Sometimes We Just Need to Slow Down.
Resistance can be and is a good thing.
Good resistance came in the form of the Suffragette Movement. It resulted in the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and gave woman the right to vote
In the 1960s, it gave Martin Luther King, Jr. a platform to peacefully protest against racial injustice and resist the efforts of those who tried to provoke and derail him.
Hell resistance even started this country.
In the movie, On the Basis of Sex, the true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her resistance overturned a century of gender discrimination. And she herself endured a lot of crap to become a lawyer.
We’ve all heard the saying, “what you resist, persists,” but in some instances it’s better to let things persist. Sometimes resisting the small stuff doesn’t change anything. It just creates unnecessary stress.
Let me explain.
I’ll use myself as an example. There are a lot of things I should not resist.
Why? Because it’s not going to change or help anything.
For instance, my work day routine is just that, routine. From the time I wake-up in the morning to the time I close my front door behind me at night, my work day is routine.
I open my eyes every morning, five days a week, at the same time. The light of dawn is still soft. My mind is beginning to register that a new day is about to begin.
I lift my shades and watch the water tower, dark against a brightening sky. Hints of light peel back bits of color on the roofs across the cove. And all is still and silent. The pulse of the day is just beginning to beat.
Yet, I resist the start of this day. I flop back into bed. I want more sleep.
A cat pounces on the bed.
I begin to move the small parts of my body, fingers and toes, point and flex. I gently rock my head side-to-side. Kind of like coming out of savasana.
I continue to hide my face whilst being trampled by two sets of impatient kitty paws and the roaring of a rhythmic purring in my ears. I resist for another five minutes before I begin to move.
Getting out of bed in the morning is a delay of sorts, but it’s also resistance to the start of a new day. Or to work. Or both.
Cats, coffee, make-up, house check, out the door, dispose of cat poop, trash, separate recyclables and then to the car.
I am for all intent and purposes, on time.
My next leg of the journey is the drive to the train.
Traffic is steady and smooth and the promise of arriving to work on time is probable.
Then it happens.
The light changes from red to green and no one moves, gridlock ahead. Some idiot hit the gas when the light turned yellow and is blocking traffic. The car in front of me inches ahead.
The light turns red, again. And I sit through another cycle.
Let the tirade and the mental resistance begin. It continues for the next 10 minutes and I am ready to blow the roof off the car.
I make some progress only to have the traffic cop stops my car to let idiots from Dunkin’ Donuts break into traffic, otherwise, they would wait a good long time. I mean really, why should I be delayed even on second for someone who can’t make themselves a cup of coffee before they leave the house?
The next hurdle is the blue line.
I get a seat and pull out my book and am oblivious to several of the stops, that is, until there is a delay.
Ding, ding. Door tries to close, then, bang, opens again.
Announcement: “Please move all the way into the car and don’t block the doorways. There’s another training coming in behind us.”
The last person on is toting a backpack that sticks out two feet behind him.
Ding, ding , bang, again.
Repeat: “If you have a back pack on please remove it or step off the train so the door can close. There is another train right behind us.”
This still doesn’t do the trick.
Now people are staring, emitting high power, killer laser beams at the perpetrator, and I am one of them. He gets the hint, removes said backpack, and pushes in against the person in front of him. The doors close and we surge ahead.
Now it is time for train number two, the final leg of my commute.
The green line on the Boston MBTA has several branches. An intercom announces the arrival of the B, C, D, and E lines, so yes, there is normally a wait.
My train arrives, but the doors remain open and we’re not moving.
The driver exists the train. Beep, beep, beep as the steel plate that creates a ramp for wheelchairs slowly extends toward the platform. The person zips up into the train.
Thanks for the delay.
Three stops later it repeats. The person exits.
Okay, that’s over and done. That person needs to get to work. I get it. But why my train? I can’t even believe I’m thinking this. What an asshole.
Then the train starts and stops. Then starts and stops again.
And one more time.
“We are experiencing delays due to signal problems (again). We apologize for any inconvenience. The next stop is…..”
Move Goddamn it! I don’t care if you’re sorry. Is there ever a day without a signal problem on this damn subway!
It’s now more of a mental breakdown, but resistance will do.
The high-pitched hum resumes and we are moving. Then we’re outside. We stop at every red light. Cars turn, and turn, and turn, endlessly.
Announcement: “Please ring the bell for all outside stops. If no one is on the platform and no one rings the bell, the train will continue to the next stop.”
Multiply this by 3.
The train begins to move through the next stop and then the inevitable. “Can you open the back door? I need to get off here.”
Were you not listening? Are you new? I am ready to explode.
Finally, it’s my stop and swearing and sweating I detrain. (I know there’s not such word, but if the airlines can say “deplane,” I can say detrain.) And guess what? I am more or less, on time.
The office is quiet and as usual, I am one of the first ones there. No one who is there raises an eye.
As I fan myself dry, I wonder, what was the point of the silent outbursts in my mind? The heavy sighing? The eye rolling? The mental resistance to the minor events during my commute?
The negative thinking did not help me get here any faster and the only person it hurt was me. Resistance changed nothing, except perhaps my cortisol level.
But it’s a habit, a pattern and though the feeling is familiar, it is not productive. The familiar is something we all know and are drawn to like a default setting, but it’s not always the best choice.
Rush hour is for rushing. It begins with the work day and repeats on the way home. My destination is the same, every day.
Something needs to change and sadly I can’t quit my job.
The truth is, we’re where we are supposed to be at any given time, even if it’s a few minutes late for work. And you get to where you’re going, but not a moment before you’re supposed to.
The only thing that can really change is the way you respond to it.
And this is called ‘allowing.’
I tell myself, “Don’t try to control or change anything you can’t: allow.”
Allow for the traffic, the backpacks, the wheelchairs, the red lights and the signal problems. Don’t resist or grit your teeth.
Let that shit go.
How? Just breathe. It’s one of the few things you can do in a crowded public place that will calm you, and therefore lower stress and cortisol levels. Everyone is breathing, but taking time to do it consciously makes all the difference.
So this is what I do.
I place one hand over my belly if I’m driving or walking, or both if I’m on the train and lucky enough to get a seat; breathe into my hand or hands; feel my belly go up and down.
I listen to my breath, if I can.
Breathe in for a count of three. And breathe out for a count of four. Not driving or walking? I gratefully opt to close my eyes.
It’s simple and it works.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I sometimes forget to do this. A lot. But when I remember, and I’ve improved considerably, the fluctuations of the day don’t create a pit in my stomach or a clenched gut. I am able to “go with the flow” a little better.
And it’s practice, practice, practice. I do it whenever I think of it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be during a stressful period. Breathing relaxes me and helps me think.
It provides an extra shot of oxygen to my aging brain.
So try it. Take your time.
Breathing won’t slow you down. Nothing will help things move any faster, but you’ll feel better when you get there.