Getting a grip and letting go

Dear President Trump,

Laura has really cut back her Twitter time since too much isn’t good for her equilibrium, but she still finds good stuff. The best bit she sent me today was a clip that a parent taped of their kid who’s maybe 15 months old. The child is sitting facing backwards in their car seat casually holding their toes and moving their leg back and forth like a yoga pro. Superimposed at the top of the image throughout the whole clip is “I might have said a bad word at someone who cut me off in traffic” while the kid says “fuck you! fuuuck youuuu” apparently amusing themselves with the sound of the words. No animus, no charge – just some cool syllables.

The fact that the parent clearly said those words in anger at someone with their child in the car doing their child-sponge-thing feels sad to me. Our diminishing frustration thresholds seem so ubiquitous, and not just in loaded, hyper-partisan political arenas. We’re regularly losing it on one another in everyday encounters, like we are collectively spoiling for fights all the time. If you’re slow off the light, there’s someone honking; if traffic is inexplicably stopped, there’s someone honking; if you’re going the speed limit, there’s someone tailgating. And there’s the now daily experience of seeing at least one terrifying, egregious red-light violation. It doesn’t fit the “I’m mad at you, random person, who happened to be in my way” but rather a variant, which is characterized more by “The rules DO NOT apply to me and I could give a rip who I scare or who I hurt.”

Laura keeps herself calm when she sees this happen by coming up with ever more inventive reasons the person could be in such a hurry that running a solid red would be understandable. Me, not so much – I get really mad every time. And this strong (righteous) reaction isn’t confined to overtly dangerous behavior, as was apparent from my letter yesterday regarding my refusal to give the window-seat taker the benefit of the doubt. Basically, I’m finding I’ve become markedly more reactive to real and perceived affronts than I used to be.

The main reason I adopted this practice of writing to you and saying loving-kindness prayers for you and for us all was that I didn’t want to lose my grip on how I comport myself and didn’t want to constantly be holding hot coals (as Thich Nhat Hanh would say about anger). It’s taken me a minute to get to it, but I think that baby’s expletives helped me realize that I need to re-invest in kindness and in how I really want to be in the world both for my own sake, and as an act of resistance.

May we be safe from the twin contagions of fear and anger.
May we be willing, even if not happy, to ease up on one another.
May we reframe what it is to be strong and agentic in this world.
May we reclaim peace within and between.

Tracy Simpson

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