I have a 2006 Mini with just a little over 30K miles on it. It's funny--that car is my dream car (and rather appropriate for a man of my stature,I'm sure you agree), but I don't drive it a lot. Instead, I ride my bike when I can. It saves wear and tear on my car and, more importantly, wear and tear on the environment. Besides, I like to ride. It gives me an excuse to shave my legs.
The other day just as the sun was rising, I was riding to work when I noticed a car turn onto the the street behind me. No big deal. As a cyclist in Atlanta for the past 21 years, I've just become intimately aware of my surroundings when on two wheels. I made another turn with the car still about 50 yards back and began pedaling my way toward the stop sign at the end of the street. The car turned, too, and I could hear its engine behind me now. I didn't look back, but I could sense the driver's indecision about passing me. Should he speed up only to slam on the brakes at the stop sign we were approaching? Or should he wait patiently as I pedaled along at 20mph on a street with a 25mph speed limit (I was on my mtn. bike and just cruising to work, or I would have been going much faster)? Well, about 5 feet before the stop sign, he made his decision.
He honked at me.
Now I've never claimed to have a high EQ (Emotional Quotient as opposed to Intelligence Quotient). But my studies along with an advancement of years have tempered my natural inclination toward hot-headedness. Still, I continue to have quite a bit of the Warrior in me, I'll admit. And the Warrior is not know for his diplomacy.
I immediately stopped and looked back with my hands out to the side in the universal signal for "What the %#$@?" The driver was mouthing his irritation through the windshield. But because I couldn't hear him (and because the Warrior now had majority control over my actions), I pulled over to the driver side window to have a little...discussion.
SURPRISE: it didn't end well. Let's just say explicatives where exchanged and blood pressure levels were trumped only by engine revolutions as he sped away from the scene with a screech of rubber.
This was not how I envisioned my morning beginning.
And I didn't want it to set the tone for my day, but I was firmly left of center at this point and finding it difficult to resist the urge to chase him down. My quads vs. his 4 cylinder: I'd bet on me.
Thankfully, I do some of my best thinking while on the bike. My legs know so well the circles of pedaling that my brain can be on autopilot. And as the rhythmical pattern of spinning the cranks over and over merged with the in and out of my breath, the beating of my heart slowed. Enough for me to recognize the space between heartbeats. Where no mind lives. I became conscious of consciousness. And I could feel the driver's thoughts, still focused on me like headlights on a dark road. Shining with such voracious intensity that nothing else could be seen. I stood there, daring him to keep coming, energizing his inability to steer in any direction other than my own. Trapped, we were bound to one another in a mental game of chicken, and there could be only one outcome.
So I swerved.
I decided to forgive him. I decided to forgive myself. And with that selfless act of forgiveness, I instantly felt free. My cadence slowly increased as an emotional weight was shed. His thoughts still shown on me, but their light had dimmed a notch. Without my energy, they couldn't sustain the intensity. The battle of who was right and who was wrong had lost its power with only one combatant. The why of the fight had been replaced with gratitude for the lesson learned. And for the unknowing teacher who taught it. And as I pedaled away, I knew I would have to write about my experience, offering it to you so that it could truly evolve into knowledge instead of withering away in memory. To let it live, I needed to share the lesson I learned that day: One cannot be polarized to any one thought if there's nothing to which you can compare it. It's really all relative...until it isn't.