How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World
Imagine you are stuck in traffic. Think about the worst time and place for that to happen, say the middle of the afternoon when you are on your way to that meeting that could change your world if things go right and you’re just in that spot on the freeway where the next off-ramp is two and a half miles away and the car in front of you hasn’t moved in five minutes.
Or maybe you’re on your way to pick your kid up from that afterschool program and that teacher who must seem to think you’re the worst parent ever and has made it clear if you’re ever late again your kid is out of the program. Or the neighbor called to say there is smoke coming out of your back windows and should they call the fire department?
By now, smoke is starting to come out of your ears. This is the last straw, the final blow, the ultimate kick in the rear that’s going to send you over the edge. And there’s nothing you can do about it except scream about the unfairness of it all. And worst of all, there’s that voice inside that’s already blaming you, that’s already talking about what a loser you are, that’s taking on the persona of the other people, the witnesses to your worthlessness and what they’re going to say.
Can you feel it? Sure, we’ve all been there in some version of that. We’re not just stuck in traffic. It’s worse than that. We’re stuck in ourselves. Trapped in a cage we’ve constructed from our doubts and fears.
Now, let’s look at it differently. Imagine you are in a hot air balloon rising over the traffic jam, rising up into the sky. You’re so high up, you can’t even hear the horns and curses. You’ve risen above the battleground and you can’t hear the struggles any more. And from up here, you can take a big deep breath and see all the way to the horizon. You can see the ocean sparkling blue in the west, there’s that beautiful lake up north of town. And the mountains to the east, they look so clean and close you could almost touch them.
From up here, you can see what matters and what doesn’t. You can look down and see your little car down there. It’s not going anywhere. You can look down and see the office building you were headed to. It’s not going anywhere either. Neither is the school, nor is your burning house, if that’s even what’s happening. From up here you have what the astronauts who walked on the Moon called “the overview.” It’s the big picture and you can see that what looked like such a struggle when you were stuck inside your car now looks more like, well, like nature. Like the natural flow of life. Sometimes we go fast. Sometimes we go slow. Sometimes we don’t go anywhere at all.
Down there, we all have agendas. Critical agendas that we’ve created and that we judge ourselves by. Seen from above, those agendas are meaningless or, at most, pedestrian concerns. We know that the things that need to get done will get done, the meeting will be made; the child will be picked up; the house will burn down or it will not burn down. You, trapped in your car, are trapped in your agendas. But up here, you are free to have a wider view of the world. And you can reframe your perspective on everything by doing four things.
Start with the traffic. Forgive the traffic. Forgive the people in the cars trapped under the 18-wheeler. It was an accident, they didn’t mean to inconvenience you. Forgive your agendas. You made them up, but you didn’t think they would turn on you. And most of all, forgive yourself. Think of it this way: either you did your best or you didn’t. If you did your best but did not succeed, forgive yourself. If you didn’t do you best, forgive yourself for that. You’re not supposed to be perfect, you’re supposed to be human.
Do you have a choice? Sure, you can choose not to accept reality but where will that get you? The car is stuck in traffic but you’re not trapped under the 18-wheeler. The faster you can accept that everything that happens to you happens to expand your awareness, the faster you can get moving again. When you accept the moment, you can learn from the moment.
Point the Way.
There’s always a way, isn’t there? Even if there’s not a way to get to the outcome you expected – the meeting, the pick-up, whatever the agenda was – there’s always a way to change the situation. Turn on your music app and sing along, out of key, to Danger Mouse or whatever songs you liked in middle school. Call a friend. Write a long Russian novel in your mind. You might be stuck on that freeway for hours, but your mind doesn’t have to be stuck.
At some point, the cars will move and you will, too. Call your appointment and let them know what’s happening and you’ll keep them posted. Call the neighbor and see if he can go pick up your kid if the fire department isn’t blocking the street. Next will come. It always does. This is a good time to get yourself in the right frame of mind for the future.
Your “nature” wants to see the world like this all the time. It doesn’t want to be wrapped up in agendas and upsets. The more you can get above the battleground, the more you’ll be talking to your nature, to your essential self, to the intention that is the best of all you are.
Now get back in your car. It’s a nice car and it will get you where you need to go, as soon as they get this all cleared up. Oh, look! The guy in front of you just moved forward five feet. That’s a good start. Roll with it.