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Doing the Dishes in Traffic

fear mindfulness personal story

When my partner and I began living together he inherited full grown dogs, and I inherited a growing garden - something I had always dreamed of. It isn't huge, and we certainly couldn't live off of its contents, but the act of nurturing it has taken its place in my daily routine. I thoroughly enjoy getting to help take care of the garden. It has given time and space to see and experience new things (well, new to me). It is a wonderful daily reminder


(I am pausing mid sentence as I write this because through the sounds of birds and barks and traffic I hear the soft melody of a flute. I've never heard it before while sitting on the back patio. I have to strain to hear it behind the rooster and garbage trucks... And just as quickly, it's gone...)


reminder of how there is so much more to the world than me and the goings-on of my life. It makes me think of how big the garden seems to the spider or how huge the yard seems to the baby frogs. Surely they think that is the whole world. Yet, I know that it is just one garden in just one backyard among hundreds in this neighborhood alone.

And then we go about our day thinking our world is THE world even though we know there is so much more out there. I think of this most when I am in traffic. There I am in my car thinking of my day or my frustration, and then I catch a glimpse of the person in the car next to me doing the same thing. Then I realize how many of us are creating that traffic and having that same experience and how we each have all these cords throughout our selves, our single lives and then the lives of our family and ancestors. Throw past lives and other dimension lives in the mix and the only thing left to do is wait for my brain to melt. How small I am in this current form. How small my impact is. How nearly insignificant my thoughts and troubles are. It's insane that with the ability to create anything I want, I was sitting in the car creating anxiety. So many people think stress and anxiety are just out there to be experienced. Traffic is a great example because it is a space where most people have accepted the same idea so it has become "fact". Being in traffic is stressful. But of course that isn't true. Being in traffic is nothing more than sitting in a chair and occasionally moving your foot (or in the case of my manual car, my feet). To add to it, we now have the whole span of ideas and knowledge and creativity at our fingertips. That "stressful" hour could be a chance to catch up with a loved one, listen to favorite music, learn something new, generate ideas, etc. Not only is it not a fact that being in traffic is stressful, being in traffic is also not a fact. No one is in traffic; each car on the road is traffic - only our ego spins it to us differently. Like all the cars in front of us are the problem - nevermind the fact that I am a car in front of someone else, thus becoming traffic for them. I love it! Traffic is such an easy way to see so much about life; yet so many people don't, which is funny cuz there's nothing but time during traffic to ponder and examine hahaha.


I once got in an argument with a good friend around the existence of emotions. She was convinced that emotions exist, and I argued that we create them. We chose anger as our example, and it just so happens she brought up driving as her proofpoint. Take for example someone turning out in front of you while driving. This happens and anger comes with it - pretty much a given. When really that is not true because the same situation could happen to someone else who feels no anger about it at all. Therefore, it isn't the situation that carries anger, it is the person in the situation who has created anger there. This idea made her feel a lot of anger (ironically). I believe this is due to the fact that she did not want to feel she had control over her emotions because if we have control over them, then we can do something about them. Surely, it is much easier to believe they just happen and we are victim to them.

But really, who would ever want to believe that?!?! When you break it down, that sounds terrifying! Like I'm just walking along minding my own business and all of a sudden something happens and then BOOM anger is there! Yikes! What anxiety that would cause me to constantly sit in. I used to live this way of course. I never saw it as a victim mentality, but standing further back from it, I guess it was. It's no different than the person who says things like "Why do bad things always happen to ME?" or "The universe is against me." They may not realize it, but they've made themselves victims. Naturally we do this because we get something out of it. In her case, and perhaps theirs too, it meant not having to do the hard work to "control" her emotions. And by control I mean make the conscious choice of what to experience and when, to be in the position of observer in her life and see the options before choosing one. Of course, she was making a choice by being angry when the person cut her off in traffic, she just didn't realize consciously that she was making it.

I would much rather recognize I have options so I can have a direct say in my experience. Yes, it is more work (a lot more work really) at first, but then the rest of life is soooooooo much easier. When I look from a longterm point of view, I can see that the initial hard work at the front end means very little work the rest of the time. In truth it is the easier and less painful choice, but it certainly didn't feel that way initially. When I think about it, (knowing I still have a long ways to go) it didn't really take that long and wasn't really that painful. In fact, now that I stop and look back, it wasn't even that hard. It meant doing less not more. It wasn't hard work so much as it was super uncomfortable. I feel so silly thinking about how much more I worked and how much harder just to avoid temporary discomfort. A whole life dedicated to the avoidance of discomfort, if I'm honest. Luckily it was not a long life, and I still have lots more of it!

One of the most earth shaking moments I had in recovery was when I finally heard the concept of just sitting with emotions/discomfort (mind you it had been said before, I just hadn't heard it). This was as revolutionary to me as the first fire was to cavemen. No joke. Just sit with my emotions and not do anything about them or with them??? What what what??!?! What is this madness you speak of?! Do you know what will happen if I don't act on this feeling? <insert crickets here>

Uhhhhh.... Nothing. Nothing will happen as it turns out.

Well, that's not entirely true. Lots will happen, I just wouldn't know it yet and it would all be positive. And the idea to not try to change or escape the discomfort was the first electric light bulb in 1879 to me. Mind explosion! It probably sounds silly to you, but these ideas had never occurred to me, not as realistic options at least. I wish I remembered the person who relayed these messages to me. It was in a noon 12 Step meeting back when I was first getting sober. I would go to the far corners of the earth to find a lamp with a genie in it and bring it back to that person so that they could choose some incredible things for their own life. Though, experiencing the contentment and peace that comes with being able to sit in discomfort comfortably is greater than any three wishes I can think of.

It's amazing how little fear is needed on any given day if I don't perceive a need to escape discomfort. Cuz let's be real, life is just gonna keep being uncomfortable. What am I gonna do, run away my whole life? Check around every corner? Live behind the veil of illusion that I have any control on that which happens around me? Wow those things take a lot of effort!

It makes me think of a constant fight I had with my mom when I was a kid. When it came time for me to unload the dishwasher I would put up such a fight. I can't remember why, but I hated anything to do with the dishes, and unloading the dishwasher was majorly offensive to me. Now of course adult you and I know that it takes a matter of minutes to unload the dishwasher and is an incredibly simple, non-gross task. I would spend 3 - 5 times more energy and time fighting about unloading the dishwasher than the chore, itself, would actually take. Many parents would have just given in and done it for me and not assigned me that chore anymore, but not my mom, no way. There was a lesson to be learned and a principle to stick by. You better believe I was going to unload that dishwasher even if it meant entering the battleground every single time (which it did). I truly was raised by a fierce and fair warrior. All that to say, sitting in discomfort is just as easy as unloading the dishwasher. The real unpleasantness around it is in fighting against it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some chores to do.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl


With respect to each path,

- Jace

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