When I was younger and more anxious, traffic jams used to push me to the point of madness. I’d let the f-bombs fly. I’d flip people off (I did that once with my future in-laws in the back seat). I’d punch the roof of the car so hard and so often I’d leave dents and tear the fabric.
It’s registration day at North Shore Community College, where I’m enrolled for the fall semester. I’m just out of high school and angry at the world for a variety of reasons. I’ve been working long hours in my father’s warehouse in Saugus, and I’m rubbed raw. I’m frustrated because a girl I like is getting cold feet about the idea of hooking up with a loose cannon like me. It doesn’t take much to trigger a temper tantrum.
That day I was rattled hard by the long lines of college registration. I wasn’t expecting it and was full of fear that I wouldn’t get the classes I needed. Not that it really mattered, since my major was liberal arts.
Two hours in, I realized I had to give them a check for the courses I was taking. I had no money and panicked. They allowed me to drive to Saugus to get a check from my father. I was in full road rage mode on the drive there and back, crawling up the bumpers in front of me, riding the horn and yelling out the window with tears running down my face. Clearly, the world was coming to an end at that moment.
By day’s end, I was breathing into a bag between the chain of cigarettes I was smoking.
I still get claustrophobic and somewhat anxious in traffic jams. Yesterday was a prime example. I-93 north was a parking lot and it took nearly two hours to get home. I was already tired and under the spell of winter-induced depression.
But I got through it without a tantrum. I’ve developed a nice meditation for moments like these.
I’ve been drinking tea on the ride home, turning the typically hour-long commute into a break time of sorts. I crank up the music and get comfortable. I do a little praying. In yesterday’s case, I prayed for the safety of anyone who might have gotten hurt in an accident up ahead. I did some breathing exercises I learned in a recent mindfulness class.
I was still pissed and cranky when I got home, especially since I had to get right back in the car a short time later to take one of my sons to his Cub Scouts meeting. But I wasn’t a freaked-out madman.
That’s progress I can be grateful for.
I’m also grateful for Erin. I always am, but yesterday, knowing I was thrown behind the eight ball, she did some of my chores for me. That took a load off my shoulders.