Motorcycle Story – React or Respond?

mBike traffic2Inspired by a big mouthful of exhaust fumes at the Murray Rd/Sydney Rd intersection, I am keen to get in front on the belching truck ahead of me. With no room on the right side and no turning signal from the truck, I made the choice to risk going up the left side where there was room to pass. The light was still red and it seemed safe so I did it. I heard a honk and some words but it didn’t sound like a truck horn so I didn’t assume it was directed at me. I was wrong.

As I turned left, the truck followed, the driver sticking his head out the window yelling. The stop light near Coburg Lake Park was red and he was stopped behind me, irate. I turned around to say: “Sorry, the exhaust…”. But he didn’t hear me, not sure he wanted to either. He was expressing all sorts of nasty stuff yet all I could make out was “where did you learn to ride?” So I just turned back around and shook my head.

At the next stretch of road, he got ahead of me and I gave him a wide birth, wanting to avoid further conflict, even if it meant breathing in the noxious truck exhaust. I noticed how upset I felt, like I wanted to cry. Then I remembered that I have a choice about how I respond to my emotions. I could push it down, I could let it go, I could cry into my helmet (wouldn’t be the first time). Or I could get in touch with the feeling. I was aware that my inner child was hurting. Without really thinking about how to deal with it, I imagined nurturing that scared, hurt child, the arms of the universal mother caring and holding that part of me. Within a few seconds of that thought, the emotional pain was gone. Some hurt remained, but I no longer felt weepy. By now I was up to Gilbert St and thinking about how to deal with this truck driver, being on the same road. “Love him” is what came into my head, so in my mind, I sent him some love. Then the most amazing thing happened. He slowed to talk to me, started freaking on me asking why I’d passed on the left when he was turning. He didn’t give me space to respond so I said: “If you let me speak for a second,” and he shut up to let me say, “I wanted to get in front because of the exhaust.” I didn’t say that he wasn’t indicating to turn or that there was no room on the right at the time. I could see that he heard me but wasn’t really listening, he blurted “I could have killed you, why the heck did you do that?!?!?” I was really clear that when I passed him, the traffic was stopped so he wasn’t at risk of hitting me, but apparently that’s not how he experienced it. “I don’t want to have to live with that shit.” The truck driver said in a slightly calmer voice. Ok, fair enough, he was concerned for my life and didn’t want to be haunted by what he experienced as a near miss. Wow, we’d gone from full-on conflict to understanding eachother in a few short moments. At this point we were at St George’s Rd and a train was crossing so we had a few minutes together for the conversation. When we were done, he pointed to the open space between the lanes of cars at the light and gestured for me to lane split and said something that had me feel like he had my back while we were on the same road. Now we’ve gone from understanding, to invitation and care – double wow! I did go up the middle to the front of the intersection and only saw his truck once after that. I allowed the tension in my body to release and thought about the interaction. I could feel some residual hurt and just before Albert Road, I realised that it was feeling unheard that upset me as much as being yelled at. This awareness released a deeper pain and I did cry into my helmet for a few moments to let that go. I felt proud of myself, in being self aware to the extent that I could choose my response to feeling upset and being able to bring compassion and send him love, allowing for connection and understanding. Hearing the impact my actions had on him, and even though I felt justified in the choice I made, I apologised for upsetting him. Getting that direct feedback from a driver about a choice that felt safe to me but not to him, felt like a pretty rare opportunity. Being mindful of our choice to respond rather than react, is a concept I talk about with my coaching clients a lot. I have been practising responding when upset for a while but this is the first time I’ve really been conscious of it and being deliberate about choosing a different response. That felt good to put in action and have it be something that came to me in the moment without much effort. Moving past my hurt and upset of being yelled at and the awareness of feeling like my voice wasn’t welcomed, felt like another accomplishment. And then transforming the relationship with the truck driver from adversarial to one of care went far beyond my expectations! Who knew riding a motorcycle would be an opportunity for self development?!?! I guess it goes to show that anything we do, no matter how basic, can present a choice between love and fear. And that in this case, I was able to honour myself and honour the truck driver when it could easily have been a situation where both of us were left feeling annoyed and angry. Yes, I took a risk; we all take risks every day. We judge ourselves, others judge us and when love is absent, for self and other, we are left with judgement and fear. When I chose to love myself and chose to send love to the truck driver, magic happened.  Yes, I’m proud of myself. I’ve come a long way, baby!

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  1. Pingback: Day 12 : Mothering myself | tathra.me

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