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How I Soothe My Mind While Sitting in a Traffic Jam

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Ken is a retired insurance executive. He is happily married with two adult children, a companion rescue dog, and nine grandchildren.

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Hurry up and wait! That’s the expression I use to express moving from one stoplight to another while driving to and from work. As I sit motionless, waiting for yet another stoplight to change to green, I begin to notice people in the cars around me. They represent a wide array of emotions. Some are partygoers jamming to tunes I’ve never heard before. Others are doleful as if they are stupefied from the stress of the day, blindly following the car in front of them.

Then, there are those who are yakking with someone on their phones, oblivious to lights changing green in front of them. A quick honk of the horn will get them moving, but they still aren’t paying attention to the road. They are the ones who go 30 mph in a 45 mph zone, which is quite vexing to those behind them, who have places to be and things to do other than sit behind a knucklehead who prefers talking over driving.

Last to be mentioned, but first in everyone’s minds, is the aggressor! You know who I’m talking about. They are the first to beep and shove a middle finger your way if you should happen to slip up and not drive the way they think you should.

They are also the ones who will change lanes in front of you suddenly, then slam on their brakes because the car in front of them has stopped. These “swoop and stop” artists are the bane of drivers everywhere.

That happens all too frequently in every driver’s experience, whether it is in town traffic, or expressway traffic. They are the ones who will change lanes suddenly, then change lanes again as they approach their exit from the highway. We have all been there, and most of us have probably done the exact same thing. Sometimes we get trapped by the traffic around us and are left with no option but to quickly squeeze over two lanes real so we don’t miss our desired exit.

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We never think to go to the next exit, turn around, and go back to our preferred exit so everyone can safely get to their individual destinations. Instead, we prefer not to deal with that hassle and will recklessly change lanes to avoid being inconvenienced.

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Whenever I find myself in these unavoidable traffic jams, I realign my expectations on the spot, as well as whatever plans I had made. An additional step I take is to calm my breathing. I have come to believe that controlling my breathing in these situations helps me see the total picture more clearly.

I recognize there is a cause and effect for everyone’s actions. How someone acts, or reacts, may cause me to alter my plans. I have come to realize that I am not able to control these situations. After all, my driving moves are dictated by the car in front of me. If they don’t move, I don’t move.

Soothing my mind means not letting a temporary delay affect the way the rest of my has gone or will go. Traffic jams aren’t permanent, and there are usually other routes available to use to get us to our destinations. Why should I let a temporary delay have an oversized effect on the rest of my day?

Another consideration in our driving experiences is the number of passengers traveling with us. If we have picked up the kids from school, do we really want to have a meltdown in front of them, using words or gestures they aren’t accustomed to hearing us use? Kids are quite impressionable and often will mimic how we reacted. That could turn into an embarrassing moment somewhere down the road.

Distraction is another weapon in our arsenal. If I see a driver experiencing road rage, I immediately think to myself: “Not my circus, not my monkeys!” Other than something I might have done, whatever set off the person to my left or right is none of my business. Not only do I choose not to get sucked in by their antics, but I also choose not to let it affect me. I distract myself by playing songs or counting the number of signs I can see outside my windshield.

How we deal with the anger and frustration of these moments takes on greater meaning when children witness our reactions. In their minds, an adult is supposed to act a certain way and show restraint in certain circumstances. What we might think of as insignificant may turn out to be very significant to them, simply because their minds are still formulating their own reactions.

Therefore, we should think long and hard before we vent our emotions in their presence. Thinking before we act may also help us maintain better control in these circumstances, enabling us to improve our reactions to stressful situations.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Ken Kayse

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