Thursday, February 5, 2015

Confidence and Courtesy

I bought a car.  The need outweighed the fear that had kept me from giving it a shot.  I knew I needed to make a change.  When the car finally arrived, I was not excited.  I could feel my heart beating a thousand times a minute as I contemplated a hundred terrible scenarios – two of which I had already lived through.  Car accidents scare me – with good reason.  I was determined to never have a car accident again.
So when I got into the driver’s sit, after nearly 10 years away, I vowed that I would drive with ‘confidence and courtesy’.  One about how I would feel on the inside, the other about how I would treat other motorists.  A good plan.  Except it wasn’t working.  Small things would leave my heart pounding; if accelerated too fast, braked too hard or just forgot to check my mirrors.
I was convinced I was driving badly and an accident was around the corner.
Inside my head there was a voice that pointed out everything I did wrong and kept repeating the refrain: stupid, stupid, stupid.  Nothing had gone wrong.  Nothing bad had happened.  I had not had an accident where I was entirely at fault and murdered fellow motorists and pedestrians in a malicious vehicular attack.  It was the response to slowing down to take a bump and nearly getting stuck half way through or coming to a stop a little too close to the gate on my way into the office park where I work or the near miss at a junction when I panicked at the sight of a speeding bus coming at me and nearly tail ended the car in front of me in a bid to get out of the way.
But all I saw was the ‘panicked’ which was far from confident.  Forgetting the ‘nearly’ that said I hadn’t done anything wrong.  A part of me unhappily adding, “YET!”  I didn’t remember the courtesy but when I did it out of the desire to balance out some cosmic arithmetic; paying forward the courtesy in the hope of forestalling some future Karmic backlash.  I was acting out of fear and it made everything sour.
The fear is real.  Having an accident is a possibility.  Experienced, professional drivers can have them just as novices can.  Sometimes shit happens (because nothing says it better than a cliché).  I can only do three things: Obey the traffic rules, drive my car with care and treat other motorists the way I would like to be treated.  These are not difficult undertakings.  Except all of them turn into something to be afraid of when I cannot embrace two things: the possibility of failure and the chance to show myself some compassion.
I’m not ready to review Self Compassion by Kristin Neff as I had planned for this week.  But while I am making my way through it, I am beginning to hear the voice of self-criticism clearly.  Perhaps with time that voice will be quieter, kinder and gentler with me.  Leaving behind a voice that is confident and courteous - to me!

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