Yesterday I was sitting at a stop sign after picking up my daughters from school.
When it was my turn, I proceeded through the intersection.
The truck to the left of me believed it was his turn as well, and he almost hit the side of my car.
Almost, is the key word…we both stopped abruptly and avoided any type of accident.
But, whoa, was he mad. He pounded his fists on the steering wheel, he gave me the finger, he yelled as if I could actually hear what he was saying.
I gave him a quick wave and I drove away. But I felt his emotion, and I definitely felt my own frustration and fear.
And so the stories in my head began to swirl….It was my turn! I have 3 little girls in this car! What if he hit me! How dare he yell at me! It's his fault not mine!
But about five blocks later, I already knew I was ready to let it go. My heartbeat was erratic, I was pissed off, and I realized it was all completely unnecessary because it was already over.
It reminded me of the duck story from Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth.
He explains that when ducks swim into each other or get into a tiff, they "argue" with each other, quack loudly, then swim away and "flap" it out.
They flap their wings widely and release the negative energy they picked up from the situation.
They don't swim around and tell other ducks their sob story and they don't take out their frustration on their duck family; they just flap it out and peacefully carry on.
Yes, I was having an emotional response to this truck situation - it scared me, it threw me into fear, it made me upset.
But now it's over. Do I carry this into my day, talk about it incessantly, and make up stories about what could have been, or do I let it go?
So I started breathing, I started releasing, I started moving my head and shoulders and I actually started saying, "Shake it off, shake it off."
By the time I got home, I could feel my head tingling and I could tell the emotion had released. I was back.
I didn't even tell my husband because I didn't need to. It was gone.
But because life is life, I had yet another opportunity to deal with strong emotion this morning as I dropped my girls off at school.
As soon as we arrived, Camryn realized she forgot her backpack.
Not only that, she didn't want to go into school because she couldn't fathom going in without her backpack. She was beside herself and she started to cry.
AH, so frustrating for so many reasons….breathe, just breathe.
So I sent Jacey into school and Camryn and I got back in the car. I said, "You know your backpack is your responsibility, right?"
She said, "I know."
We were silent for the rest of the ride. I don't like backtracking - I was frustrated and annoyed.
When we returned to school, backpack in tow, Cam was quiet. She obviously felt bad. I didn't feel very good either.
So we got out of the car and I said, "It's time to shake it off….let's move."
We started jumping around in front of the school, doing a few yoga moves and a few dance moves…if anyone was watching us, I can't imagine what they were thinking.
We finished by taking a deep inhale and exhale, and then we held hands and walked up to the school. I gave her a kiss, she gave me a smile, and I told her I would see her at 3:00.
As I drove away, I felt powerful.
I can't control what other people say or do. I can't even control the rise of my emotions - they are a normal part of being human, and they show up for a reason.
But once the feeling is experienced, I can let it go. It's an emotion from an experience that is already over; it has nothing to do with this moment.
Negative emotion is just that, it's an emotion. It's meant to be felt, worked through and then let go.
Holding onto it only creates heaviness and drama, two things I can definitely do without.
I'd rather reach for my inner duck - feel it, shake it off, swim away.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.