**Though written in present tense, NONE of this post was written while driving my car. I write in my head. And then I spend an inordinate amount of time in a car line typing out what was in my head.**
I am driving–following clouds that are gray and swollen with a threat they likely won’t deliver. I’m okay with that, because it has only rained for the last 7 days. The ground and my attitude have had enough for now. I am in the car again. I spend a lot of time in the car lately and haven’t handled it with as much grace as I would like. If your kids are having to talk you down from road rage, you might need to choose another path. Mom, please. Chill. Mom, what good does it do to talk to all these drivers? Mom, please don’t say anything to that person? Mom, no.
I may have a bit of a problem. The last time I remember feeling this uptight in the car, I was 34. To fight the urge to punch people, I memorized Romans 12 and recited it to myself when I was frustrated. I learned to bless people who cursed me. I liberally assigned pulling out in front of me or ripping past 42 cars (one of which was me) going 60 miles per hour so you can “merge” in front of them as a person “cursing me.” It’s a loose interpretation, but it helped me off the ledge. People turn into feral dogs when it comes to merging in a construction zone. Goodness.
So I’m playing a lot of Jim Brickman and rememorizing Romans 12. And with the time I sit in the car waiting for kids, I read, write, and conduct business.
I see a lot of people as I drive and I am always paying attention. I see the world in pictures. Behind every picture is a story as complicated as mine. From a stoplight, I can see a man hunched over on a bench. He waits for the bus, with his elbows against his knees. He holds up a world of trouble by just his thumbs, as he leans against them with his eyes closed. Did he not sleep last night? Is he praying? I turn right as I pass him and I drive away from his story, whatever it happens to be.
There are stories everywhere.
In the strange house that has been added to, piece by piece, until it looks like an apartment from 1963 and the Winchester house had a baby on the banks of the Hillsborough River.
In the rotted-out van parked out front of a house advertising computer sales and repair.
In the bus driver that is pacing the sidewalk in front of her bus as she waits for the kids to load.
In the man that jaywalks through traffic, wearing a loaded backpack, carrying a bag in one hand and an umbrella in the other. He has enough on his person to be homeless, but otherwise looks like an accountant.
In the eyes of the girl that scoops my daughter’s ice cream.
Everyone has a story. But sometimes I can’t see past my own to care about theirs. When I get mad at the inconsiderate mergers, I am mad because I think they put their story above mine. They merged their story in front of mine. When I bark orders in the middle school car line that no one but my exasperated daughters will hear, I am barking to make my story heard over theirs. But in that moment, as I grumble angrily inside my van, no one wants to hear my story over another’s. By griping and trying to get ahead, I’ve made my own story one that even I don’t want to read. And if I don’t want to read it, it’s a sure bet no one else will.
So on the 7th day of school, at the end of this day, I am forcing my own intervention. I am slowing down. I am breathing deeply, though I am not doing it when and how my smart-mouthed Apple watch suggests. I am looking for the stories in others and attempting to read them with more mercy and grace.
And I am acknowledging that we are all unfinished stories. But everyone’s story will end at some point. And I’d like mine to end not in a fiery wreck or a local headline accompanied by jail time, but on a balcony in New York City with a pudding cup in my lap and the sounds of someone else’s road rage chiming like bells in the streets down below.