Who is to Blame?

redlightThe flashing blue lights suddenly filled the inside of my car. Surely the police car behind me wasn’t stopping me. I was the only car on the road but still, what just happened? I was pulling out of the metro parking lot at 8:30 pm on a Friday night, a time when people are either relaxing at home or beginning to release the stress of the week at their local restaurant/bar. I was coming home from an all-day staff retreat. All I really remember thinking about at that hour was what was I going to have for dinner. The day’s food choices had been very limited for me given that retreat food is the exact opposite of gluten-free. At 8:30 pm I was going through a mental inventory of my fridge and wondering if Chipotle was open at this hour when the police car snuck up behind me. To eliminate all doubt that the pretty blue lights were just for me, the police siren whooped once.

 

The officer said that I had not come to a full stop. Knowing that there isn’t a stop sign between the corner and where I was, I wondered what he was referring to. Then he said, “You know there is a ‘No Turn on Red’ sign back there.” I agreed. It is there and has been there forever and I know the sign well because the light is almost always red and on occasion I have had someone behind me honking because they have not read the sign or just like the sound of their horn. My work day is framed by these “No Turn on Red” intersections. There is one near my house that I wait for to turn green every morning before I go to work, and this one at the train station, that I also wait for every afternoon when I am coming home. Having agreed with the officer about the sign’s existence, I handed him my license and automatically assumed I was guilty of running the red light.

 

After the officer gave me the ticket, I pulled off to go home. I had lost my appetite, not because this was the first time I had gotten a ticket, but because something felt wrong. I have gotten two speeding tickets in my life. When my parents lived in New Jersey I would drive up to see them for the weekend. When I was given those tickets, I was very clear about what I had done to earn the ticket. But, on this Friday night, I am 95 percent certain that I did not run a red light. My certainty comes from knowing my driving habits. I am the type of driver who slows downs and stops at yellow lights due to my fear of intersections. My 5 percent doubt comes from my childhood belief that if any authority figure says I’ve done something wrong, then I must have done something wrong.

 

I got home and studied the piece of paper the officer had given me. Now I was really baffled. The citation did not say anything about a red light. The officer had written that I had “failed to pay full attention.”  WHAT!! Since when are officers armed with attention radar guns? I could understand receiving this citation if I had caused an accident, hit a pedestrian or failed to yield to crossing geese. But, why should I pay a fine for thinking about dinner? The officer never said that I had run a red light I only assumed I did. Was my failure to protest his implied accusation his proof that I had not been paying full attention?

 

So, for a week I have been trying to will my brain to replay the moment I got to the intersection but I can’t. I clearly remember thinking about Chipotle’s hours and I even remember noticing how full and beautifully bright the moon was when it came into my line of sight.  But, I don’t remember the status of the traffic light when I pulled up to it. If the definition of insanity is doing same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, does that mean that I had a moment of sanity? It doesn’t matter, the real question is, should I contest this ticket?

 

I think that the lesson from all this is that I have to be more aware of my actions. Not only while driving but as I am doing other things that are routine in nature. It’s true that sometimes we go into auto-pilot, and driving the same route every day creates the conditions that cause our brains to tune out. I have not decided if I am going to contest the ticket in court, but for now, the lesson of greater awareness is what I am going to keep and I will (eventually) let go of the blame.

 

Much Love,

 

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(Re)Start Journaling in 5 Easy Steps

writing-in-journalI remember writing in my first journal. I started journaling when I went to college which seemed like a big enough life experience to record in a yellow spiral notebook. I dedicated that yellow notebook to house my thoughts and feelings over a period of four years. I wrote pretty regularly for the first two years. Then, the dates of the entries became increasingly far apart, until I stopped.

Years later I returned to my journal. I would pick it up during difficult times, but would drop it when the crisis was over. When I started meditating I was drawn once again to my treasured journal. As I re-read my entries, I found repetitions, connections and a progression in what I read. It really was a treasure! Most importantly, the trend I noticed was that when things seemed dark, uncertain or foreboding –now in the present I could see how everything had turned out just fine. It was reassuring to know that even when things feel big and heavy, my journal will show me that all things, with time, become small and manageable. Gaining that perspective is a great benefit of journaling.  Of course having a receptacle for all those thoughts bouncing around in my head helps too.

