So, the life-flashing-before-your-eyes thing is a real thing. Three days before my 36th birthday, I was making a right turn on Highway 59 and Kirby (Houstonians know this busy intersection) at the exact moment that the driver of an 18-wheeler decided he couldn’t stop for his red light. I saw the massive truck barreling out of control through the intersection, and in that same second, I saw every event and detail of my life up until that moment.
MY ENTIRE LIFE FLASHED BEFORE MY EYES—every instant in an instant. The only thing that shocked me more was that the 18-wheeler missed me and I was still alive. My birthday came and went, and I couldn’t shake that moment. It was a lot of wow, freaking wow. How was it possible that every detail was all in there?
A few weeks after my birthday, as profound as the moment my life passed before my eyes, the big learning came. The knowing was that the universe was incredibly just and that my life was a perfect reflection of what I was putting into the world. It became profoundly clear that I was not going to escape my karma or learning—not in this lifetime or any lifetime. The angry people in front of me were a harsh mirror of myself. So were the beautiful people.
I decided in those next weeks that the next time my life flashes before my eyes (when I die for real), the details of my life were going to be grand and beautiful. I had a lot of work to do.
I became very reflective and began to seek understanding. Understanding was elusive. The only thing I discovered from expensive therapy was the big, deep anger that seemed unresolvable and pervaded every interaction. It took many shapes and forms. It was shocking how judgmental and whiny I was.
Even worse is that I used my anger and my intellect to harm people whom I cared about. It was gross. It was also very real and did not feel like I could control it.
Turns out anger is not what it appears. If you’ve ever watched a toddler, you know they are pretty happy folks as long as you keep them fed, rested, and engaged. When they get too tired or hungry (out of balance), they become angry. They perceive everything to be unjust, and they decompose as quickly as real dynamite if they are not helped to maintain their balance. As the adult watching them, you realize their condition is real, yet it comes from imbalance and a lack of understanding regarding the bigger picture.
This is what anger is for all of us. It is a condition of extreme imbalance and distress, where we lose our sense of purpose and self. The world looks as awful as we feel (and pretend not to feel). When the world feels unjust, know that it is always just, but that you simply can’t see it as such.
My therapist would gently help me realize that I had no real data about most situations that I was witnessing. All my anger was about taking the injustice I could see on the surface of a situation and using it to stay mad, stuck, and unhappy. This did not mean that the people in the world were not behaving poorly in front of me. They were! They were absolute reflections of me. Get it? So, to change my relationships, I had to change my posture toward the world.
The technique that was most helpful to me was one that I outlined a few weeks ago. The step out of anger is to practice sympathy and empathy toward the person or persons you’re angry with. You are not going to see a bigger picture until you can see the other side as clearly as you see your own side. I did not say that you had to agree with what you find. Understanding means I see from your mind and your experiences how you can get to this place. The magic exists here, too, because it turns out that we never really want to be right; rather, we want to understand.
Below the surface of all anger is a human who has forgotten that this world makes sense. When we practice understanding, we remember that the world is incredibly comprehensible; it was just that we could not see it as such.
On this day, my 52nd birthday, I am truly grateful to still be here. As I blow out the massive amount of candles this time, I will be wishing for all of us peace and joy. (And yes! That’s my cake pictured above . . . one layer of chocolate and one layer of vanilla.)
Have a great weekend!! See you next week!