and emotions act as a barometer of our state of being.  And, while they reflect who we are back to ourselves, they’re only meant to give us our baseline on an issue (a starting point).  They are not responsible, alone, for our behavior.  There is something unique about the human being in our ability to…pause.  We have a conscious choice, rather than just instinct (i.e., The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results).

So, what’s your first thought when you see a fellow motorist acting badly?Are you able to self-reflect on what you just thought and encourage yourself to make any necessary changes so that you don’t act on a knee-jerk reaction to do harm?  When you see a motorist in distress?  What are you thinking, feeling when you pass a scene replete with police cruisers, a fire truck and ambulance?  Do you avoid any conscious thought, which is a form of self-neglect?  Do you avoid the inner mirror we are all born with?

We’re having experiences all the time, and we’re having thoughts and emotions about those experiences.  Tuning into ourselves is like pulling up our own GPS that tells us where we are in our personal growth process.  However, some of us are so out of touch with ourselves that we unconsciously depend on what’s happening outside of our own persons to experience learning – being alive.  Turn within.  Listen.  The truth of you is there to guide, instruct and keep you safe.

 

 

 

Don’t Forget Your Mental Backpack

Don't Forget Your Mental Backpack

Forecasts for snow almost always imply white-knuckled journeys in the dark for me. I believe any driver would elect to have a car that drives well in snow. And I’m willing to bet they would rather not, if given a choice, have a car that picks a really bad time to have mechanical problems. Nevertheless, a couple of mornings ago, a car creeping along with the rest of us at about 35 mph began carefully edging to the right across three lanes of white, with its hazard lights flashing its distress. WHOA! A horn blares behind me- headlights approaching way too fast. The horn that startled me is now annoying, and I attribute the prolonged braying more to the idiot driver than the vehicle itself. The distressed car safely exits.

It’s a shortcoming amongst us that a perceived failing in another can engender annoyance, inconvenience, contempt or rage – even a will to do harm, when the other has suffered no harm to their self or loved ones. How many times have we heard the aggressor blame the victims of their actions?

People push against reasonable expectations and laws put in place to keep our encounters with one another safe and efficient. They ride too closely behind us, sending the clear message that even though we’re driving 10 to 15 miles above the generous speed limit, they have a right to go faster and we’re in their way.

We cannot choose the level of intelligence or maturity or good will we will encounter in others. Accept this as a basic reality of your path. But, while not being a lone traveler means encounters with the good, the bad and the ugly, traveling in the company of fellow path finders is also assurance that you’re experiencing what so many others ahead and behind are experiencing. They continue toward their destinations, usually meeting their goals and will return home at the end of the day. So will you.

Prepare and take your mental backpack with you every time you get behind the wheel. Create a sanctuary with music, a podcast, a favorite book. Phone someone who will listen sympathetically, make you smile, even laugh.

Most importantly, remember this is only momentary and then you’ll continue on your way.

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