This morning as I drove to work, I saw a pretty typical thing happen on 75: a big SUV swerved out of an exit lane and back onto the interstate only to swerve immediately back into the exit lane and… you know, exit. I wasn’t the unfortunate soul directly behind this car, so I wasn’t directly affected, but I did notice that I had a pretty swift and harsh reaction to the swerve. “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS IDIOT DOING?” I thought out loud. Another thought came so quickly it almost interrupted my original reaction: “This person is probably just confused. Actually, I have no idea what is happening in that car.”
I was taken aback by the shift in perspective. It really felt like I was experiencing the whole angel/devil shoulder thing. It seemed perfectly normal for me to make a bunch of negative assumptions about the driver, but the fact that I stopped myself so quickly made me feel like an alien. It was like slapping myself in the face… with a big fat handful of grace. Who am I? I have started meditating in the mornings. Or maybe it’s the new multi-vitamin?
It reminded me of a few of years ago when I (mistakenly) thought another car was going to let me over when I found myself in a left turn only lane. Instead, I was forced back into my lane because the car behind me started speeding up. Half a mile later, after another car showed me some kindness (or more likely was texting and didn’t realize he could go), I landed at a dead stop right beside the car that rushed me, because Atlanta. It was a beautiful day, so I had the windows down. I noticed the car next to me, but stared straight ahead like the non-confrontational little lady that I am. My arch enemy, however, decided this was a fine time to roll her window down and let me know that I was a “BITCH!” I rolled my window up as my little 18 year old heart sank. I’ll never forget thinking how strange it was that she would react like that. If only she had known that I had just misunderstood– that it wasn’t intentional, and I wasn’t a bitch… Ok, I’m probably a bitch, but not for that!
This morning made me think about how much easier life would be if we didn’t jump to angry conclusions the second someone swerves in front of us. What if our initial reactions to another person’s weird behavior weren’t always “She must be a bitch” or “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS IDIOT DOING?” What if we didn’t take everything so personally? What if we didn’t assume that the client breathing down our necks is inherently evil and out to get us? Or that the person who hasn’t responded to our text message hates us? She’s probably feeding her kids, or walking her dog, or at the gym, or, like, pooping. Although I find the bathroom to be the perfect place for catching up on text messages… but to each her own.
Who knows why people do the things they do? We can humbly and intentionally choose ignorance, and we aren’t dumb for doing it. We’re probably fuller, yet lighter, and a lot better rested.
Sure, some people suck and some people just straight up don’t like us, but I’d be willing to bet that 90% of the assumptions we’re making aren’t true at all. It’s not that hurtful or dangerous behavior is okay, but here’s the thing: there’s nothing we can do about someone else’s hurtful or dangerous behavior. We only have control over how we react to it, and I can tell you from personal experience (okay, one singular personal experience that occurred nearly 14 hours ago) that spiking down the assumption and moving on makes you feel like freakin’ Mother Teresa. Or at least that’s how it makes me feel. One ninja assumption chop and I’m practically a wise, old bird, sitting at the top of a tree and shitting grace all over everythang… Okay I’ll stop…
It feels good. And I tried my best to carry that Mother Teresa swag into the rest of my day. And I failed. But I’m gonna try again tomorrow, and I hope if you’ve made it this far, you’ll try with me. And if you haven’t made it this far (why am I writing this sentence cause you’re not even reading it), that’s cool, and I won’t assume you hate me or my writing. Also, how would I ever know? I guess ignorance really is bliss.