I was driving home this afternoon and I realized something. Then I realized that I’ve realized it before, but it felt good because I was in an odd mood and it dawned on me like it was brand new.
This one dude was driving really fast behind me, and I was just chillin’ at the speed limit in my Old Lady Buick, driving home from work in no particular rush, reflecting on the day that had just passed and looking forward to dinner tonight at the table. This guy came all up on me super fast and zoomed around me and gave me a dirty look, then he drove up on someone else and I saw him throw his hands up through the window, and he had to slam on his breaks. Then we sat through two red lights side by side, traffic was pretty thick. I kept looking over at him and seeing the existential panic and the furious energy emanating from this guy. He was younger than I am, probably in his mid-twenties. He was driving a nice Tahoe. He looked, from what I could see of his upper-torso and face, like a well-to-do gentleman. But his driving habits and his obvious road rage told a different story.
I used to get road rage. One instance jumps out at me in particular – I had all five of my children in the back and some dude cut me off. I was in a hurry to get somewhere, which is pretty stupid because I always give myself extra time – I can’t shake the habit of being at least fifteen minutes early to wherever it is that I’m going. Anyway, this dude jumped in front of me, then slammed on his breaks for the newly-red light that I was going to try to beat. I got cartoonishly angry and was actually in the process of opening the door so I could get out and make this guy feel the full force of my righteous anger when my preteen daughter said “Really Dad?” That’s when I realized that I had serious anger issues. I still get angry sometimes, but I always try to be conscious of what I am thinking and how that affects what I am feeling.
Anyway, I felt bad for this dude this afternoon. He looked like a normal guy just trying to get home to his family, but at the moment he was in abject agony with the anger and anxiety he was allowing himself to feel due to the traffic. He was suffering, and I am willing to bet that he took that negativity home and his family wound up suffering as well.
I used to view the world through the lens of “this happened to me.” I used to get angry in traffic because I felt entitled to get wherever I was going as fast as I felt like, and I couldn’t stand the fact that terrible traffic was happening to me. I used to be angry at the world because all the very uncool things that happened to me. I used to be miserable all the time because of all the things that happened to me and all the terrible things that I was sure were going to happen to me in the future.
Now I just drive in traffic and let it happen around me and get where I’m going, still at the very least fifteen minutes early. Now I’m still mad at the world, but because I know it can be better than it is, not because I take it personal. Now I know all the things that have, and that may or may not happen to me are out of my control, and all I worry about is what I am and am not going to do.
So often I see people playing the victim role, focusing on what has happened to them and becoming upset because it just isn’t fair. I went through years of pain, not because bad things happened to me – many did – but because I saw only those things that happened to me, and it hurt. Life happens all around you, with or without your participation, and it absolutely isn’t fair. I can assure you that wondering why, why you; beseeching the powers that be for a reason why they’ve forsaken you, will only lead you to more confusion and pain.
Take what comes and do the right thing. It’s that simple. Stop viewing the world as a series of events centered around you. Accept that the only way to impact the things that upset you, that seem unfair or unpleasant, is to assume some agency in your life and take deliberate action in response to the situations presented to you.
I apologize for the meandering nature of this post and I would like to thank you for taking the time to get to the end of this. Further, I would like to assert that the message here is not to beat you down and tell you to stop being a self-centered baby, but to share the joy that I have found in realizing that life is about actions, not events.
I invite you to comment, question, critique or criticize at will. Have a good one.