I met a unique soul yesterday, a new friend, who teaches NVC (non-violent communication) and has groups here in ATX dedicated to teaching others how to implement this open, heart-centered, get-your-needs-met, receiving-and-giving form of dialogue. I haven't attended one of the groups yet, but look forward to doing so! It was an incredible experience, a simple lunch discussion, for when I reflected later on our conversation, I realized that I felt heard and validated in a very obvious manner! (More on that later!)
What does this have to do with traffic? We were talking about the angst (my angst) of driving in traffic and how traffic has increased in Austin so much the past few years, as well the effect on my life due to all the driving I have to do between different cities while teaching. As soon as you enter the highways: I-35, Mopac, or any other very congested route near downtown, negative energy is overwhelming! People are angry, impatient, inconsiderate, and downright rude once they get in traffic. It has taken all my personal strength to send love instead of vile epithets toward others, and to keep myself positive when it takes an hour to drive 8 miles (like yesterday driving from Koenig down Lamar to my new place in Bouldin) or two hours to get back to ATX from SA, which is only 80 miles away! Ugh!
After describing what I do to stay calm and centered: singing, looking at birds or trees or sights to see, enjoying an audio book , sending love instead of a negative reaction, accepting the situation because people are going to be as they are -- I can't change them or the traffic situation, etcetera, he offered a a suggestion. I pondered his solution more in depth later, and it made good sense. He suggested I look at the needs I have that aren't being met when I'm in that situation, such as the need for people to be kind and considerate. I knew instantly which need was not being met, and yes, in part it was a desire to have people be more considerate (like using a turn signal when cutting me off, ha ha!), but that wasn't the core of my angst at being stuck in traffic. I resent spending my time this way! I didn't realize the amount of driving and traffic I would have to endure with this teaching post, and I resent that I spend so many hours in traffic and on the road each week. It shortens the amount of time I have to do things I enjoy, as well as just rest from long days of teaching! I spend a full work day driving each week; 8 or more hours I spend in the car! To me, that is wasting my life's time! I could be sleeping, resting, enjoying time with friends, reading... anything but being surrounded by the negative energy that exists as part of the collective frustration of us traffic jammers. In essence, I'm not getting my needs met and that is frustrating. I spend time in the car I would normally spend pursuing creative endeavors, enjoying social activities, exercising, eating healthy, or resting! So, my socio-emotional needs are not being met, as well as my physical need for proper rest, exercise, and healthy nutrition. I can't attend many social activities because I have to consider my 6am departure times, or I'm just too exhausted from 4 hours of driving in traffic and 8 hours of teaching. Some days I can't eat or sit at all for those 8 hours, except in the car or restroom breaks... like Tuesday!
Well, I can't change the traffic, and I plan to fulfill my summer contract, so the solution is acceptance. This is what I signed up for and this is my life for now, even if for only 5 more weeks. So I can continue sending love instead of reactive anger, enjoy my audio books or music, sing, look at the trees... in the midst of congestion and snail's pace for 5 miles, wrecks, and rudeness; I can also recognize my own needs and honor them, and work on getting them met at another time, on my days off. I can also just meet my friends and suffer a few days of lack of sleep I suppose too. Probably not a wise idea, ha!
The point is, I was advised to look at the situation a bit differently and from there my thinking evolved. Change you thoughts - change your life! I also need to bring priority back to getting my needs met: socially, emotionally (most especially), and physically.
I hope all you other people suffering through traffic find your peace and joy while driving as well!
...Small actions in a dynamic system will trigger vast and unexpected changes