The Road to Hell …

Well, you know the rest. It’s paved with good intentions. Every year, usually during the alcohol-fueled bonhomie of New Year’s Eve, we perform the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions.  Over 95% of the resolutions made are based solidly on good intentions. Of course, there’s always that 5% or so of not-so-good resolutions some people might make… the ones left unfulfilled because of the fear of civil or legal repercussions, or the actions of vengeful spouses.

For the rest of us, the arduous task of keeping our resolutions starts the morning of January 1st. To quote Shakespeare, “It was the winter of our discontent.” A few weeks into the New Year – or if you’re like me a few days – we realize that maybe we bit off more than we could chew. Then lo and behold, it’s almost the end of January and we’re facing a moment of bitter shame inner reflection.  When this happens, we go into three stages of reactive consciousness:

  • Hey! I still have eleven months to do it. I’ve got this. Eventually. Maybe.
  • That was a stupid resolution to make in the first place. No-one would ever keep that resolution.
  • Did I even make any resolutions for this year? I should really get on that for next year.

Researchers at the Foundation for American Intention Loss (F.A.I.L.) have determined that the failure to follow through on New Year’s resolutions is the second most common reason for self-loathing among Americans; the first being the failure to vote last November.  I tend to agree with them. That’s why I decided long ago to stop making New Year’s resolutions.  I have plenty of other ways to generate self-loathing, which I do fairly well I’ll have you know.

Instead, I took to heart the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!” Okay, so look. That’s just a saying. I wouldn’t really eat an elephant. Elephants are like my third favorite animal, right behind horses and pigs. Plus, I hate hunting. And I don’t eat meat. So yeah, it’s just a figure of speech symbolizing how one handles a large problem or issue. Not really condoning the eating of elephants, people. Just wanted to make that clear.

The point is, rather than set one large 365-day goal, I’ve set 365 small daily goals.

Now, I don’t want to go all “Dr. Phil” on everyone, but I find it much easier to accomplish daily “baby steps” than to try to accomplish a resolution of say, “I’m going to write a novel during 2018.” Resolutions are like term papers. You think you have plenty of time to finish them, but you wind up pulling an all-nighter the day before it’s due. Where’s the fun – or learning – in that?

BUT, when you make a small resolution each day, accomplishing it is quite easy. Start reading a book. Call Aunt Eleanor. Give a cheerful “Hello” to the checkout clerk who always looks overwhelmed. Clean the bathroom. Take the dog for a walk. Don’t rage at the rude drivers. Okay, so some are harder to achieve than others. Learn something new. Organize my closet. Well, maybe this one should take two days. But you get the idea.

Soon you’ll notice a change. The self-loathing-o-meter readings will start to drop.  Your family and friends will notice your increased self-confidence and hopefully brighter demeanor.

Better tell them what you’re doing for 2018 though…lest they think that you’re up to something.

It’s Not Just a Ball Dropping

Once again, New Year’s Eve is upon us.  Some see it as a reason to celebrate the end of a year. Others, especially the seasoned partiers among us, call it “Amateur Night.”  Still others view it only as an excuse to stay up late to watch Anderson Cooper get picked on and the ball drop in Times Square. In its simplest form, it’s a day that marks the completion of a specific period of time, and while that sounds boring, it’s not really. We celebrate the fact that after 365 days, 6 hours, 8 minutes and 38.4 seconds, this large chunk of rock and water travelling at 67,000 mph (yes, that’s faster than a speeding bullet) we call Earth, has arrived at the same spot in the universe it left 12 months ago without hitting something and spiraling wildly off into space killing us all. Hmmm, I guess that’s a pretty good reason to celebrate.  Before I go on, let me take my Neil deGrasse Tyson hat off (and hope that the smarter ones among us, I’m looking at you Paul, don’t end up correcting me on my figures – I worked hard on that).

As we complete each year, New Year’s Eve holds a special place in my heart. And while I’m not big on the whole resolution thing, it’s always been a moment of self-reflection. New Year’s Eve, especially this year, is for me a confluence of emotions that bring back a lot of memories and presents thoughts about what might lie ahead for me as I make plans for some serious changes in the coming year. I know, heavy, right?

