How to Reverse Years of Meditation in Forty Five Minutes

A Story From School Car Line

I started meditating in 2017. I was just grasping at straws, really. I guess some would call it a mid-life crisis. Regardless of how you label it, everything was spiraling out of control and I was struggling to hold all of my shit together. I was a nurse in an ICU unit, witnessing the end stages of chronic disease day in and day out — a torturous setting for an empath. I was walking that line between social drinking and alcoholism, the pivotal moment for some drinkers when you have to choose a side: stop drinking or press on through and morph into a real alcoholic. Because I had been drinking through my twenties…and a good portion of my thirties, I lacked emotional intelligence. For real, I was truly emotionally illiterate. I was so-o reactive. I yelled at my kid, my husband, my poor precious doggie — I yelled at everyone. When you ease the tension with a glass of wine every evening, there is no need to understand why you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, there is a vintage for that. For me, any negative emotion I had was displayed as rage. I believe that when you don’t know the difference between frustration, disappointment, guilt, loneliness, fear, resentment, or anxiety, they all come out looking (and feeling) like hot, burning, flammable rage.

I decided not to become a full-blown alcoholic, although I came quite close. I began to work on my emotional IQ but it is not something that happens overnight. It takes so much practice and introspection. For me, meditation was the easiest and most effective way to learn the difference in my emotions. Sitting with myself in stillness, along with naming my emotions as they surfaced, was instrumental in finding peace in my life. It wasn’t a quick process but I managed to build a pause, a tiny extra moment, that made me less reactive. Over time, I was able to acknowledge how information made me feel and choose how to act. Daily rage slowly became equanimity. Well, most of the time. There was still one area of my life where I saw little improvement in my level of anger: on the damn road.

Breaking my road rage habit has been the most difficult of many bad habits I have broken over the years. Training myself with meditation and re-wiring my brain to know what calm feels like has helped tremendously. However, no amount of calm can prepare me for the rage I still feel when my husband’s road rage surfaces. We can surge through all levels of hell in a short car ride. His aggressive driving is so scary at times, it makes me want to be the calmest driver to have ever graced the road. Our communication is such that we do not have knock-down-drag-out fights anymore. But, a few minutes in the car on a bad day can change that in an instant. Here I sit, in a place I never thought I would — driving down the road with a calm, peaceful demeanor leading by example in the hopes that my actions will influence the habits of my husband. Hoping that somehow my calm will keep him from scaring the shit out of me. Not everything has to be based on logic, serendipity is a thing. Right?

Generally speaking, my agitation on the road has improved 99%. I am super proud of that accomplishment. It is such an ego boost when I can let someone go ahead of me. I say to myself “look at how nice of a person I am.” I somehow make myself believe that I am now the Mother Theresa of the highway. Well, until that 1% of the time finds its way into my present reality.

I know that I can not blame anything outside of myself for a reaction that occurs inside of me. But give me this, just for a moment. Anyone who has ever had to sit through a school car line, day after day for years knows what I am talking about. Car line is the birthplace of rage, it is the place where all types of evil convene. Where you are certain to experience individuals who think that their time is more valuable than yours. Where human kindness evaporates and the devil is left to lurk unchecked. The majority of the time, I conjure my Mother Theresa; there are times when that is not possible regardless of how many meditation minutes you have under your belt. I recently had two car line moments that were real teachers for me. Lord knows I love a good lesson.

There is a sign in our car line that lists clear instructions. There are two lines and they take turns converging into one. Though, who needs those instructions? It is pure common sense. Anyone who has driven a car for more than a couple of years can pick up on this logic. Sitting in car line day after day with the same parents, most days, rule-breakers are a non-issue. However, there is always that one-day-a-year when asshole dad has to pick the kids up because mom has an obligation. This has happened to me twice recently.

I know, I know, the world has changed and there are stay-at-home dads, and there are men who are great fathers that share car line with me daily. I am not talking about those men and I don’t mean to generalize. I am talking about two men in particular.

