The other day while driving home I found myself mentally racing into the future. I’d had a conversation with someone very close to me, and my feeling was that she wasn’t pleased with me, and this thought left me feeling ungrounded. I was tired and overwhelmed, which is not a good time to think about anything, much less make plans, but I was doing it anyway. My head felt like it was packed with cotton and it was talking non-stop as it tried to get me to grab onto a plan that would make life feel more manageable. It wanted safe ground. It wanted the relief of a solid plan. But I know better. No plans that I have ever made when in this state were ultimately good ones. They always involved moving away from anything that felt challenging…they always ended up too small. I finally said to myself,
“Slow down. I need to slow this mind down.”
Within a few miles, I saw a bunch of police cars up ahead. As I got closer, I could see police officers standing in the center of the road talking to the drivers of each car as they approached. Many cars were then directed to the side of the road to wait for “whatever”.
When it was my turn the officer said, “Are you aware of the speed limit?” I said, “No. Was I over it?” and he said, “Yes”. But instead of feeling anxiety I felt an odd relief. Somehow the universe had done for me what I couldn’t do for myself: It quite literally stopped me in my tracks.
I waited until the officer said, “What’s the hurry?” I actually thought before I answered, taking the time to ask myself, “Why are you rushing, Mary?”, and no good response surfaced so I looked at him and said, “There is no hurry at all.” I noticed a little laugh in the tone of my answer that prompted the same response in him. He smiled at me and said; “Just slow down”. I said, “Thank you”, and slowly drove away. I was still tired but I wasn’t racing into a “solution” and I wasn’t running away from my feelings, which were less overwhelming but still present.
What I have noticed about myself is this: when I am in distress, my mind goes on a search for the cause. It wants to blame someone/something for the discomfort and then it wants me to make a decision that will minimize the chance of ever feeling that way again. I cannot even count the number of times in my life when I’ve ended relationships for the simple reason that someone said something that made me uncomfortable…so many opportunities missed to expand my world.
I’m not talking about unsafe or toxic relationships where almost from the beginning things were off…and I knew it. If I am in a relationship that mostly leaves me feeling less than, inadequate, or confused and distressed, then I am probably getting guidance to move on. But if this isn’t the case and on balance I feel “more myself” and expanded in this relationship, then when we experience a “glitch” or an uncomfortable interaction, my running away from it will diminish me.
The voice inside my head that says, “You don’t need this!” and makes me want to run or fight when I feel uncomfortable, is as familiar as my own hands. I used to listen to her, believe what she said, and then act on that belief…no more. Now, maybe not in the moment, but always within a little time, I say to her, “Oh yes I do. This is exactly what I need. Thank you.”…And she never argues, as a matter of fact, I can often hear her almost chuckle, just like the officer in the street, and say, “Good for you, you brave thing…you couldn’t have done that a few years ago.”
“While control makes us strategize, trust lets us experience a larger set of resources. To move from controlling to trusting life is like exhausting ourselves by trying to put our arms around a river until we realize we have to enter the river and let the current take us.” The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born To Be, Mark Nepo