Monday mornings have become quite busy for us since my daughter began preschool last September. I teach yoga at the Maryland Athletic Club in Harbor East from 10-11, she has to be at school at 8:50, so we’ve employed the divide and conquer technique–My husband takes our daughter to school and I bring our nearly two year old son with me to the gym, where childcare is graciously provided. I remember the Mondays of yesteryear…when we could just stay home and laze around and do nothing all day if we wanted. How different life is now that there are kids and Monday morning yoga commitments in the picture.
Husband and daughter had been gone nearly an hour before I got myself and my son ready to go. The house was quieter than usual, yet I still felt bombarded by noise. It was my inner noise, which is always pretty frantic, convinced that I have to get everything done more quickly than I’m currently getting things done.
Aren and I were out the door fifteen minutes later than I like to leave, and I tried to remind myself to breathe deeply, slow down, remember that I’m of no use to my yoga students if I’m dead in a car wreck somewhere…
When I merged onto the highway and noticed a much higher volume of traffic than usual, I felt an immediate sense of gratitude arrive with the recognition that I didn’t have to do this every day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Ugh. Poor commuters having to find a way to be happy in spite of the endless traffic, having to be vigilant, hyper aware, traveling at high speeds, in all sorts of weather conditions. That’s just exhausting.
Upon exiting the highway, and again noticing lots and lots of traffic, I caught myself feeling extra impatient and casting undeserved scowling faces at unsuspecting old people who were carrying on with their lives at their normal pace.
I even let fly a few curses as I attempted to weave around slower moving vehicles so that I could speed through a green light before it changed.
How did I get this way? Why am I always in such a hurry? Why do I experience the other drivers with whom I share the road as my adversaries? How can I change this?
I suspect it might take a very long time for me to change a habit as deeply ingrained as my road rage. I’ve calmed down considerably since my kids came along, and this has given me some hope. I want to set a good example for my kids, and I want to be safe. A lot of the time I’m successful in slowing down and not saying too much to the people who can’t hear me anyway, but more often than I’d like I catch myself muttering cloaked insults under my breath. I never knew I had such venom until I listened to the things I say to other drivers when I’m in my car.
I’ve employed multiple techniques to mitigate the endless supply of anger, impatience, and irritation that arise when I’m behind the wheel:
1)Breathwork (the ujayi breath)
2)Chanting (I like the seed mantras associated with the chakras)
3)Calling a friend or family member (car is equipped with hands-free link, otherwise I wouldn’t do it!)
4)Listening to Pema Chodron (her voice is so soothing)
5)Looking for things to appreciate in the landscape around me (the pretty sunrise, birds on the telephone line, a brightly colored sign, the way the wind blows the leaves across the road…)
What all of this amounts to is I need something to distract me, or else I automatically default to being stressed out, anxious, annoyed, impatient, uptight, tense, and just plain miserable a lot of the time when I’m driving.
I want to change this. I really do. I want to not need a distraction to be happy when I’m behind the wheel. I keep asking myself countless times every day what it would take to change my reactivity, but I’m pretty sure I already know, always have known. It will take awareness, patience, discipline, and time.
Deep down I’m an eternal optimist, and I try to make meaning out of my experiences, because what is life for if we don’t take the time to learn from it and understand it? I’d like to think that my own driving experiences have helped me to feel connected with a great deal of people who live the same reality–who have to go somewhere because they’re trying to do the right thing, be responsible, earn an income to support themselves and their family.
If you see me on the road, you may not believe me, but this is what I really want to say to all you commuters out there who have to deal with lots of driving on a regular basis:
I have the deepest possible sympathy for you. Maybe you find a moment to breathe. May traffic be light and flowing with ease. May you be safe. May you be happy.