Unable to curb my road rage today, I finally grasped a thread of my PTSD and traced it back to its source.
I was driving to LA Fitness for a morning swim when I turned on a road and pulled up to the SUV in front of me. I hadn’t noticed the traffic at first, but there appeared to be long line of cars in front of us.
What caught my eye were the cars passing me in the right lane which became a right-turn-only lane less than a block away. They seemed to be going fast, too fast for this time of the day. But I could not see beyond the vehicle immediately in front of me to gage the reason for their passing so quickly. What the driver did next triggered what I called a “PTSD” episode.
He turned on his left blinker.
It took a millisecond to register. He was waiting for on-coming traffic to stop, in order to make a left into the Masonic Retirement home on Ridge Avenue, just outside of Philadelphia. The sombitch had not signalled when he came to the stop, but only afterwards. That is, after I pulled up behind him. I was too close to his rear to get around his behemoth vehicle. I could not go left into on-coming cars, and I could not pass him on the right because too many cars were zipping by us.
You em-F’-fer, I shouted from my car, and quickly followed that up with a choice “C-sucker,” (self-censured here) all to no avail. I had to wait as my blood pressure rose and my anger broiled at the “high” point. His vehicle finally moved in what seemed like an hour but was really just a few seconds. I was steamed and I did not like it. I did not like me for allowing this incident to trigger the rage.
But instead of wallowing in self-loathing and belittling myself, I focused on “why” the rage arose in the first place. I was in a hurry. I wanted to get to the gym to work out, to swim. I wanted to improve my body, my physical health, as well as my mental well-being with the creation of all those endorphins a strenuous exercise routine would provide.
My instinctual reaction to a delay in that routine stemmed from a self-imposed rigidity to “accomplish the mission.” That is, to get to the pool and swim 36 laps before the gang of water aerobic enthusiasts occupied the “objective,” thereby halting all swimming activities for a full hour. I planned to swim for 30 minutes, to sit in the spa (whirlpool) for 15 minutes, and then bake in the sauna for another 15 minutes before a shave and a shower. I had made no plans for any delay.
And here I was, failing to meet a goal that aimed at making me a better person. I became enraged when I should have simply looked at the big picture, to cultivate my own good mental and physical health. That was the purpose behind my excursion. To help make myself better.
I could have accomplished part of that while in the car, accepting the fact I had no control over the SUV, and choose that moment to calmly meditate on the beauty of the crisp autumn morning that nature had provided.
Nothing, I mean nothing should ever prevent me from realizing that achievement: a better, more “healthier” relationship with the world around me, to include the so-called setbacks in a normal day. Those setbacks could contain jewels of meaning and relaxation for one who makes awareness a priority in life.
I will keep trying, and maybe next time I’ll see a brighter light in similar circumstances. A light to shine bright when PTSD wants to destroy me with its darkness.