This year, I’m celebrating my own version of the ancient Roman holiday of Carmentalia. It was a festival celebrated around this time of year in honor of the goddess Carmenta. She had the power of looking back into the past, and looking forward into the future based on what she learned from the past. Pretty nifty gift if you ask me, and don’t we all wish we had that power? The power of using what we’ve learned from the past wisely.

I feel that I should take a moment to explain. The time around New Year’s Eve always represented a personal trifecta for me. I was born on December 30th, a last-minute tax deduction for my father. I won’t say what year it was, just know that the AARP has me in their membership sights. Discounts at Denny’s are great, but yeah, not yet. Of course, there is the “normal” reason for celebrating.  I made it through another year without blowing anything up, or getting sued for anything I’ve written here. And miraculously, my kids and animals are all still alive, as is the one plant I’ve laid claim to. Go me! And this December 31st would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. I say “would have been” because my divorce was final this past January, hard on the heels of my 18th anniversary.  Believe me, that was a positive event despite also being a disappointing one. And since then, the dating world opened up in front of me in all of its anxiety-inducing glory. I know, it’s weird, right? Glorious and exciting, but weird nonetheless.

Anyway, as I said, I’ve decided that I’m going to celebrate Carmentalia. And I’m going to have a little chat with Carmenta herself. I need answers. Where have I been, where am I going, just what the hell is up with Tinder?

I have big plans for the coming year and life changing events are on the horizon. It’s a thrilling and good-scary time, and long-overdue. Ever the realist though, the raging introvert in me shouts, “Yeah, okay, so you’re starting a new adventure in 2018, but let’s not go overboard, okay?” I guess I do have a New Year’s resolution after all. And that’s to put my hands over my ears shouting “la-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you!”

In the meantime, placating the introvert in me actually sounds like a peaceful way to usher in the New Year and ready myself for what’s sure to be a wild ride. So, this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will find me ensconced on my sofa – with some equally introverted company, grazing on leftovers and sipping on a lovely Moscato a friend gifted to me, while the TV alternates between a 24-hour marathon of “Psych” and the showing of all 6 “Thin Man” movies. I know, I know, it won’t be the chaos that is Times Square when the ball drops. But, hey, it’s not like I can completely disregard who I am after all. And why would I want to? Plus, this will no doubt ease my mind and prepare me for the next 67,000 mph race around the sun.

Bring it on 2018 and Carmenta. I’m ready.

Confession Time

So, while I did not make any “true” New Year’s resolutions per se, I did make a somewhat small vow to be a better, nicer, more tolerant person by reigning in my bad colorful language (as it is directed at others, even if said persons are completely unaware of said tirades against them), especially when driving. It’s not going well. Just in case you were interested.

Road Rage Redux

My regular readers may recall a blog post I did last month. I was talking about Road Rage and I’d made a New Year’s Resolution to try and get mine under control.

Well, we all know about New Year’s Resolutions, don’t we? Most of them don’t last more than 24 hours.

Of course most people make New Year’s Resolutions that are hard to keep, like going on a diet or stopping the ol’ cigarette habit. Now, those are really hard, aren’t they?  It’s difficult to resist the siren call of chocolate cake or even a double helping of some delicious entrée like alfredo pasta with lots of breadsticks.

And as for smoking…well, that’s an addiction, isn’t it? It’s incredibly difficult for the strongest person even on their best day to kick that habit.

But not giving in to road rage? Making a pledge to be a better person while behind the wheel? You’d think that would be pretty easy. Alas, I have discovered that it is not. I am trying. I am trying. I think I deserve some points for that, anyway. Right!?

But it’s really hard when I can’t go a single day driving on the roads – to and from school with the kid, to and from the grocery store – and encounter lousy drivers practically every single time!  Actually it’s kind of scary, that there are so many bad drivers on the road that I encounter them every single day, in the space of a half an hour here or half an hour there.  I mean good grief, where the hell did all of these people learn to drive!?  Off the back of a Cracker Jack box??

Is it me? Do I just attract them?  Is there some kind of alert service out there? Someone with binoculars watches me leave my house and sends out a broadcast to all and sundry, “Hey, Wendy’s on the road. Drive-her-into-a-tizzy-Plan A, go! Go! Go! GO!”  It sure seems like it!

I mean…turn signals. Is it so hard to remember to flip on your turn signal when you’re going to make a turn? And then actually turn the way the turn signal is indicating?

