Letting go–The high road: Real or an urban myth?
Have you ever been shouted at in public by a complete stranger? Flipped off while driving for no apparent reason? Rammed by an overly aggressive grocery cart? Disrespected and lashed out at by an individual in your life who’s really angry at someone else or an unrelated circumstance?
I have. On more occasions than I can count. Every time I’ve been collateral damage, I try to picture myself plodding along on that invisible yet well known path. The high road.
At this stage in my life I’ve figured out that people who, flip others off, lash out while driving, hit, manipulate, or act with malice, choose to conduct themselves in this manner because they are in pain. Typically pretty severe.
Just this morning a car whizzed by me, the driver, screaming through a closed window. He cut into my lane, slammed on the brakes, appearing to want to insight a rear end accident. Clearly he was angry. My ABS system cycled and I stopped just shy of his bumper. Grabbed my cell phone and snapped a picture of his license plate. Good thing because a second later, he spun his tires and darted for the on ramp. “Whew,” I blew out and flashed on my go to image. A lush, tree-lined path, with Cardinals chirping, the scent of pine, and sunbeams warming my legs as I hiked the canopied track. How uncomfortable he must be to not have learned another way to handle himself. I was delighted and proud that I didn’t take the bait and react.
Off I went, “tra-la-la-la,” believing, that I would forever be on the road to balance and content, when out of nowhere I crossed paths with “that” person. The very one who, years ago had, not accidentally but purposely, lashed out at me with a vengeance.
Adrenaline pumped. A sharp stake barbed my heart and all the pain, sadness and anger from that time resurfaced and overpowered my sense of centeredness. The majestic vision of the ancient oak trees faded. Rain began to fall and the peace and steadiness of the proverbial high road vanished. Really? Still? I shook my head, bewildered, and wondered if perhaps the whole drill of turning the other cheek was a nice thought from ancient Irish folklore.
Good job Erin. I coached. Way to stuff it. Why should I be understanding, nice, respectful and courteous? Doesn’t this person who behaved badly deserve to be treated the same way they treated me? After all, isn’t that fair and balanced?
Most people I meet agree that each of us has a purpose on the planet and therefore we are all on tracks specifically created for us. With that being said, have you ever considered the notion that every interaction, situation or conflict has come into our lives to give us information? Furthermore, is there any chance then that you’ve unconsciously chosen to be in this particular situation to learn something very important?
Think about it. How do you handle the so called “wrongs” that have been done to you? Do you choose to work through them, forgive and let go? Match the hurtful behavior? Act passive aggressive? (ie. Stalk on social media or pretend they don’t exist?) Or do you bury the emotions down so deep that over time they become a car rant in the making?
In my experience, answering these questions is the first and most difficult step to walking an elevated path. Discovering why you’ve chosen to be in this particular situation and then mustering the courage to ask yourself how long is too long to be angry, resentful or irritated at someone who wronged you at a certain point in time? If you are like me, you’d answer a couple of minutes is way too long. Since I really like to feel comfortable and relaxed. So why then does the “old stuff” seem to linger in my heart so long?
Because even though I was on the right track, I failed to allow my thinking to go to the next level. I just finished saying we are all on journeys specifically designed for us. I never said our tracks were the same or even suggested we are all moving at a similar pace. Think of it like a marathon. Some people speed to the head of the pack, others go slow and steady. Some even walk. Does that mean that the runner’s ahead of you and behind you have racing strategies that are stupid or invalid. Does it mean they’re better than you? Or just physically at a different place. Do you think if the fastest runner hung at the back of the pack, yelled at and berated the walkers that they would eventually speed up and run at his or her pace. No, likely not. So if your goal really is to leave the planet better than you found it, does this sort of behavior further your cause?
If you apply that same line of thinking to the journey we all share as human beings, does it make sense to criticize and harbor ill feelings towards someone who is exactly where they are suppose to be on their custom made track, especially if we are a little further along? The fact is, you can only know what you know. Do you really think it’s fair to penalize someone else for not knowing what you know?
You can, if you want. It’s certainly your right. But more times that not you won’t get what you want and odds are good you’ll wind up irritated, disappointed and exhausted.
But it doesn’t have to go that way. In fact, it’s really not that hard to choose a different path. Yes, it’s a little uncomfortable. Kind of awkward like standing on skis for the first time, or the mind/body coordination it takes when learning to ride a bike. It is possible, and not as hard as you think.
Can you imagine for a moment the freedom of knowing you don’t have to carry these burdens around? That the minute they happen, no matter how deep the cut, you are capable of letting the pain go, heal and move forward. Is it possible that if you take a minute to understand where this person is at in their journey and, if you are ahead of them, you resist the urge to react and, instead set an example for that very person who has done you wrong?Would this small shift release that pain once and for all? Better yet, would it wash through so quickly that it might not get stuck in the first place.
What if you just relaxed in the moment and calmly said, in a few pointed words, how this person’s behavior is inappropriate and damaging? Isn’t it worth a shot? What have you got to loose?
If you decide to handle yourself in this manner, you will also get another bonus. An opportunity to hone your patience skills. Don’t expect the example you’ve set to yield instant results. Remember the liberation is meant for you not them. In fact, this person may shift without you knowing, or not at all. Like you they get to pick.
Yes, I believe the highroad exists. Which begs the question, if the path is invisible how do you know if you’re on it?
If your heart is open. If you’re doing your best and have the guts to accept some culpability. If you’re saying what has to be said. And then letting go of your own stuff without having any stake in the outcome. It is, after all, what it is.
E.L. Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Chasers/Risk
In every situation there is information for me if I choose to look.
On the fast-track to bliss
aka The Glamorous Wife.