Maybe turning left on red is a new thing?
It was 9 am on Monday morning. The kids were in school – I had just dropped them off with the feeling you might get while saying goodbye to houseguests who had stayed a little too long.
I was enjoying my freedom – and the ability to hear myself think!
I drove my car to Whole Foods to pick up a green smoothie. I don’t always treat my body well with food, but I was feeling the desire to be nice to myself. On the way to the store, I listened to NPR – some feel-good story about people doing kind things in the world.
Windows down, I was c.h.i.l.l. The kind of chill that has you feeling proud about who you are and thinking, “things are good – I’ve sort of got this whole life thing tied up neatly in a bow” before mentally patting yourself on the back.
I grabbed my smoothie after making (what probably only I believed to be) witty small talk with the barista. I returned to my car, pulled to the edge of the lot, and waited for the light to turn green.
My zen was broken by a loud and urgent honking.
I looked in the rear view to see the guy behind me impatiently laying on his horn.
It appeared he thought I should be making a left turn on red.
My cool was gone.
Right out the window.
“What an @#$hole!” I yelled.
And suddenly, it was ON.
I was fired up.
Because, you know, in this situation, I WAS RIGHT.
And man, doesn’t it sometimes (always) feel so damn good to be unequivocally, totally, can’t-argue-with RIGHT?
As the honking continued on, my blood moved faster and faster.
I slammed down my green smoothie and as he blasted past me, I raised my hand, gave him the finger, and screamed an obscenity.
It felt freakin’ great.
For about 30 seconds.
I began to wonder what happened to my neat little tied-in-a-bow, I’ve-got-this mental state.
I pulled over to breathe for a few minutes before realizing I had done it again. And by “it”, I do not meaning losing my cool. Because, well, I do that on an almost daily basis.
Rather, I had once again made my mental state a game of perfection.
While driving to Whole Foods, I had been chasing the dream of a final destination called calm. And the lie that to arrive at such a destination, I only have to do enough smoothie drinking, meditation, downward-dogging, journaling, etc.
My mind loves to believe that if I become good enough at such things, I never, ever have to go back to feeling bad about myself or treating other people poorly.
I can simply exist in perpetuitous Namaste.
(I’m not saying such enlightenment isn’t possible. There seem to be a handful of souls who have achieved this state while still walking among us. But, let’s face it, the odds are not in my favor that I’m among them. And from everything I’ve read, these souls didn’t become enlightened via belly breathing and meditation apps on their phone. They went through a whole lot of ugly business first.)
But as I sat in my car, wondering how I went from Ohm to bitch in about 2.3 seconds, I was reminded of what a thousand wise women and men have said in some way or another:
True growth lies not in becoming some “better” form of ourselves, but in accepting everything – absolutely every last little bit – about ourselves and our lives, exactly as it is, in this very moment.
The true reason to engage in things like meditation, introspection, etc. is to become more adept at riding the inevitable waves of life – the good, the bad, and the downright (middle-finger-throwing) ugly.
To learn to flow with it all, without trying to remove the parts we don’t like and keep the parts we do.
This is not to say that we don’t take ownership for things we do that hurt other people.
But we are far more likely to make these changes when we are not distracted by beating ourselves up.
Put simply, we can’t be at peace with others when we are at war with ourselves.
At any given moment, I can be a zen mama or a loose cannon behind the steering wheel. All of those things are equally me.
To find true freedom today: try just being with yourself during cringe-worthy moments or when you believe you have made a mistake. Breathe in and tell that part of yourself, “You are allowed to be here.”
Because when we can breathe in the truth of who we are at this very moment and strive to do nothing about it, we just may finally be getting somewhere.
Until next week, wishing you all a messy, imperfect, human experience.
Trust me, I’m right there with you.
To sign up for a free consultation and receive personal advice on how to embrace the cringe-worthy, visit www.gailcowan.com/schedule.