Don’t Rush Me Lady

Grocery

Half of my groceries are in my cart, but the lady behind me grabs a divider and slams her items on the belt. I squeeze between our carts, silently daring her to move even one inch closer. I’ve just had a pleasant shopping experience, having met smiles around every corner. Why is it that when I get to check-out peoples’ patience and friendliness diminish? I think it has a lot to do with the cash register or maybe some people are just hangry. I wonder how many cases of road rage occur amongst people who just left the store? She replied to the cashier nicely. I probably misinterpreted her, or maybe she was glad I was out of her way.

I’m not slow. I just don’t always move as fast as some people would like. I’m highly aware when people pressure me. Sometimes I answer out of consideration. Sometimes I’m guilty of driving below the speed limit to further irritate tailgaters. Most of the time, I focus on me, remembering the guy in my rearview mirror, swatting his hands at me to go faster, is not going to pay my speeding ticket.

I arrive at the gas station to the pump closest to the exit. I’ll be in and out in a jiffy. My gas pump clicks off, the truck at the pump in front of me pulls away, and a woman waits in her car behind me, but I’m not finished cleaning my windows. Lady, just pull around. There’s plenty of room. She just sat there, staring at me. I heard my parents’ words from long ago: Always move out of the way when you’re finished at the pump. How inconvenient. Still, I hopped in and pulled up, a decision that probably cost me six more minutes than I previously planned. Something told me I needed to change my attitude. I glanced back. She was still sitting in her car, smiling now. Oh, she’s an older lady. Okay, God, forgive me. I headed over to my passenger-side windshield, mostly out of embarrassment.

Then she emerged from between our cars, bracing half her weight against a cane. Immediately, I regretted my previous thoughts. They sizzled in my mind like a cracked egg on a hot skillet. I let them scorch. I wanted to throw them away. “I just want to tell you that was a beautiful thing you did,” she said. “I’m seeing less and less of that in the world these days, and I just want to let you know I appreciate it.” I stuttered “God bless you,” the kind of God bless you that means thank you for being such a fine human being because I feel like such a butt right now. I love receiving these kinds of lessons. They come down upon me like the lady at the store, slamming her case of Coke onto the belt, startling and irritating me initially then forcing me forward, thinking.

I’m not sure why the woman at the gas station didn’t pull around. Maybe it would’ve been too much maneuvering for the pain in her body. She only focused forward, searching for the good that encouraged her to keep moving one foot, then the other. I appreciated her staying behind me because she helped push me forward. It only hurts to move a little faster for people when we, ourselves, employ frustration and impatience. Sometimes it’s better to answer the pressure kindly and get out of the way. And it never hurts to put some gentle pressure on each other either.

 

It’s My Fault

EO

My husband graciously carries his laundry basket to the washer, but I beg him to let me do the work because I like to clean. Yeah, that’s right. I like to do laundry. A pile of clothes reminds me we live life fully, and washing and organizing make me feel productive.

Later I hear the clink-clinking of the dryer, and I purse my lips.

“Did you leave a jump drive in your pocket again? How many times have I told you…”

“I’m sorry,” my husband says. “It’s my fault.”

He’s always quick to apologize. I take a breath and clench my teeth, reminded that leaving chapstick and quarters in the pockets of his Levi’s is just something he does. If they’re in my dryer it isn’t anyone’s fault but my own.

Admitting my failures, taking ownership of things in which others play a role, and apologizing doesn’t feel natural. It makes me rotate my shoulders as if to move the little pride monkey off my back. But accepting responsibility for small stuff keeps my emotions in check, which empowers me to adapt. I’d rather not waste time blaming others, and, in turn, stall productivity. Blaming others is one reason bullying wrecked my adolescence. I focused more on my bullies’ words and actions and less on my circumstances being temporary and controlling my reactions. Living in the moment is a habit I’ve carried into adulthood. It can be a gift and a crutch. If I get absorbed in the details of now and fail to see the bigger picture ahead, the results I desire, it’s easy for me to blame other people, like a training client who doesn’t follow instructions. Over the years, I’ve realized it’s less likely that she’s disrespectful and uncoachable and more likely that she’s a visual learner. It’s my responsibility to take her to the mirror or film her to show her the mistake and help her improve. Other times, taking ownership isn’t about getting someone to do what I want as much as it is about freeing myself of controlling others and seeking peace.

Have you listened to your words lately? Are your frustrations doing anyone good? If it’s always someone else’s fault, chances are it’s your fault. People expect criticism and reprimand, and maybe they deserve a kick in the rear, but when we first take responsibility, others are more likely to consider self-improvement. We can pass the buck, which might work to some extent, but, sooner or later, we’ll end up with quarters clink-clinking in our dryers, reminding us to check our own pockets.

“We have to own everything in our world. That’s what Extreme Ownership is all about.” -Jocko Willink

What is one small thing for which you can practice taking ownership?

Recommended reading: Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin