Yesterday, I was late to a morning meeting. I had planned to be late from the beginning so when I got in the car knowing the meeting was just starting across town, I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t rushing, I wasn’t passing people at a million miles an hour. I was just driving. At a regular speed and knowing that I would get there, safely, whenever I arrived.
Counter that feeling with dozens of other times I’ve been driving somewhere and I was late but hadn’t planned to be late. I can always feel the anxiety building in my body as I curse the red light, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel willing the light to change faster. I catch myself watching the clock slowly move forward and sensing my dread of being late.
So what was the difference in knowing I was going to be late and accepting it versus running late without expecting to and feeling anxious about it. Honestly, the only difference was my mind-set and my thoughts. In both cases, I would inevitably arrive late. But yesterday, when this was always the plan, I walked in calm and assured and whenever I haven’t planned to be late, I walk in feeling anxious and irritable. The only other time I clearly remember being late to an event and still being calm was several years ago, soon after my father died, when I followed a funeral processional to a meeting. I remember being acutely aware of my thoughts that time too.
This simple “aha” for me yesterday made me realize that the next time I am running late unexpectedly I have the power to choose how the experience will feel in my body and I’d like it to feel calm and collected rather than frazzled and anxious. I suppose I realize now that I always have the ability and power to make it so!
Today, was a busy day. I was rushing from a training on the east side of town to get to The Heart of the Community Luncheon that I’d been invited to sponsored by Hands On Portland in downtown Portland.
I was late for the luncheon when I finally arrived at the parking garage. I was driving quickly up into the garage eagerly looking for a parking spot. Perhaps I was a bit overzealous as a turned into a spot that I thought I could fit into. Unfortunately, my front end swiped the back-end of the parked car. “Darn it!” I said as the Subaru’s car alarm began to go off. I backed up and knew instantly that I would have to park and leave a note for the car owner. I had to drive away first though because I couldn’t stop where I was in the parking lot. I drove around and up another level and found a big spot and easily drove in. As I walked down the flight of stairs to the floor below to find the car, I honestly considered NOT leaving a note. I mean really what’s the big deal. They’d never know and I wouldn’t be held responsible. My car is a dozen years old at this point and has enough dings that I can’t even count them any more, but when I arrived at the car, I knew that I had to leave my information. I scribbled a note for the owner on a small slip of paper and as I walked away, I was frustrated with myself for mistaking how big the parking spot was but I also knew I had done the right thing.
I thought about the car again later in the day when I returned to the garage and saw that the car was still sitting there with my note on the door. I could just as easily swipe the note away, but I remembered what my mother felt like last summer when someone damaged her bumper and left her with a big dent. I remembered how frustrated she was by the experience. I couldn’t do the same thing. So the note stayed.
Do I hope that the owner won’t call me? Of course! I hope they think, well that was nice that she left her number but no big deal, we don’t need to call her. Now it’s just a waiting game to see if the owner does call. But I know that what I did what was right in this situation and the outcome is now out of my hands. So have you ever scraped another car and left the scene without leaving your name and number? How about a car accident or the scene of a crime? Sometimes the right thing to do is not easy. Sometimes it takes courage to do the right thing and not walk away from something that you caused. I feel better tonight knowing I didn’t do that, but I admit I kind of still hope I won’t get that call…
This weekend my stepfather and husband had planned to spend the day hiking together. My stepfather parked his car on the right side of the street outside of our home and took off. About an hour later, our neighbors who I don’t know all that well and are currently staying at the house next door, rang the doorbell. The wife asked if we knew whose car was in front of our house because it had begun to roll down the hill. The husband was already in front of the car doing his best to stop it from rolling. I immediately ran out to stop the car too. I didn’t have the keys to the car and it was locked so we just did what we could to roll the car to the opposite side of the street where it could rest against the curb. My stepfather wasn’t suppose to be home for several hours but I sent him this picture and called so he would know what was going on.
I was so grateful to our neighbors for being aware and coming to tell us that something was amiss. Don’t forget to be that kind of a neighbor!