The other morning Tom and I were headed to work. We have been riding together since Tom’s car was totaled, Halloween morning, by a young kid who ran a red light. Since then we have been a one car family. At first this was very difficult for me. Truth be told, I hated it. I liked my time in the car alone. I could drive in silence, listen to music, a book or a conference on CD. My choice. I usually used the time to think, take stock. With Tom in the car it wasn’t my space anymore. However, during some of our morning commutes we had great conversation, caught up on things with each other, or made plans for the evening or week. Sometimes it was really nice. I enjoyed our company. So both experiences were true for me.
Anyway, this particular morning, as we headed up Bigelow Blvd traffic began to slow. It was still moving but slower than usual. Ahead of us I noticed an older Volvo, changing lanes, speeding up only to have to brake because both lanes were moving slowly, and honking his horn. At one point he was waving his arms in the air above his head. I wondered who was steering his car. He was clearly upset. Being the well trained defensive driver(thank you Mr Anderson) that I am, I tried to determine what had Mr Volvo so upset. Was he seeing something dangerous I wasn’t aware of? My assessment of the situation was that everyone was going slower, but at a constant rate of speed. Odd for this stretch of the road, but not dangerous to me.
As Tom and I drove with traffic we noticed a car ahead, in the right lane, with his flashers on. As we got closer we saw a string of cars with their flashers on. It was a funeral procession. Okay, that explained the slow moving traffic.
Mr. Volvo was having none of it. He continued to blow his horn and wave his arms, at one point we thought he was going to cut into the processional. Now he really had our attention. This guy was out of control. After he passed the hearse he cut immediately into the right lane. I couldn’t help wonder what the family members in the limousine felt.
Much to his upset, the left lane began to mover faster, so we were able to pass him, getting a good look at him. His mouth was moving quicker than the traffic in front of him, he had a death grip on the steering wheel and the tension in his face was heart attack proportion.
In that moment it became vividly clear to me how true it is that we are the creators of our reality. The situation was the same for every driver on the road that morning, but we each decided how to react to it. Some of us, I imagine, went with the flow, slowed down and took a breath, maybe listened to NPR or WYEP, some may have remembered a time they sat in a limousine about to bury a loved one, some drivers probably used the time to call a loved one and some used it to fuel their fury.
But whichever we chose, we chose.
Granted, Mr. Angry Volvo may have been late, or had a fight with his lover, or just lost his job. Clearly he was having a bad morning. However, he continued to pour fuel on his fire reacting with how terrible, awful, unfair it was that a funeral procession got in his way on a Wednesday morning in Pittsburgh.
I let this be a lesson to me. I decide how I see things, how I feel about things and how I react. I can react however I chose. I can breathe in and accept or I can get furious. I get to pick. I am also the only one responsible for what I pick.
I can love the time in the car with Tom every morning and/or I can feel suffocated and resentful. I can make up any story I want to make my experience true too.
I think mental/emotional health is to simply know what we chose. To take responsibility for our choices and love ourselves no matter what.