My anxiety will not allow me to be very far back in the car line. I like to be close to the front so that I can prevent not only my anxiety but any anxiety my child may have about me not being there. Although he has told me many times that he has zero anxiety about being picked up late, I refuse to believe it and make sure I am at the front anyway. Yes, I have anxiety about preventing anxiety that doesn’t exist. Anyway, on with the story…

I am in line, reading my book, and the bell rings. I put my book away, shift the car into drive. After a few minutes, I realize that in our double line, my line is not proceeding as quickly as the neighboring line. This makes no sense to me knowing that there is a merge point where one line goes and then the other goes, perfectly ordered, taking turns. I then realize that there is a car broken down ahead on my side. Everyone catches on and where this car is unable to move becomes the merge point. So, the car in front of me goes, the car next to me goes and now it is my turn to go, or so I thought. There is a man who clearly does not understand the rules of car line who pulls his car within an inch of the car in front of him and I cannot get in. I look at him, directly beside me, and motion for him to let me in. Yall, not only is this man in my spot, taking my turn, but he looks at me with an evil smile and mouths “no”. Holy shit, I was floored. This feeling of rage came upon me so quickly it felt like I was under nuclear attack and before I knew what happening my middle finger hit my passenger’s side window. I in turn mouthed some words that I am not willing to share here. Just like that all of my years of calm training and overcoming road rage were nothing but a pile of embers. The audacity of some people is shocking. As the warm flush of anger melted into guilt and disappointment for losing my shit, I knew I had to collect myself. My son will be driving soon and preventing road rage in him is a high priority for me. I know that leading by example affords the greatest success rate, so I swallowed the coals of anger and followed the devil the remainder of the way through the line.

Reflecting on my behavior later did make me feel disappointed. I know that while this man has some issues, I am better than my response to the situation. I have not and will not ever be able to control the actions of others. But, I know how I want to move through this world and it certainly is not in the realm of plastering my middle finger to the window of my car. Not for this asshole or any other asshole. I beat myself up for a moment and then I moved on.

This event occurred on a Friday.

Would you believe me if I told you that the very next Friday, that history repeated itself? If I wasn’t there to witness it, I never would have believed it myself.

Different asshole, same dilemma. This time, there was no car broken down in line to confuse the situation. This was basic: follow the rules, take turns at the merge spot, common courtesy, be a decent human. This man had no awareness of the rules, or he didn’t care. I again looked at the man out of my window, side by side, and mouthed “it is my turn.” He looked me dead in my face and mouthed “no” and raised his eyebrows with an evil smile. He was taunting me with a what are you gonna do about it face. Being that the guilt of my previous reactivity was so recent, I took a moment to pause. Instead of raising the bird and being whisked away by the rage of hell, I centered, looked at him disappointedly, and mouthed “wow” — shaking my head in a way that only an appalled mother can. I took a few deep breaths and once again, calmy followed an entitled asshole the whole way through the rest of the line. Only this time, I feel like this reaction had a much greater impact because he allowed several cars to go ahead of him. While this made my time in line longer, I didn’t mind. It is not about getting through faster. It is about getting through being kind, generous, and compassionate to other human beings.

Bullies suck regardless of whether they are in the school building or outside in line waiting to pick up their kids. How we respond to bullies makes a difference. Some people are so lost in their terrible natures that meeting their demons with kindness will not make a difference.

But…sometimes it will.

I want to believe that my gentle response to this man’s lack of consideration helped him to exert kindness to others. I will never know for sure if my actions prompted him to let all of those other folks into the line but I do know that I left feeling a whole lot better about the situation than I did the Friday before. The energy and attitude that we send through this world create a ripple effect and I want mine to be a ripple that the devil can’t dance on. There aren’t too many more car lines in my future so I want to soak up what is left and radiate kindness and compassion, even in the face of an asshole. And to all of the parents out there who will carry the torch when my time is done, God bless.

