I’ll often go out of my way while driving through my hometown, especially since Toledo has only two seasons: winter and construction. Especially this summer, there’s no easy way to get from point A to point B without encountering orange barrels, narrow passageways, and a log-jam of angry drivers, all hell-bent on getting somewhere fast. It doesn’t matter if it takes a bit more time. I’ll gladly take a longer detour to keep moving and avoid getting stuck in traffic.
It’s not just construction I’ll avoid either. I can tell when a driver is distracted by their cell phone, driving under the influence, or having a heated argument with a passenger. They’re either moving too slow, too fast, darting in and out of traffic, or having extreme difficulty choosing a lane, so at the first opportunity, I’ll take an alternate route. If I'm in a really bad mood, sometimes I'll even think, Go have your accident somewhere else. Then I’ll whisper, “Bless you and everyone in that car.” I’ve witnessed enough instant karma on the road to know that what goes around comes around.
My heightened sentience is not without merit, however, for back in 2010, I was in a serious car accident when a young woman t-boned my purple Pontiac while preoccupied on her cell phone. Had she hit me a split second earlier, the impact could have broken my neck, yet she never apologized, never even admitted it was her fault. After the police officer took our statements, he said to me privately, “This isn’t the first time she’s done this, so I know she’ll be held accountable. Her insurance should be contacting you this afternoon.”
In the aftermath, I was able to choose holistic treatment, and went to an acupuncturist for help with the ongoing PTSD I struggled with when behind the wheel. After several months, Diane said to me, “I finally figured it out…you’re a wood element person, not fire.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“There are five elements in Chinese medicine,” Diane explained. “Wood, fire, metal, earth, and water. Everyone has properties of each, and at first, I thought your predominant element was fire. But now I know for sure you’re wood, which means you’re versatile and have the ability to grow around any obstacle that’s put in your way.”
“That sounds about right,” I nodded.
“It also means you can be prone to anger when under stress.”
“Yep…that rings true, too,” I replied.
“The good news is that your second dominant element is fire,” Diane continued. “And fire has to have something to burn…wood, which is best in your case.”
In traditional Chinese medicine, springtime celebrates the wood element. New life flourishes, and it’s a wonder to watch tenacious plants sprout up in the most curious of places: in-between cracks in the sidewalk, in-between two bricks on the side of my house, and even in-between the floor and wall of my sun porch. The obstacles of brick and mortar, or cement and cedar don’t deter the healthy, flexible energy of wood from its desired path. Somehow it always knows how to find an opening through which it can grow.
There are also obstacles on the road of my life when I’m anxious to move from the here and now to a new and different destination. I don’t consciously choose these roadblocks, for they’re often an annoying obstruction (like the huge sinkhole that opened up on Secor Road last week and shut down the right hand lane for a quarter mile) or a hurtful encounter (like experiencing the strikingly bad behavior of a person who took advantage of my kindness and forgiveness one too many times). Even so, I always choose my own behavior in response to the problem; and I’m always responsible for the karma it creates or balances.
During the past several months, the ongoing process of becoming more aware of a repeated paradigm has allowed me to consciously let go of old habits, thoughts, and beliefs which may have been helpful in the past, but now only create roadblocks as I struggle to gain forward-momentum. Perhaps the best lesson I’ve learned this year is to come to terms with the people and circumstances I cannot change. For truly, the only things I have control over are my perceptions…my choices…and how I respond to the choices of others.
Recently someone told me, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
This was in reply to my comment that I could both see and accept the person's shadow and light. While I would never throw a fit, hindsight being what it is, I wish I had said, “Please do not mistake my compassion for weakness. You are being who you are, but the way you have chosen to treat me has been consistently disrespectful. Now I know for certain that I cannot trust you.”
Nevertheless, I believe actions speak louder than words, so I’ve made the difficult decision to set stronger boundaries between us. It’s similar to the netting I had placed over my raised bed to keep the birds, squirrels, and stray cats out of the tender seedlings until they grew strong enough to stand on their own. Likewise, I've needed to place a net of protective energy around myself to help me discover why I rationalized someone’s callous behavior toward me, all the while holding out hope for some peaceful resolution between us. There never has been any real closure, because the other person won’t allow it, and that dynamic mirrors my past in more ways than I can count.
But this time, I've refused to become enmeshed in the drama.
This time, I’m stepping aside and letting karma finish it.
This time, I’ve chosen to get out of my own way and heal that which attracted the whole situation in the first place.
It's a curious thing, striving to find a balance between having healthy boundaries and being open to healthy opportunities in all aspects of my life. It's a day by day, moment by moment experience, and I find it's similar to pruning dead wood from my garden so a tree or bush can reawaken itself. Over the weekend, while cutting back a gorgeous, yet overgrown lilac in my front yard, I was delighted to discover that new growth was already emerging from its base. This morning as I stood at a distance, gazing at the lilac through my picture window, my first thought was, I can see you more fully and you’re beautiful. Now you can breathe again. With that gentle, yet profound awareness, I took a deep breath, then let it go with the hope that next season, the lilac will bloom more fully, and the new sprouts will be transplanted to my new home, wherever it might be.
During this season of rapid growth, I’ve learned that it’s best to simply bloom wherever I am. No matter how it might appear to anyone else, no matter how many significant obstacles are on my path, there is always an opportunity for fertile awareness to take root…everywhere. It may take a little more time. It may take me away from the log-jam of life. But it will be worth it.
All I need to do is go out of my way to embrace it.