There is something else I learned from reading those early entries. When I started journaling I took myself too seriously. I felt guilty if I had not written for a while and as if I had failed journaling 101. Also my writing felt “scripted” as if I expected someone other than me to read and judge my writings. I was missing the point (and the benefits) of journaling because I was treating it like a homework assignment. Today, I love my journal and it has become a no-guilt, no-stress zone for me. I hope that these 5 tips will help you avoid some of these pitfalls and get you to enjoy and learn from journaling.

If you have never journaled before, or are looking for a way to start journaling again, below are five easy steps to help you start.

  1. Choose your weapon. I use a spiral bound journal with pithy writing quotes. You may choose a digital option or the more traditional route. On your first page of your journal, write down your intentions for your writing. Resolve that this journal will be your private space where you will be brutally honest, even if it hurts. Resolve that this journal will be your receptacle for your thoughts and emotions.
  2. Write down the date and one sentence. If that’s all you have, that’s okay. If you want to write more, go ahead! Come back the next day and write another sentence or more. Writing without any particular purpose or milestone could feel a little strange at first because we are accustomed to writing for someone else to read our work. Remember, no one else will read your work. Also, dating your entries is important because it gives you time reference when you go back to reread your journal.
  3. Reread and process what you just wrote. You have been trained to edit and re-edit your work for spelling and grammatical mistakes. This is one of those times where you don’t have to worry about spelling!  Instead, read for content and mentally process what is on the page. As you read, other thoughts may come to mind that build on those thoughts or an AHA moment may just dawn on you. Rereading has helped me relate current situations to experiences from the past, and that has often been eye opening.
  4. Make the time to journal.  As you get comfortable with pouring out your feelings in written form, you will find it becomes easier to let it all out. Ensure that you have set aside time to journal and that you will have the privacy and quiet time you need to truly allow you to connect with your journal. It can be an emotional time, so give yourself the space (and permission) to cry if you have to. Ask your family to honor your time to be behind closed doors and to be by yourself and with your thoughts.
  5. Make it your own. There is no standard to follow here. The more you write and the more consistent you are the more you maintain a flow in your thinking and reap the benefits from being in tune with your thoughts and emotions on a more regular basis. If you write once a day, once a week, once a quarter or once a year, it is yours to determine. You will find what works best for you. And, as you get more comfortable with journaling you will become more creative. Sometimes I write in singular words, or short poems, or I draw a picture because that is the best way to capture what I’m thinking. There is no standard for what you write about either. Sometimes I write down a dream or about a movie I saw. At other times, I write about the things that worry me the most.

I hope this helps you create the space and time for journaling.

Much Love,

I just found a wrinkle – in my brain!

neurons

Is that age fairy dust on my neurons?

It’s time to admit it. The age fairy is visiting me much more often than she used to. The age fairy used to sprinkle her age dust over my body every two to three years. One year she gave me cute little stripes of grey about 2 inches above my ears. She spared me crow’s feet at 40 but she gave me sweet little parentheses on my face to remind me where my smile is supposed to be. To balance the smile lines she also gave me a 1/2-inch vertical line between my brows…I guess to remind me that I scrunch my brows when I am thinking, questioning or when I’m not happy. Then she waved her magic to soften my muscles and slacken my skin. I used to know when the age fairy had paid me a visit and thought it was sweet. But, now that she’s visiting me with more frequency, I am barely adjusting to the new changes when some new “sign of the time gone by” pops up.

Last week I made a startling discovery. I found a brain wrinkle! Here is how I discovered it. For the first time in my life, I don’t grasp technology! O – M – G! sadly, I have not grasped the time keeping/staffing systems at my job. I find the system confusing and it frustrates me. But, only when I could not modify one of the customized reports did I realize how much my brain had aged. I began my career embracing new technology and excelled at every job because I maximized the use of software and technology to streamline my work. I have created databases, dabbled in HTML to redesign websites, programmed macros, created functions in Excel, and whenever someone had an issue with their PC, or if the server went down, 9 out of 10 times I was able to fix the problem. Oh how I have fallen!

So, dear age fairy, and please don’t take this wrong way, stop using your aging dust on my brain cells! I still need those. There is much more that I want to learn and many more things I want to master so could you please slow it down? Plus, I have to work for another 20 years.  Is there any way you can give me back a few technology-grasping cells so that I can learn how to interpret the data in Clarizen? Oh, and if I can have a few extra memory cells that would be great. Thanks.

Much Love,