I started meditating in 2017. I was just grasping at straws, really. I guess some would call it a mid-life crisis. Regardless of how you label it, everything was spiraling out of control and I was struggling to hold all of my shit together. I was a nurse in an ICU unit, witnessing the end stages of chronic disease day in and day out — a torturous setting for an empath. I was walking that line between social drinking and alcoholism, the pivotal moment for some drinkers when you have to choose a side: stop drinking or press on through and morph into a real alcoholic. Because I had been drinking through my twenties…and a good portion of my thirties, I lacked emotional intelligence. For real, I was truly emotionally illiterate. I was so-o reactive. I yelled at my kid, my husband, my poor precious doggie — I yelled at everyone. When you ease the tension with a glass of wine every evening, there is no need to understand why you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, there is a vintage for that. For me, any negative emotion I had was displayed as rage. I believe that when you don’t know the difference between frustration, disappointment, guilt, loneliness, fear, resentment, or anxiety, they all come out looking (and feeling) like hot, burning, flammable rage.

I decided not to become a full-blown alcoholic, although I came quite close. I began to work on my emotional IQ but it is not something that happens overnight. It takes so much practice and introspection. For me, meditation was the easiest and most effective way to learn the difference in my emotions. Sitting with myself in stillness, along with naming my emotions as they surfaced, was instrumental in finding peace in my life. It wasn’t a quick process but I managed to build a pause, a tiny extra moment, that made me less reactive. Over time, I was able to acknowledge how information made me feel and choose how to act. Daily rage slowly became equanimity. Well, most of the time. There was still one area of my life where I saw little improvement in my level of anger: on the damn road.

Breaking my road rage habit has been the most difficult of many bad habits I have broken over the years. Training myself with meditation and re-wiring my brain to know what calm feels like has helped tremendously. However, no amount of calm can prepare me for the rage I still feel when my husband’s road rage surfaces. We can surge through all levels of hell in a short car ride. His aggressive driving is so scary at times, it makes me want to be the calmest driver to have ever graced the road. Our communication is such that we do not have knock-down-drag-out fights anymore. But, a few minutes in the car on a bad day can change that in an instant. Here I sit, in a place I never thought I would — driving down the road with a calm, peaceful demeanor leading by example in the hopes that my actions will influence the habits of my husband. Hoping that somehow my calm will keep him from scaring the shit out of me. Not everything has to be based on logic, serendipity is a thing. Right?

Generally speaking, my agitation on the road has improved 99%. I am super proud of that accomplishment. It is such an ego boost when I can let someone go ahead of me. I say to myself “look at how nice of a person I am.” I somehow make myself believe that I am now the Mother Theresa of the highway. Well, until that 1% of the time finds its way into my present reality.

I know that I can not blame anything outside of myself for a reaction that occurs inside of me. But give me this, just for a moment. Anyone who has ever had to sit through a school car line, day after day for years knows what I am talking about. Car line is the birthplace of rage, it is the place where all types of evil convene. Where you are certain to experience individuals who think that their time is more valuable than yours. Where human kindness evaporates and the devil is left to lurk unchecked. The majority of the time, I conjure my Mother Theresa; there are times when that is not possible regardless of how many meditation minutes you have under your belt. I recently had two car line moments that were real teachers for me. Lord knows I love a good lesson.

There is a sign in our car line that lists clear instructions. There are two lines and they take turns converging into one. Though, who needs those instructions? It is pure common sense. Anyone who has driven a car for more than a couple of years can pick up on this logic. Sitting in car line day after day with the same parents, most days, rule-breakers are a non-issue. However, there is always that one-day-a-year when asshole dad has to pick the kids up because mom has an obligation. This has happened to me twice recently.

I know, I know, the world has changed and there are stay-at-home dads, and there are men who are great fathers that share car line with me daily. I am not talking about those men and I don’t mean to generalize. I am talking about two men in particular.

