Today was the day. My third visit to a dental office to complete a root canal. Yay – it would be over with and ugh - I had to work up my enthusiasm for the long drive and dreaded task.
I waited an unusually long time – a half hour – before checking with the receptionist. “Yes, he knows you’re here,” she said. It was the first time I had to wait at all and I saw the doctor peek around the corner several times as though looking for someone. Someone other than me.
At last, after he consulted with another doctor and the receptionist, my name was called. It was not the best news. After driving 65 minutes into the city, 15 minutes to park my car and walk the maze of hospital hallways, and a total of 40 minutes in the reception area, my ears heard, “There’s been a mix up with the schedule. Can you come back tomorrow?”
A profusion of apologies bounced from doctor to receptionist and back again and I was offered a free comprehensive exam. No I can’t come back tomorrow and a comprehensive exam is not what I came here for. You can imagine the way my belly did a flip and I felt emotion, somewhere between sadness and exasperation rising up through my innards. But I held my self together and thanked everyone involved. “It happens,” I sighed.
My gut did not agree as I retrieved my car and figured the expense in gas and parking fees and counted off all the things I might have done with my afternoon. In the silence of my car a band of tension tightened around my solar plexus and I huffed out a few loud exhales to release the excess energy.
A little forethought goes a long way. I’d brought some meditation CDs with me. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to meditate while driving and the one I popped into the player contained more of a conversation about how to meditate. A soft, soothing, male voice said to stay in the present moment. Don’t go into the past or future with your thoughts. Stay fully present in your body.
This was no easy endeavor because my mind was jumping to home, back to the dental office, asking what errands I could run to make good of this outrageously long drive. Then I thought, what is my experience in this moment? My experience is my creation! What do I want to create? Do I want to waste these precious moments of my life ruminating? I could choose to belly ache about a wasted afternoon that I had no power to change. I could berate the person who caused the mistake. I could be a prisoner in my vehicle or I could enjoy the ride. How do I enjoy the ride?
I dared to duck into the past just long enough to remember that being in a moving vehicle, as a 5 month old, soothed my colic. My 8 year old self, thought driving was something to look forward to. I begged my Dad to let me sit in the car to “drive” myself to faraway places. I felt the thrill of gripping a tiny steering wheel, guiding a miniature car between rubber bumpers on an amusement park kiddie road. My 17 year old self couldn’t wait to get a driver’s permit. I’m so grown up! Look at me! Driving!
So why can’t I do that now, in the present?
I can! I let my body fill up with all those past joys. I noticed the beautiful scenery and the glint of sun off nearby cars. I pointed the car toward Dunkin Donuts to treat myself to an iced coffee, then to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few staples. Wow! The day is so beautiful! Blue sky! Pretty white clouds! Look at me! Driving anywhere I please! I AM FREE! Free to change my mind. Free to create a better experience. Free to CHOOSE what to do with my emotions, to free my diaphragm of tension, to let my shoulders and forehead relax. I always have choices. All it takes is to stop, breathe, and consider the options.
I wish you many of these crossroads. May you choose the beautiful day.