What I Learned from ‘Smash up Derby’

“Pay attention!” I screamed. Who do I think could hear me? I was sitting in the car by myself. When I pushed my car horn, metaphorically through my front bumper, I am  certain the driver in front of me soiled themselves.

We have all heard many times before that it’s important to stay present. Live in the moment. Be here now. For such a simple statement, the present moment seems to allude us all at times. Sure, we have to learn from the past and plan for the future. But our thoughts can race by the thousands.

Similar to the practice of meditation, we are foolish to think for a moment that we can suppress our running thoughts. But, by not paying attention, there is no guarantee that the thousands of ‘thought blinks’ – as I like to call them – won’t interfere with your present experience.

When I watched the driver behind me look down as we were in start and stop traffic, I screamed, “pay attention!” To no avail.  Although some have suggested I have a big mouth,  I couldn’t voice my command through the rear window of my car to the driver behind me and snap their attention back to the present reality. 

There was 2-3 seconds before impact. 

‘Ground control to Major Tom’ – crash!

It would be fair to say that we were all present in the moment then. “I’m sorry. I have to pick up my kids,” they said.  Even then I was not convinced they were in the present moment. We had just had a car accident.

Just like in the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” where the lead character is played by Ben Stiller, would often drift into a trance like state allowing his imagination to bring him on a wild ride of his alter ego and aspiring personality. I too, felt like drifting into a daydream state of an altered personality to dispense the virtues of paying attention. But, hold on a second. The driver was neither of my children so I will have to shelve my lecture. What I wanted to say and what  I ended up saying were two different things. 

As we were assessing the damage, the shear volume of traffic that my new friend (kid picker upper) and I had created was astonishing.  Three days before Christmas – 4:30 rush hour – how selfish of us.  

Just then a third party driver, who was instantly enrolled in the “inconvenience club” of the day, leaned on his horn and flipped me the finger. It was close to Christmas so I took his gesture as a thank you gift.  The horn blast upset ‘kid picker upper.” I, on the other hand, wondered what was so wrong in his life that he felt he had to lash out at us? Did he really believe that my plan, when I woke up that morning, was that I wanted to meet ‘kid picker upper’, smash our cars, create a traffic jam and more importantly – personally make his day miserable? 

Driving, similar to meditation is one of those places were being present matters. Sure, things are going to float into our minds.   What we do with them and how we acknowledge them is what being present and mindful is all about.

Driving, like personal development requires you to pay attention, not ignore and not to suppress. It is to be present. See all, here all and stay focused on the task at hand.

Personal development requires you to stay present with your thoughts. Drive first and THEN pick up your kids. Don’t succumb to the temptation of the next moment (looking down at your phone while driving). Be here and now. 

So, this is what I learned that day:

  • to show compassion to ‘finger flipper’
  • to have forgiveness to ‘child picker upper’
  • to learn to be thankful no one was really hurt
  • to have gratitude for the gifts you are given.
  • And maybe one day, when someone smashes into you, you can be the person you want to see in others.

  • Where Have I Been….

    The day I received a ‘Package’ and never realized the ‘gift’ inside. That’s the answer I give to everyone who has been asking; Why haven’t you posted anything? Where have you been? You should post that on your blog, why did you stop writing? Well, the easy answer is this, I was ran over by a truck (not literally), got lost and made a choice not to get back in the game. I will never forget the day I got lost and forgot my purpose.

    He showed up in my office wearing jeans, he looked to be a retired man, friendly wearing a ball cap he asked to speak to me, asked me my name and handed me a package. It was a kind of a friendly exchange, surreal to speak and looking back now one of the most memorable days of my life. I opened the package and was frozen. My emotions and senses were taken over as if from some external alien force. I sat motionless, paralyzed in what to do next. Little did I know it would be the source of almost mystical power over me. It would transform me personally over the following years. It provided sleepless nights and countless moments of anger and outbursts to the ones I love most. I shut down. I removed myself further away from the things that bring me life and energize my soul. I lost trust in myself and the people around me. I became synical and skeptical. I found little trust in anything. I questioned everything, and usually not from the place of wonderment. Waking up and struggling to put on a brave face for those around me was the ‘soup de jour’. I was slipping and felt I had no traction. It was as if the pull of the undercurrent was so strong my resistance seemed futile. I was falling, uncertain of how far and long the decent would be. Sure, I was able to forget. But, not for long. I use the term ‘forget’ lightly, because no one forgets a ‘package’ that changes their lives forever. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It is imprinted on the neurons of my brain in the same manner as the day I opened my most memorable Christmas gift. I may have been around 7 years old, when I noticed behind the curtains that glorious Christmas morning, one more gift that was strategically hidden from the rest of the gifts that day. The curtains were made out of green valour and were tied back exposing the white shears that covered the window. (Remember, this is not a story of the fine decorating qualities of home decor in Montreal, back in the early seventies). It’s a story of how a surprise package can change your life forever. As a young boy, I remember my parents suggesting I look behind the curtains, and I noticed a large box, I opened it to my amazement. A surreal and unexpected wonderment was with me the day I opened the mystery package in my office. I will remember the ‘gift’ I received when I was seven similar to the ‘package’ I received in my office that day.
    The gift I received that year was a table hockey game, with metal players ( you could curve their sticks), an automatic puck dropper at centre ice and a puck ejector, that if pushed just right could fling the puck out of your own net, through the air and almost hit your opponent in the face, a great feature for highly competitive kids. The Canadians versus the Leafs, there was no better match up. I remember the sounds of the game, the colour and more importantly the wonderful feeling I had when my parents gave me the ‘gift’ of my life.
    It’s amazing how a package can change your life. Similarly I remember the details of the day I received the package. I did not see the ‘gift’ that came with the ‘package’ that day. I was blinding to the ‘gift’ that would eventually expose itself over time. Sure, the package itself was the beginning of a journey that brought me and my emotions all over the place. One thing is for certain though, if you want to learn anything about yourself and your purpose and principles in life, you need others to ask questions of your personal integrity, intelligence and purpose.
    It was in this package that I questioned my own purpose. Allowing my ego to interfere with the process I failed to see the gift and clarity the package was providing. Who I am, what I stand for and the intentions of my actions were all in question. My absence to demonstrate empathy and forgiveness for those around me was breached. We all understand the importance of seeing through the eyes of others and learning how to forgive unconditionally. But, it isn’t until we are required to carry out such an altruistic and nobel deed, at a time when we have sunken to our lowest point, do we find out who we really are and what we represent.
    I made a choice to forgive. I see now what I couldn’t see then. I decided to renew and familiarize myself with my principles and purpose in life. I decided to see the ‘gift’ that I was given rather than what the ‘package’ represented. I hope you always see the gifts that come your way, no matter what the circumstances are.