My anxiety will not allow me to be very far back in the car line. I like to be close to the front so that I can prevent not only my anxiety but any anxiety my child may have about me not being there. Although he has told me many times that he has zero anxiety about being picked up late, I refuse to believe it and make sure I am at the front anyway. Yes, I have anxiety about preventing anxiety that doesn’t exist. Anyway, on with the story…

I am in line, reading my book, and the bell rings. I put my book away, shift the car into drive. After a few minutes, I realize that in our double line, my line is not proceeding as quickly as the neighboring line. This makes no sense to me knowing that there is a merge point where one line goes and then the other goes, perfectly ordered, taking turns. I then realize that there is a car broken down ahead on my side. Everyone catches on and where this car is unable to move becomes the merge point. So, the car in front of me goes, the car next to me goes and now it is my turn to go, or so I thought. There is a man who clearly does not understand the rules of car line who pulls his car within an inch of the car in front of him and I cannot get in. I look at him, directly beside me, and motion for him to let me in. Yall, not only is this man in my spot, taking my turn, but he looks at me with an evil smile and mouths “no”. Holy shit, I was floored. This feeling of rage came upon me so quickly it felt like I was under nuclear attack and before I knew what happening my middle finger hit my passenger’s side window. I in turn mouthed some words that I am not willing to share here. Just like that all of my years of calm training and overcoming road rage were nothing but a pile of embers. The audacity of some people is shocking. As the warm flush of anger melted into guilt and disappointment for losing my shit, I knew I had to collect myself. My son will be driving soon and preventing road rage in him is a high priority for me. I know that leading by example affords the greatest success rate, so I swallowed the coals of anger and followed the devil the remainder of the way through the line.

Reflecting on my behavior later did make me feel disappointed. I know that while this man has some issues, I am better than my response to the situation. I have not and will not ever be able to control the actions of others. But, I know how I want to move through this world and it certainly is not in the realm of plastering my middle finger to the window of my car. Not for this asshole or any other asshole. I beat myself up for a moment and then I moved on.

This event occurred on a Friday.

Would you believe me if I told you that the very next Friday, that history repeated itself? If I wasn’t there to witness it, I never would have believed it myself.

Different asshole, same dilemma. This time, there was no car broken down in line to confuse the situation. This was basic: follow the rules, take turns at the merge spot, common courtesy, be a decent human. This man had no awareness of the rules, or he didn’t care. I again looked at the man out of my window, side by side, and mouthed “it is my turn.” He looked me dead in my face and mouthed “no” and raised his eyebrows with an evil smile. He was taunting me with a what are you gonna do about it face. Being that the guilt of my previous reactivity was so recent, I took a moment to pause. Instead of raising the bird and being whisked away by the rage of hell, I centered, looked at him disappointedly, and mouthed “wow” — shaking my head in a way that only an appalled mother can. I took a few deep breaths and once again, calmy followed an entitled asshole the whole way through the rest of the line. Only this time, I feel like this reaction had a much greater impact because he allowed several cars to go ahead of him. While this made my time in line longer, I didn’t mind. It is not about getting through faster. It is about getting through being kind, generous, and compassionate to other human beings.

Bullies suck regardless of whether they are in the school building or outside in line waiting to pick up their kids. How we respond to bullies makes a difference. Some people are so lost in their terrible natures that meeting their demons with kindness will not make a difference.

But…sometimes it will.

I want to believe that my gentle response to this man’s lack of consideration helped him to exert kindness to others. I will never know for sure if my actions prompted him to let all of those other folks into the line but I do know that I left feeling a whole lot better about the situation than I did the Friday before. The energy and attitude that we send through this world create a ripple effect and I want mine to be a ripple that the devil can’t dance on. There aren’t too many more car lines in my future so I want to soak up what is left and radiate kindness and compassion, even in the face of an asshole. And to all of the parents out there who will carry the torch when my time is done, God bless.

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Natalie Greer

Natalie Greer

Well-being curator + mom + yogi + registered nurse + board-certified nurse health coach — perpetually attempting to capture humanity with language.

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