Seems most people are living in the fast lane and it’s twice as fast when one person is zooming north while the other barrels south. Heck, adding them together you get 150 MPH – probably even higher since fewer and fewer people seem to care about rules and regulations – unless it’s to regulate someone else, and then the more rules the merrier. Lickety-split, going so fast you can’t see the other person, never mind being able to wave.
Big trouble comes when the other person is yourself. Makes for a dizzy case of avoidance. I’ve learned over the years to look for signs in myself whenever I’m hell-bent on running away. All part of becoming whole, being in the here and now. It should be obvious: the more genuine I can be with myself the more I can relate to others fairly. And no denying it – this can be a scary process.
There are times avoidance comes on with a BOOM! – my head spins, hands sweat, feet tap, breath shortens, and eyes flash all over the place. Not all at once, various combos – just to keep me on my toes. My wife announces her mother’s coming to stay for a week: 4 out of 5! Nah, just joking. I liked my mother-in-law. But these signs are telling me that some shit’s coming down. This list is not exhaustive. You’ll have your own clues for when you are nervous and anxious and they’ll be mixed together in combinations all their own.
I’ve learned it never gets better if I avoid; I can’t always run to the store and I can’t grow by running away. It should also be obvious that avoidance and a panic-dance are not easy on those around you. As for the “problem” that’s about to drop in my lap – it’s even tougher to handle in panic mode.
So on a good day when the bad stuff threatens, I’ll try my best not to panic. Oh, yeah, there’ll be a little or a lot. I’ll pick up on the signs one at a time: if my breath is rapid or shallow, I’ll start to listen to it, consciously follow my breath in and out, count them as they come in and out, and then try to move it into a slower cadence. If my eyes are all over the place, maybe close them and look at a spot behind the lids (Please NOT to be done while driving or crossing a busy street) or if I’m inside, I’ll slowly move my eyes around the perimeter of the wall across from me – at the same time feeling my breath going in and out. Feet beating time? Slow the cadence. You can come up with your own responses – test what may work, give it a fire drill, and modify as necessary.
Remember: fear and panic are OK. It can help in threatening situations, and supply extra sharpness and strength – but most often, in our daily lives, it’s not productive and may cause us to react and strike out.
I’m guessing that despots and charlatans make use of this when they rally up their followers preaching hate and fear of the other. They stir up emotions and then at the right moment send their followers out to battle or to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. When all of our emotions are bound up in the other we can longer focus on ourselves and what can make us stronger and better. We’re kept from understanding that strength doesn’t come from kicking the other person, burning down buildings, or shooting firearms.
I need to do my training at home in a more controlled environment. Anger spinning out of control while driving can prove fatal and it doesn’t matter that the other guy is an idiot! Training means being more aware of what’s going on in the back of my head as I’m doing the dishes or cutting the lawn. My head will wander, and I’ll become aware of past insults or global warming – boom! I’ll try to breathe and own it, figure out an appropriate response.
Start with the little things: Maybe so and so didn’t return your call – breathe, let it go, it isn’t such a big deal. Someone cuts you off on the freeway – bad driving habits will catch up with them, and you don’t need to hammer your horn. Give yourself credit for the little victories, you can’t win them all – and that is OK. Build on the positive.
Time to consider the “OTHERS” after we’ve struggled with ourselves. It’s easier now that we pushed through and owned some of our problems. For a long time, my ex-wife would include this reminder at the bottom of her emails: “Just remember, everyone is fighting the same great battle as you.”
Yup. The other person doesn’t have it any easier than you even if he or she has 50 million dollars in assets. You have your friends – people willing to share with you on The Havok Journal. And you can read this and other articles even those you don’t like. Hey, here’s an idea. Do you really hate a particular article? Print it out and use it to start your BBQ! Small victories, no harm done. And remember those smiles. You look good in the mirror – practice. Take it outside and when you meet a stranger while out walking or raking the leaves, pass that smile on. You get one back, you’ve both hit the jackpot!
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at email@example.com.