Road Rage is Not My Friend

Monday, after a week of relaxing vacation puttering around my house, spending time with friends and getting a few chores done, I hopped into my car ready to return to an exciting week of work.  We were about to switch to a new online catalog this week and I anticipated a day of busyness as we readied for the big day.

I was driving on a main street, navigating my way towards the Garden State Parkway, when a Ford 250 Truck came barreling out of a side street as I came upon it.  The man driving and I locked eyes as we both slammed on our brakes.  I have to say I admire that Ford Truck because although he was going way too fast, it seemed like he stopped on a dime.  We were both shocked and then I navigated around him and went on my way.

So many thoughts and emotions cycled through me from when I first became aware of the truck and as I pulled into the Library parking lot. Flash of adrenaline.  Fear. Panic. Hope. Relief. Anger.

If you read my previous post of July 7th, you know that I’ve survived a spectacular crash a few years ago.  Moments like Monday’s, honestly, freak me out a little.  The rest of the way to work I seesawed between feeling shaky and feeling royally pissed.

Today, on my way to work, a man in a truck turned in front of me and the guy in the lane next to me.  Neither one of us beeped or got angry…just slowed so he’d get by without us running into him.  Then he gave us the finger.  And that pissed me off.  I mean, c’mon, you are cutting across two lanes of on coming traffic and you are flipping us off?  What the hell did we do?

The common theme in both of these scenarios is that both men were on their cell phones.  The other commonality is that I got angry.

There are times I make excuses for my anger or feel justified because let’s face it: some idiot on a cell phone almost killed me and although I survived, it has been a long, difficult emotional and physical recovery.  But, I like to remind myself that anger is only prolonging the suffering from the accident.  I don’t really want to waste time and energy on being angry and I think it’s bad for my health to have all that “mad juice” wandering about my body.

It got me thinking about many things.  How many people start their day angry because of an encounter similar to the ones I described?  How long does this anger last? How many people are affected by it?  We can’t control people not being mindful and cautious drivers.  I truly wish we could.  It’s only going to get worse as more people fiddle with gadgets and computers when they should just be concentrating on the road.  So, what can we do to quickly contain the anger and get rid of it before it harms us or we let it poison our interactions with others?

In her book, My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor tells us that physiologically reactions/feelings last for only 90 seconds, any that last longer than that are because we are stimulating the feeling by thinking about it over and over.  If you have not seen her TED talk, you really should go watch it.  We choose to keep the feeling going and we can choose to let it go.  Now, we’ve all been pissed and know that is easier said than done sometimes.

So what do we do?  How do week keep the anger from the jerk that cut us off on our way to work from poisoning the rest of our day and those we encounter?

I think undertaking a consistent meditation practice would help with this.  I have been a non-consistent meditator for years now.  You don’t have to be Buddhist to meditate.  You don’t have to be interested in religion at all.  There is much meditation instruction out there that is stress reduction related and not connected to spiritual practice.

Distraction.  I find that turning the stereo up and forcing myself to sing along let’s me move beyond obsessing over another bad driver I’ve encountered.

I have done loving kindness meditation for the person who pissed me off.  This is generally a good one.  It triggers the compassionate part of my brain and I think of all the reasons the person might have been in a rush.  I actually think I like this method the best.  It leaves me feeling better and I just think it has lasting positive effects on me.  Try this and please drive safely and mindfully!

If you get a look at the person, think of their face and replay the following in your head or even say it out loud.

May you be happy.

May you find peace.

May you arrive at your destination safely.

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