Good day, team.
The theme of this week’s challenge is how quickly we can lose our cool in challenging situations.
My husband and I recently took a 10-day vacation to Great Britain. Inspired by our godchildren, who are spending the summer in Europe, we concocted a plan to surprise them in England, in an incredibly beautiful area called the Cotswolds. After a few days in London, we rented a car and took off for our destination, which was a few hours drive from the city.
Thus commenced one of the most trying three hours of our marriage. To start, our motorcar, as the Brits call them, was small, had a standard transmission and very little power. Second, getting into the driver’s seat on the right side of the automobile was disorienting. As we settled into our seats, my husband instructed, “I need you to be the navigator. It’s going to be challenging enough for me to drive on the left side of the road without having to worry about how we get there.” Little did I know how challenging it would be for both of us to fulfill these roles.
Getting onto the motorway was easy enough, although as we approached our first roundabout, trying to remember to stay to the left and watching other cars sail past us on what seemed to be the wrong side of the road gave both of us a hair-raising preview of what was to come.
Once off the main motorway, we drove along country roads that were no more than 9 feet wide, surrounded on both sides by hedgerows that were sometimes 12 feet high. How were we supposed to navigate our way down these roads when we couldn’t see what was coming up or even when another car was approaching from the opposite direction? Each time a car approached, it struck panic in both of us. The amount of jockeying that had to go on in order to pass the other car was a complex set of maneuvers. After both cars came to a screeching halt, we were never quite sure if we should back up, drive forward, move sideways or what. Once we managed to get past another car, I often found an assortment of broken plant matter in my lap from the hedgerow because we usually swiped the hedges in our attempt to get past the opposing traffic.
All this, and I had to navigate as well. Those of you who know me may be thinking, “Never make this woman the navigator.” I am good at a number of things, but navigation is certainly not one of them. I don’t think in terms of direction, and I have a hard time envisioning which direction I’m going at any given time. If the sun’s out, and I can look up and see if it’s not high noon or dark, then I can tell you which way is east or west. That allows me to then determine north and south. But short of that, I am lost.
So I’m in the passenger seat (in what I think should be the driver’s seat) with two maps open on my lap, my cell phone (hoping to use my GPS), the map my husband has copied for me on his iPad and a compass (as a last resort) in my hand. I won’t go into the sordid details, but suffice it to say that after 2½ hours of struggling to read road signs (which were cute but not accurate), trying desperately to figure out where we actually were, and lots of shouting and accusations, eventually we ended up completely lost. As my husband pulled over to the side of the road — a space that could not have been more than 2 feet wide — we realized that this situation had taken us to the limits of our ability to get along. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I married this guy!”
This was a humbling situation. I saw how quickly I can lose it — even after all the meditation and spiritual work I’ve done over the years. Despite all of my attempts to be more “Buddha-like,” there was definitely no Buddha in the car that day!!
Herein lies this week’s challenge. It’s easy for us to be calm, cool and collected when we’re not feeling challenged. But in situations where our abilities are in question, it’s easy to descend into backup behaviors. How quickly we move into negativity and resentment!
This week, observe how tense situations change your state of mind and actions. What can you do about it? Maybe it’s appropriate to argue and express your thoughts. Or maybe you need to step back a bit. Is it really so important to try and prove your point or convince someone that you’re right and they’re wrong?
When I get angry, I try to breathe through it. This technique helps me have more perspective. That day in the car, however, I couldn’t neutralize my anger. I was completely caught up in trying to defend myself. At one point, I thought, “This is one of those times when I could say something I really don’t mean, and it’s important right now to be aware of what I’m saying.” In the heat of an argument, we often say and do things we regret later. I didn’t want that to happen. Fortunately, my husband and I managed to not do any lasting damage. But I know that a trusting relationship can be threatened pretty quickly by viperous words and actions.
Try stopping in the midst of an argument, if possible. I recall having a heated discussion with a co-worker when suddenly she said, “Wait, let’s stop for a moment. I’m not sure this is worth arguing about.” We just stood there in silence for a few minutes and realized that we were making a mountain out of a mole hill and that trying a different approach in the discussion was going to work much better for both of us.
However you choose, take a look at what happens when you feel you need to defend yourself or want to argue your position. Is it worth it? If you do need to express yourself that strongly, are you prepared for the consequences?
As my husband and I continued our journey in the car that day, we reached an intersection that I thought would tell us where we were. There we sat, at a crossroads surrounded by high hedgerows on all sides, without a sign in sight. In complete frustration, I looked at the compass. My next statement truly summed up the entire experience as well as my ineptitude as a navigator: “This must mean that north is west of here!” In disbelief, my husband just shook is head.
This week, do your best to see how you lose it in challenging situations — and if it’s really worth it. And if you never lose it, well, that’s worth looking at too!
Have a good week,
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