Saturday, July 1, 2017

Choosing Something Different than Anger

It takes longer to describe what happened than it did in real time.

I can't say my life flashed before me, but time did slow to a crawl.

Armed with an umbrella for a light shower, I set out for my daily walk at lunch time. My orange umbrella was in full bloom. It was working hard to ward off the wind made cooler by the random raindrops that were gently falling. 

I listened to the YoYo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone album. I caught my breath at a busy intersection at the top of a steep incline that lasts an entire city block. Since I listen to music as I walk, I am hyper vigilant about observing cross walks to avoid being "that" walker who misses some safety cue.

I looked up and saw the white pedestrian light illuminated. I looked once more before I stepped into the street. Without warning a car surged toward me and stopped with a lurch! I stopped and made I eye contact with the driver. She seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see her. She remained frozen. I looked back at the crosswalk to make sure I hadn't stepped out prematurely. The white pedestrian was still gleaming.

I took a hold of my umbrella with both hands and made my way across the street.

My brain buzzed with the replays. Did that really happen? Oh my word! I almost got hit by a car! How did she not SEE MY ORANGE UMBRELLA???

I kept walking.

And then another thought occurred to me.

I don't feel angry at the driver.

I feel compassion.

We all have had distracted, preoccupied moments behind the wheel.

It definitely wouldn't have been good for me physically had she hit me, but it wouldn't have been good for her either. That's where my compassion was aimed. When we made eye contact, she didn't gesture in anger or act like I'd been in her way. In the few seconds we locked eyes, she looked as shocked as I felt.

I texted my best friend and told her about the near miss. I also told her that I wasn't angry.

"You may be later. You're in shock right now."

I was pretty sure that the anger wasn't going to come, and I was right. I have thought about the experience a lot in the past 36 hours, but anger didn't surface. Relief, yes. Anger, nope. I'm working hard on being more compassionate. I've been meditating a lot on the words Jesus says about loving one's enemies and praying for them. It is so hard to do, and yet there's spiritual alchemy in the practice. It has a neutralizing effect.

I am not suggesting that there's not a place for anger in the menu of human emotions. But it does require a lot of energy to muster up anger and then even more to figure out how to resolve it. I am encouraged by yesterday's response.

For so many years, I walked around with unresolved anger and confusion. I didn't know how to process it, so it stayed stuck in my body and mind and heart. Without healthy ways to voice these things, they turned inward and weighed me down. I was plagued by depression and anxiety. It was all I knew, so I never foresaw a time when I wouldn't carry the weight.

With the help of a counselor and the love and cheerleading of an amazing tribe of friends, I have written my way through a lot of the muck. I feel lighter and freer than ever before. Now that I'm aware of my past modes of reaction, I am in a better position to CHOOSE differently.

I am grateful yesterday's crosswalk near-calamity turned out the way it did. I am grateful I didn't spend time in an ambulance or the ER. The moment gave me the opportunity to practice what I'm working on. I am incredibly happy to know that compassion was my default response.

This life thing is a series of practice sessions. Every time we're confronted with something new (or not) we get to choose how we're going to react. And the beautiful thing is that if we don't like how we responded, we'll get other opportunities to choose differently. Though I'm okay with not having a repeat of this particular encounter. 

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