Consider a flat tire.
Perhaps you’re on your way to get groceries. The early morning is sunny and mild. Your car runs over something sharp, suddenly puncturing the supple rubber, and your car bumps and jars until you stop.
“Oh!” you exclaim as you pause in confusion. Did I just run over something? Did the car break down?
It isn’t until you feel the thwump, thwump of the deflated tire that you realize your quick trip is now a long, tiring journey.
Now imagine you’re on the same road. The skies are blue, the sun is shining and the breeze pleasant. You’re riding your bike, a bit uncertainly, and a bit carelessly – why not, you think, the day is beautiful!
You come up to a stop sign and stop. A car approaches, but you think you’re at a four way stop so you begin to accelerate.
The speeding car trundles down at you and you swerve a bit to avoid a collision. As it passes, the driver looks directly at you and angrily shouts “Stop signs are for bikes, too!” and keeps on going.
Flat tire, meet angry man.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get the shouting man out of my head. I knew I was in the wrong and could have been seriously injured. I immediately learned from that lesson and treated the roads as if I was driving a car and not like I was 9 again. However, even with all of that self-culpable admittance and correction, I couldn’t shake it off. It was like the thwump of the flat tire, reminding me of his anger and my powerless response every time it rolled around.
Sometimes I could “patch” it and forget, but then my mind would drift back and I’d be right back at the intersection, watching ineptly as the car drove away. My hurt feelings, my near death experience, my shock would ball up and make me want to just eat and eat and eat. Ever notice how it isn’t the nice, ripe pineapple but the box of cookies you want to grab when upset? Hormones! 😐
I was letting him, letting that blink of an eye anger filled moment, rule me. I was giving him more power to make me even more miserable. I had already “fixed” my behavior, but I wasn’t moving on. More than likely he had just blown off his steam and was sitting down to dinner having forgotten all about it while I was still morosely trying to resist the food in my pantry and grumping at my (also not happy) hubby.
But then, driving into work, I remembered something I used to have my students read. It was a section from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (Bird by Bird btw is so worth reading, even if you don’t write) about dropping all of the critical voices into a jar and capping it silent.
So, I imagined a tin jar (because I honestly didn’t want to see him again) and stuffed the imaginary man into it and stuck a stop sign painted cork over the lid.
Man, meet jar.
I didn’t need him to rule my life, ruin my mood and make me miserable. I didn’t need to give him the power to make me stuff my face and make me feel worse. Life was too short and too precious to give him more valuable time.
Learning to let go isn’t easy when all you really want to do is track him down and have your belated say. However, when you finally do, it’s like going back to that beautiful day with the blue skies and the bright sun.
Life, meet peace.