There's an ongoing feud between drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians in this city and it gets UGLY when lines are crossed. I'll admit, today, I was the asshole driver.
But first, something to note: Since the beginning of time, I've always been a super sensitive person. For the most part, I've resisted showing my sensitivity (the usual- crying= bad, girly, undesirable). Everything was always "fine" around others and feelings are bottled tightly with a smile as the bottle cap.
Now back to today
I had pulled out of my street and was waiting to turn left onto a big, busy street. It all happened at once- I was slowing down to a stop and looking right to see if any cars were coming after seeing from my peripheral vision that there were no cars coming up on my left. I stopped right before a pedestrian was about to approach from my left/ my driver side window and he angrily gave me the middle finger the whole time while crossing the road. I knew it was my bad and I mouthed "Sorry" as he continued to glare and flip the bird.
And I absolutely lost it.
While my brain went into defensive mode (eg. he was overreacting, he's an asshole, etc.), I burst into tears after he walked off. I wanted to run out of my car and yell to him that I was sorry and I wasn't actually a terrible person. All I could do was replay his scowling face in my head over and over again. I pulled over and just sat with my tumultuous feelings and jagged breath for a while. I was also heading in to teach a class and I knew I had to get my shit together.
While in the past i would have merely brushed it off and perhaps translated my feelings of being "wrong" or guilt/ shame into anger and indignation, I just let myself feel all the shitty feelings for a moment. I don't know what the catalyst was but suddenly something switched. I knew deep within what i had to do and that was LKM.
LKM- or Loving-Kindness Meditation, is something I had only practiced in classes with students or as a student, in a very controlled and peaceful setting. It is a form of meditation in which you focus on sending thoughts of love and peace to yourself, to people you care about, and even to strangers with the understanding that we are all people and we are all vulnerable. While I have found practical uses for other forms of meditation, this was one that I had never really sought in a time of crisis.
AS ALWAYS, I COME BACK TO THE IDEA THAT WE PRACTICE AND PRACTICE AND PRACTICE SO THAT WHEN THE TIME COMES, WE'RE READY.
And the time was ripe for some loving-kindness.
So that's what i did. I took a few grounding breaths, cradled myself mentally with thoughts of love and positive affirmations, and then conjured up the stranger's scowling face. I held it in my mind, as painful as it was to see the fury directed at me, and mentally sent thoughts of goodwill and love out there into the universe with each exhale breath in hopes that they would somehow magically make it to him.
I WISHED THAT WHATEVER HARDSHIP HE WAS GOING THROUGH WOULD NOT BURDEN HIM AS MUCH AND I WISHED HIM HAPPINESS.
Whether or not these glittery good thoughts made it to him- who knows. One thing is for sure, I began to feel a little better after a few moments of doing LKM. Perhaps it's a case of appeasing guilt or self forgiveness, but it worked. I truly started to see that he wasn't some jerk- he was upset (and rightfully so). At the same time, I'm not a bitch who tried to cut him off either- it was unintentional.