This morning sucked.
I live in a dead-end street, and have to turn right onto a very narrow street in order to take my two sons to school in the mornings. Usually, the road is quite crowded, as many people are taking their kids to school and trying to get to work. To add to that, two cars cannot fit on the street side-by-side. So, one car has to wait at the intersection until the car coming from the other direction can move along. It’s just the way it is and everyone who lives in this area accepts it.
This morning was different.
There is currently a construction site on this street, complete with diggers and oversized trucks. They manage to stay off the street though, and usually remain on the lot next to this little road. This morning, I turned right, after checking for cars coming from the other end of this little street, and thus proceeded down the road. I only had a few feet to go before I was clear and would take another right onto the main street, when I see a big truck in front of me. It was dark and rainy, so I really only saw its headlights beaming at me. I didn’t think much about it, as the truck was waiting at the end of this little road – or so I thought. Apparently, this truck—or the driver inside of it—decided HE needed to go down this street and I should drive-backwards-all the way back down the street where I had just come from. I stood there for a moment, perplexed at the situation. Then, thinking that he too was perplexed, waved at him to kindly ask him to drive his truck only a few feet backwards so that I could whiz by him and alleviate the ensuing traffic jam (there were at least 10 cars collecting behind me by this time). After a short showdown and the driver pushing me back with his hands, I end up putting it in reverse, fussing at his man while doing so. I literally had to drive backwards down the entire street. After doing this, the man flips me the bird, gets out of his truck and starts yelling at me, making my kids cry.
He said while frantically waving his arm, “You need to go back and get your driver’s license because everyone knows that trucks always have the right of way!”
Meanwhile, the truck had driven down the road that cleared for him, and was now blocking the entire intersection and the rest of the road behind me. Now, ahead of me, you know, the road I just drove down backwards, was now also full of cars coming from the other direction. Again, blocking me from going anywhere. Now I was stuck, unable to drive backwards or forwards. Another man, presumably a father trying to get his kids to school, asks me (in a more civil way than the truck driver) if I could drive forwards to let the cars behind me go. I pointed to the cars ahead of me who were completely blocking the road. Luckily, a construction worker jumps onto the street and starts directing traffic, asking the cars to move to the side to make room. In the meantime, my 5-year old son is bawling his little sweet eyes out because the garbage man was yelling at me, and my 9-year old asks me if that man is going to call the police on us.
Bad mommy moment? Not sure at this point. I told my boys, “I’m so sorry that situation was so stressful and scared you guys. Nobody will call the police because no one did anything illegal. And, by the way, I know Mommy yelled too, and I’m sorry, but sometimes it’s ok to stand up for yourself!”
As I drove my kids to school, my son continued to talk about the situation. In my head I’m begging him to stop. On the other hand, I knew he was just trying to process what had happened.
What did just happen?
Did I do something wrong? Should I have been more mindful? After all, I study mindfulness, I write about mindfulness. I practice mindfulness! Should I have behaved differently? And if so, how?
I’ve been thinking about this all day. Should I have immediately thrown my car in reverse down an entire street full of parked cars, when that truck driver could have just backed up a few feet? Was I too stubborn? If I stand up for myself, am I not being mindful? Is it wrong to yell back at this complete stranger who seems to be behaving in a very rigid and head-through-the-cement-wall kind of way? I told my kids—and myself—that it is ok to stand up for yourself sometimes.
But is it mindful to do so?
How could I have done this differently? Should I have backed up and the whole thing would not have happened? Perhaps. But If I had done that, am I letting myself get pushed around? (*sigh*)
I’m not sure.
Is it mindful to stand up for yourself when you know that someone is blatantly wrong and inconsiderate? Or do you swallow your ego and let everyone have their way with you?
I’m not sure.
What I do know is that I am human. I do have an ego. We all do. Being mindful also means assessing your behavior and reflecting on times like these when you’ve found yourself in a challenging situation. Self-reflection is also mindful. Mindfulness does not mean perfection. It means being mindful of your life, of your surroundings, of your thoughts and feelings, WITHOUT JUDGMENT!
I have to admit I am kind of judging my behavior this morning. But I am also trying to understand how I felt and why, so I can correct my behavior in the future. If I get myself stuck in a fog of judgment, I will feel bad about myself. Feeling bad about yourself means one of two things: 1) You will deny your bad feelings and start blindly defending yourself and blaming everyone else; or 2) You will simply blame yourself, get down on yourself, and retreat into a self-defeating cycle, which will not help anything either. And when you feel like that, you will not be able to objectively see where you went wrong and correct it in the future.
Being mindful means being objective about your thoughts, feelings and sometimes less-than-perfect behavior, without beating yourself up about it or blaming others. Being mindful means acceptance. It means accepting your mistakes as being no more or less than what they are: mistakes.
I am human. I am flawed. I am constantly growing. I am mindful.