Here is one of those lessons I have picked up over time – questions I have learned to ask myself – that help me to just:
I’ll start with a story:
The other day, on our drive to school, my mind was jumping from thing to thing to thing. For some reason, plans for the weekend just wouldn’t seem to mesh, and I was trying to fit them all together like a jigsaw puzzle.
I needed to talk to one of my “working friends” (i.e. not available for a phone call on a whim), so at a stop light – with all cars in front and behind me stopped mind you – I shot off a one sentence text to her that read, “Call me when you have a sec.”
It probably took me less than 15 seconds to complete.
When I looked up, the car in front of me had rolled forward by about 1.5 car lengths and it was my turn to roll. There was a gap of about 15 – 20 feet between us.
I let off the brakes and began my forward motion.
At that moment, I noticed a man on the sidewalk, walking past my car.
Staring at me.
No, glaring at me.
And shaking his head in a “Tsk. Tsk. You lousy excuse for a driver/mother texting-on-your-phone-with-your-kids-in-the-car piece of pond sucking scum! HOW DARE YOU look at your phone when ALL TRAFFIC AROUND YOU IS STOPPED?!”
Can I even begin to describe what happened in my body when I saw this man calling me out with his shaking head and dirty look??
My blood felt like it was boiling. My armpits stung with perspiration. My head spun for a split second, then felt like it was floating off my body for the other split of the second. I wanted to SCREAM at that man for all his non-verbal accusations.
I wanted to yell names at him, tell him all the ways he was wrong, and point out the fact that EVERYONE WAS STOPPED!!!!! I WASN’T ENDANGERING ANYONE! NOBODY! NOT MY KIDS, NOT MYSELF, NOT HIM, NOT ANYONE AROUND ME!!!!
I really wanted to do all those things, but I didn’t.
It flashed through my mind in milliseconds, and then I caught myself.
Halt!. . .
What the heck was that (my reaction)?
Why did this man bother me so much?
Why do I even care what a passing stranger thinks?
Was I really doing something wrong, is that why it bothered me? That I was caught red-handed?
And someone was pointing it out?
Is it because I felt he was somehow questioning my mothering? In which case I came out swinging like an angry grizzly in defense of myself and my children?
Whew. Armpits tingling as they returned to normal. Head back on shoulders. Desire to scream stifled. Self control preserved.
Then my thoughts went to this man:
Why did he care so much about what I was doing?
Why did he feel the need to judge me and shake his head?
What was going on in his day that made my actions so important that he felt the need to non-verbally scold me?
And then the piece de resistance:
Does it all even matter?
Not one little bit.
In the scheme of my day, it didn’t matter at all.
In the scheme of my week or month or life? Doesn’t matter.
This man and his shaking head are nothings.
So I’m not going to waste my energy and emotions reacting.
Now this is the other thing I have learned to do, because I do believe there is a purpose to all things. So this thing happened, and this man and his shaking head don’t matter, but:
What can I take away from this whole interaction?
What can I learn about myself?
Well, obviously, I don’t like being scolded. Which reminds me of my kids. They don’t like it either. This thought helps me relate to their feelings – and to them and how they must feel – when they are the target of a reprimand.
My strong defensive reaction to admonishment helps me relate to their strong defensive reactions to admonishment and makes me jot down a mental note to myself: “Be more understanding of the kids – they are just like you.”
We are all human. We all react. Nobody likes being called out.
And apparently “Angry Mother Grizzly” is one of my alter egos.
And. . .just stop texting in the car.
That guy was probably right.
Dad gum it.
I hate it when judgemental strangers are right.
So I guess he wins.
He just made me a better stuck-in-traffic-jammer.
And a better no-texting-in-the-car(er) – even if it was only at stop lights.
What a great guy that stranger is.
Thank you, you judgemental head-shaker.