October, Traffic, and Gentleness

Trees and a pond in golden sunlight.

The mornings are getting darker, but this week, the air has been muggy – I’m waiting for the cool feather-touch of October winds. Every day brings treasures: tall pines casting long shadows against the gold of the setting sun, the rich smell of leaf-mold in the woods, and the reflections of trees glimmering green on blue water. 

Last Friday night, I went to a lecture that gave a spiritual/psychological perspective on anger. The speaker said that anger reveals what you love – your self-image, time, possessions, or people. He used traffic as an example: if getting stuck in traffic angers you, that anger reveals your love for feeling in control.

Traffic has become a daily reality in this new place. In the north, I could shave off a few minutes by driving fast on the highway; here, my commute time could easily double with accidents, holiday weekends, or rain. And yes, I get frustrated. I view my time as my own, and hate it when I lose any. 

I’ve discovered that I treat obstacles like traffic as if they will only happen once. After I finally get home, finish a dentist appointment, put away my groceries, or get my car oil changed, I can finally be free. But standing in a Walmart checkout line the other day, I began to realize that these daily irritants are not going away. 

Under the fluorescent lights, as the cashier and current customer waited for a manager to come do something to the cash register, I tried to remind myself that I don’t have to become angry when I’m forced to wait. It takes so much strength to be gentle; but snapping every small frustration or injustice would embitter me. 

I also remember being a cashier during summer jobs and continually making mistakes that forced customers to wait. Once, a woman with rich brown hair and a gentle smile didn’t complain once when she had to return to Barnes & Noble because I messed up her payment. A man with a round face and a plaid shirt watched me clumsily try to wrap his coffee table book, exclaimed “oh, dear,” and showed me how to wrap it properly.

As for traffic – as a young, anxious driver, I remember other drivers protecting me from my own mistakes, such as letting me into their own turn lanes at intersections at the last minute. Once, a driver in the parking spot across from me watched me struggle to park straight, and then backed out so I could pull through neatly into his space. 

I promised myself then, and again now, I would try to treat people as those strangers treated me.

But I need to be motivated by more than memories of kindness: to be patient and gentle, I need to see clearly. Yesterday morning, I thought about the last creative writing class I took. Our first week was about Vision: trying to see the world not as ordinary or mundane, but as God’s spectacular Creation. Driving on the interstate this week, I tried to remember that every car crawling around me contained at least one immortal.

A true, cosmic perspective of the world is gentle and joyful. I can remember that in heavy Friday night traffic, long lines at the RMV, and in the cool woods as the dying leaves fall.

2 thoughts on “October, Traffic, and Gentleness

  1. Jennifer Rundlett October 3, 2019 / 11:36 am

    Wow! This was very helpful and really what so many are experiencing and thinking. Thank you for putting this down into words. Peace and God bless your journey!


    • apollard7 October 4, 2019 / 1:33 am

      Thank you! I love how across all our different lives in different places, we all understand and can empathize about certain things (like traffic). Thank goodness we serve the God of peace. May He bless your journey too!

      Liked by 1 person

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