These are the same kinds of drivers who aren’t sure if the business they’re looking for is going to be on the left side of the road or the right side of the road…so they just straddle both lanes.  I mean…get a GPS! The little lady with the sexy voice will tell you which lane you need to be in and how far you’ve got to go before you need to turn. Problem bloody solved!

Then there are the folks who apparently think that a stop sign is just sort of a suggestion.

I mean really, it’s almost as if after I made that stupid resolution, all of a sudden the worst drivers came out from whatever rocks they were living under just to test my resolve. And test it and test it!

My son says I should just strive to be a better person and not strive for actual perfection. And maybe he’s right. That might be the better tack to take.

But good grief, when I’m even getting flashes of road rage just touring down the Walmart aisles with my buggy…well, is there really any hope for me and my resolution at all?

walmart

Road Rage Resolutions

Every good superhero has a compelling origin story. No good guy worth his or her salt lacks a detailed and gripping road they traveled down that can explain why they are the way they are. Sometimes the origin story makes the hero the sympathetic or noble or frightening or admirable character he or she is. Same goes for villains.

I have my own origin story that can explain the “super power” I’ve come to harness with great responsibility today. And it is this power that I am hoping to banish (or at least use much less of) come the New Year. Twenty-seven years ago I was involved in the only car accident I’ve ever been in, and it wasn’t my fault. It was my first taste of someone else’s stupidity, and while I emerged from the accident alive (I won’t say unharmed), I soon realized I had become empowered with a scorching new ability: Road Rage.

I’m not talking about the road rage where I carry a weapon, jump out of my car at red lights, and bludgeon people for their traffic faux pas (although I do know that I am in danger of having that happen to me if I continue on the way I am). The road rage I harbor comes in the form of scathing obscenities, mean looks, and fingers wagging furiously in the direction of whoever provokes my ire. I see some idiot  jerk  ***hole fellow driver in front of me who turns on their blinker half a second before deciding to make a sharp right turn and the power unleashes itself, bursting forth from my throat like a harpy’s cry. A Cadillac going 25 in a 45 weaving across the lane with no clue where it’s going drives me freakin’ insane.

Sure the cathartic release I have in the moment is relieving, but I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m thinking further than those initial five seconds. What is this road rage really accomplishing? Is anyone becoming a better driver because of it? Certainly not me. And really, isn’t it actually only raising my overall stress level? More importantly, given my own questionable traffic behavior, do I even have a right to complain about what other people do?

I’m not what you might call the best driver. I know this all too well about myself. So the road rage is sort of hypocritical on my part. Still, I can’t control the evil thoughts that spring up when someone else on the road does something that makes absolutely zero sense.

I do feel a bit of remorse when—after cursing at a car that has wronged me—I see that the driver is an itty-bitty elderly person or a teen with a fresh face and an equally fresh driver’s license… and I’m thankful that they haven’t burst into flames (my wicked thoughts materializing into a reality).

So. I’m starting to think that maybe it would be good idea, spiritually speaking, if I tried to become a better person by reining in my road rage. At least a little. (Well, maybe a lot.) The first step of course would be to assume that maybe the person in the other car is simply having a bad day or a bad moment and made a little mental error, not to make me upset, but because their mind is temporarily preoccupied by something more important.

Case in point: Just the other day I was on my way to the movies. I approached a traffic circle where you’re supposed to yield before entering when there are other cars going round (so as to oh, I don’t know, avoid a collision). Well, a car happened to be going round so I slowed down to wait my turn. The person behind me immediately — and I mean immediately — starting honking at me and of course I started to yell and curse something about needing to yield at a traffic circle when there are other cars going round and how stupid did you have to be not to know that. Unfortunately, the person I was yielding to thought I was directing my rage at them and gave me this look of utter confusion that said “What do I do wrong?”

I felt horrible because they were only doing the right thing but got caught in my rage crossfire. To make matters worse, the idiot behind me went on their merry way not knowing or maybe just not caring that I was simply following the traffic rules… because that’s what idiots do. Had I taken a more calm mentality, or Zen approach, let’s say, I would have let the idiot’s (damn!) person’s rudeness roll off me and the innocent victim wouldn’t have been accidentally berated.

So this New Year’s I’m resolving to be more patient on the road. Is it achievable? We’ll see. I’m going in optimistic, but there are a lot of fools out there and I don’t know if I can bite my tongue for all of them. Fingers crossed. And mouth shut.

 

road rage stress