I was on my way to work, leaving my neighborhood one morning this week, and I pulled up to a stop sign at a pretty big intersection. There’s a fast moving, 4 lane road with a turn lane in the middle. I wasn’t at the stop sign for more than a few seconds before I heard a loud honk behind me. My attention was taken from the road to the noise at which point I realized that the person in the car behind me didn’t approve of the time I was taking to pull into traffic. So I looked again at the road making a small effort to speed up my process. Another honk. “Geez lady, I actually want to get across the road, too.” Another honk. I’ll tell you, all the honking was pretty distracting and made it very difficult to assess the traffic situation, even for a practiced yogini. It didn’t matter. The lady was fed up after waiting for what must have been an excruciating minute of her day, so as she let out the fourth and final honk, she pulled up next to me… had to wait (I smiled)… and then squealed out of the neighborhood and into the middle turn lane.
I was both rattled and annoyed. I could feel that my heart was racing and my angry chord was plucked, but the whole thing was so ridiculous that I couldn’t muster full-on anger. Even so, I did start to have a little conversation with this impatient neighbor. “Lady, do you actually think you are helping me to pull into traffic sooner by honking every three seconds?” and “Lady, why in the world are you so high strung at nine in the morning?”and “I hope you get where you need to go…” But I was in my car and she was ahead of me in traffic somewhere, so none of this was communicated to her. Not with words or eyes or fingers or anything.
I eventually did make the turn and as I drove toward the yoga class I’d be teaching, I thought about self-expression and creativity, my intended theme for the day. I realized that I was working with an assumption. I thought about these concepts in relation to ideal situations where if only we knew what and how to communicate from the heart, then the ideal people would be there, willing and able to listen and the necessary exchange could happen and it would all feel so good. But that’s not always the case, is it?
There are times like this one in my car. I certainly didn’t have the opportunity to have a discourse with the impatient driver. I thought about moments when you just can’t find what needs to be said. You may need some preliminary digestion and reflection and it’s not until later you craft the perfect response or the kind words you wish you had said. Maybe someone leaves your life, a relationship changes, or a love affair ends. You do your best to communicate what you are feeling, but the other person isn’t willing or just can’t hear it. Or someone who brings out a wonderful side of you dies, and you still have things to say, but they aren’t there to hear them anymore. As I thought of these things, and even as I write them now, I feel a sadness come over me.
I wonder about ways that we can express ourselves even when the perfect moment has passed or the person we’d like to speak to isn’t there or isn’t available. I wonder what yoga teaches us about these kinds of things. In some cases, our work may be to deal with our own reactions… like being angry about the honking or being caught off-guard. In other cases, we may need time to grieve and that, in itself, is part of expressing what is truly inside. I’m going to keep thinking about this, because I really don’t really have a tidy wrap up or helpful yogic guidance. I could use some myself, I guess.
In closing, I’d like to say that my friend, Josh Ozersky, died this week and I still have a lot to say to him.
You touched my life, Josh, and I miss you.
Next week… you can look forward to the continuation from last week.