I will no longer shoot peace symbols to people in traffic. Tonight I learned my lesson. About five years ago, I spontaneously started shooting peace symbols to cars in my rearview mirror when they allowed me to cut in front of them or when they allowed me to walk in front of them. And then other times, spontaneously, I've shot a peace symbol, ironically, passive-aggressively when someone honked at me. For that, I immediately do not feel proud, in the second or two later when I assess my energy and intent. (Side note: I hate horn honking in traffic and there's more of it here with the influx of newcomers who don't understand our genteel Nashville ways. "Please don't bring your ugly," I want to yell.) Well, my ugly has been those occasional passive-aggressive peace fingers and tonight I learned my lesson on shooting them.
Grace, Ken and I, with a buggy of groceries, saw a car turn into the garage lane at Whole Foods, but proceeded into the crosswalk, as we mistakenly thought they had seen us and were stopping. We had to halt our passage, however, when we realized this car didn't seem like they were going to stop. I looked quizzedly into the face of the driver behind the windshield and she seemed angry, agitated and baring her teeth. I finished crossing wondering why our passing in the crosswalk clearly marked in several ways, would seemingly agitate her so. And then I turned around and shot her a peace symbol.
Not cool. Passive aggressive.
I was putting my groceries into my car when she came up to me in the parking garage. At first, I was unaware she had approached and that she had already begun talking to me. Her teeth were bared during the whole conversation. What I was able to hear, once I realized she was addressing me was: "Just so you know I was not going to run over you. I'm a nurse and I've been busy saving babies' lives all day. So, I'm tired and my eyes are a little blurry and they aren't seeing well."
I looked surprised and responded calmly: "Well, I didn't think you were going to run over us. But you looked so angry I shot you a peace symbol."
She studied me a moment and then replied angrily: "Well. It didn't look like it!"
At that point, I gasped. I almost never shoot a bird in anger at anyone as I think it is such a sign of hate. "Oh my god," I replied. "No! Two fingers!" And proceeded to shoot her another peace symbol. (No passive-aggressive intent.)
She stood there a couple of seconds longer and bared her teeth at me. And turned toward the store.
Ken, my spiritual mentor, like always, turned it into a lesson. One: any kind of finger motions are likely to be taken wrong. I'd begun to realize that. It was an example, he said, of not knowing what is in a person's "subterranean vault." It came out in this case. (I never looked at her angrily, just confused and surprised. But my "peace symbol" seemingly lit a match to whatever was inside of her. Fatigue, anger, hurt, unrest.) And he added this zinger, which was actually his first remark:
"Can you not react to how a person acts?"
Ahhh. There's the lesson. Remaining neutral. Her reaction, of course, was not about me. As is anybody's. It's about them. As I have cleared the clutter in the vaults of my own subconscious more and more, I've gained more compassion for myself and the ways I've reacted to people in the past and realize more (though I forgot it in a moment of non-neutrality--judgement,) that people are coming from a place (of pain, wounding, grief, abuse...) about which we generally have no idea.
If I'd had no reaction to how she appeared to take our crossing the walk, I would have not passed judgment on her seeming reaction. She'd had a hard day. And how my passive aggressive (ab)use of the peace symbol seemingly set her off.
*The painting in the background of the Chilton Pearce quote is one of GraceArt's new 2015 Spring/Summer coaster-sized Art Tiles. GraceGoad.com is currently under redesign, including an e-commerce component.