"flat bread" credit: JFries

“flat bread”
credit: JFries

I tend to be one of those people who harp about “staying present in the moment”.  I learned a valuable lesson the other day; that getting too caught up in the moment isn’t quite the same as staying present.  As a matter of fact, it can prevent you from seeing the forest for the trees. At least that’s what happened to me.

Yesterday my daughter and I were heading home during rush hour. Considering we had road construction to deal with things were going very smoothly.  We had just finished going through that section, returning to speed. We were following a slow moving gravel truck which moved over to the right lane allowing us to pass. We were going by the next on ramp, just beginning to pull past the truck’s rear bumper, when a car entered the highway behind the truck and immediately proceeded to pass, moving into the passing lane. Except that’s exactly where I was, in plain sight still.

I evaded by swerving left. Time didn’t stand still, my life didn’t flash before my eyes. Everything became crystal clear and only 2 thoughts really crossed mind as I strove not to lose control on the soft shoulder. “Don’t roll”, and “Not my kid you a–hole”. Luckily the truck driver also saw what was happening. He veered right allowing the car to actually pass between us, at which point the car sped off at incredible speed. I thanked my lucky stars and we continued on our way home, thankful that we were safe and in one piece.Yet, I admit that I was quite focused on my anger at the “other” driver. I self righteously expounded the importance of defensive driving skills, pointed out the dangers of distractions and assumptions.

Later, I asked my husband to unload the dog food we’d bought since the dogs were giving me that “it’s chow time” look. Upon bringing in the dog food he also presented me with the three loaves of bread I’d purchased. Our near miss had resulted in casualties after all. The bag of dog food had slid off the backseat and onto the box of bread, crushing it. Suddenly my anger at the other driver spilled over again. Not only had he almost caused an accident, potentially killing us, he had ruined my bread! I was just about to go on about his irresponsibility when I suddenly got it. I saw the forest and the trees.

The bread took on new meaning. I looked at it and realized that could’ve been us. We could’ve been the ones laying on the ground flattened. It was only bread, we came home. I could buy or bake more bread. I had become so caught up in the emotion of the moment. I had thought I was staying present, but really I was only present in my anger and only aware of a minute fraction of my situation.

In that instant I was able to see beautiful and feel extreme gratitude. I was thankful we’d already dropped off my parents.  I don’t know if I’d been able to see or react as quickly if I’d had a car full of people. I no longer held ill will towards the other driver I was only grateful that everyone had arrived home unscathed. Instead of blaming and judging, I allowed myself to feel real compassion, for everyone involved including myself. Lapses happen, to others and even to me. It could have been so much worse but it wasn’t. Instead I had an opportunity to learn and to grow; an opportunity to see beautiful. Those are rise like air moments.

In truth, the bread isn’t even ruined, just flat. It’s perfectly good for bread crumbs, just not sandwiches. That’s ok. After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner and I guess I’ll be making the stuffing.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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