I’ve taken compassion on the road. Literally!
I send affection to motorists cut off by a speeding car that winds in and out of lanes. I feel for the driver who was never told by the operator of a car in front that that operator was going to turn, despite what appears to be working lights that turn on and off when you press the turn signal lever up or down.
My heart goes out to you who have observed the speed limit, inching no more than seven miles an hour over a 55 mph limit when someone in a pickup truck rides your tail even though the driver can simply pull into the open right lane and pass your car on the left.
I used to curse out those I believed were inconsiderate drivers. You know the aggressive types that always seemed to have more important business to attend to than you did. Too often, I’d let anger push me to the extreme, and I’d speed up to show ’em what a speedster they had met on the road. It was road rage, pure and simple. The more I focused on how I’d been insulted, the more the rage would become inflamed, causing me to see red and not care about the defensive driving skills I swore I would practice just a few minutes earlier when I was feeling more level-headed.
Then it dawned on me. I could feel compassion for the so-called reckless driver. I know what it is like to be in such a hurry. I’ve been there. I’d feel the world would come to an end should I miss an appointment, be late for a job, or fail in the impression I wanted to make by arriving early enough to greet someone.
I always had a reason to speed. There were so many important things I had to do, to finish, to check off that “to-do” list to feel my life was worthwhile, that I was accomplished, that I am accomplishing . . . something.
I try to understand how the person traveling in the car trapped him or herself by his or her own expectations, the desires and attachments to concepts and ideas that were no more real than the make-believe “deadline” they have imposed on themselves. No, there has never been a line that we needed to reach to prevent someone from falling down dead.
We’ve created this illusion. We’ve invested much of our life into reaching certain milestones, destinations and goals. That is all well and good, until we enslave ourselves to becoming totally “outcome-focused.” How you get there doesn’t matter, just as long as you carry out that task wherever there might be. Too often, it doesn’t matter whom we hurt or cut off on the road we have traveled.
The process itself, I have learned, is just as important as, if not more important than, crossing the finish line. We spend the greatest part of our lives in some sort of “process” to get something done. I’m writing. I’m also enjoying the process. I will come to an end. I will apply the last period at the end of this essay.
You read. You see one word at a time, perhaps taking in clauses or phrases or complete whole short sentences. Enjoy the “now.” Why wait until the process ends to feel as if you’ve “done” something? Feel it in the process, by “being in” the process. Some 90 to 95 percent of our lives make up what you call the “process.”
We are squandering away that time if we focus on nothing but the ending. Why not learn to enjoy the road while we’re riding? Enjoy the lay of the land, the smooth macadam where the tires roll on following a bumpy part of the highway. Breathe in the air, the scented smell of that green-tree air-freshener of mint or the dark brown one that smells like brand new leather seats.
Sip from your cup of hot coffee or cool water. Listen to music or the beautiful sounds of silence that help you to still the mind so that you can live through your senses now, not at the end of the road. It is in the moment that you can find true compassion. Seek it inside, and, if you’re lucky, you can pick it up as a hitch-hiker on a road less traveled.