The great thing about life, if you’re paying attention, is that very often you do get to try again.
In the classic comedy film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character is forced to relive a particular day over and over again until he gets it right.
My first Christmas gift came a few days ago when the Universe–in a Groundhog Day-esque move–recreated an almost identical scenario in the post office parking lot to the one I wrote about last month. If you didn’t read it already, you might want to check it out here as background.
So, I pull into the post office parking lot (again) and see an open spot between two cars. Nobody is moving and it’s easy to back my van into the space. I use both mirrors and the back-up video — all clear.
The ignition clicks off and I start to get out. The door of the car next to me opens and the driver says, “I guess you didn’t see me — you almost hit me! You almost ran right into me!” Another angry lady, this one much older than the last one.
I was a heartbeat away from getting defensive, but I realized it was my Groundhog Day moment. I almost laughed out loud (“almost” was progress, since my laughing out loud at last month’s road rage lady was my downfall).
Mustering my presence power (again, please read the F-Bomb post if you haven’t already!), I locked my ego in the closet and said, “Oh! I’m so sorry!”
But this time I meant it. It wasn’t that I believed that I had almost hit her. But I did feel her distress and felt sorry she was suffering.
“Are you alright?” I asked. “What can I do to help? Can I carry your packages for you?”
Disarmed, she grumbled, “I don’t have any packages.”
Then she hobbled out of her car and started walking very very slowly towards the building. She was probably in her 70’s, and physically impaired to boot.
“You’re not allowed to rush ahead of me and take my place in line!” she snapped as I started at my normal walking pace. “The men always do that!”
“How about I just walk next to you? I promise not to get in line in front of you,” I said. I slowed down to a snail’s pace.
“How long have you lived around here?” she asked in a slightly less grumpy tone.
“Twenty years,” I replied.
“I’ve lived here for 50 years,” she said. “We bought our house for $20,000 and now it’s worth $750,000.”
“Wow!” I said. “Lucky you!”
“Two years ago I went in for routine surgery and the doctor accidentally sliced my bladder open,” she said (our relationship was progressing quickly). “I’ve never been well since.”
Me (again): “I’m so sorry!”
Inside the building, she had to fill out an envelope. I waited behind her, assuring her I wouldn’t take her spot.
Fortunately I wasn’t in a huge hurry, making it easier to stay present. What was different this time around was that I was able to remain non-judgmental. I was able to empathize, which diffused her tension immediately.
I wasn’t pandering. I wasn’t playing the martyr. I wasn’t looking down on her. I wasn’t belittling her or myself. I was simply there, paying attention to someone whom most people rushed by. She was frightened and frustrated and lonely, and it sounded like that was her life experience most of the time.
It was so easy to give her a few minutes of respite. And it felt good to dissolve her negative energy. Presence felt good. It was the exact opposite feeling to the one I had after my exchange with the F-bomb lady a few weeks ago.
In the back of my mind, I was chuckling at the obvious re-do the Universe threw my way. In what I could only see as a wink in my direction, the woman, after being helped by one post office employee, was redirected to another window–the one where I was being helped. After all of my efforts to make sure not to get in front of her in line, she still ended up behind me.
We continued to chat until she finally said, “Do you have time for a cup of coffee?”
I had to pick up my son and couldn’t join her, but we parted with a wave, a smile, and a “Nice to meet you!”
Happy Holidays, everyone! Your friendship and support are true gifts. I am especially grateful for your comments here on the blog, in emails, on social media, and when our paths cross in person. Wishing you peace, good health, and presence this holiday season and in the new year. ~ Martha