After loading the car with groceries in the Trader Joe’s parking lot the other day, I pushed the empty cart to the curb and left it there. 90% of the time (okay, maybe 82?), I return the cart but I was in a rush and after making sure it was stable and not careening toward another car, I opened my car door to get in when I heard:
THAT’S GOING TO HURT MY CAR. AND IT’S A VERY EXPENSIVE CAR!
I turned around to see a mother and her twenty something-year-old daughter, glaring at me.
I looked at the cart, a good 2 feet from her car, not moving an inch.
I don’t see how that will hurt your car.
Just put it back. You’re healthy enough. Don’t be so lazy.
You don’t have to be so rude.
You don’t have to be so selfish and stubborn!!
That’s when I got in my car, shut the door and started to drive away. And that’s when they got my cart and wheeled it toward me.
I stopped the car. They continued to wheel it in front of me, making a big show of returning it, slowly, preventing me from moving, saying more things to me that I couldn’t hear because my window was closed.
I told this story to a few people in that, CAN YOU BELIEVE THOSE PEOPLE way. Why did they have to be so aggressive? Why the name-calling? Why did they have to mention that their car was ‘very expensive’? Should I only take care with fancy-pants cars?
Even as I was retelling it, there was a part of me that was done. It was over. It wasn’t a big deal. Who knows what was going on in their lives. Even if nothing stressful was, didn’t I want to contribute to a kinder, more compassionate world? And wasn’t this exactly an opportunity, and a pretty lite one at that, to practice?
What if I got curious? Not fake–I’ll pretend I’m the enlightened one, smile and talk in a soft voice—curious. I mean, truly curious.
A gazillion years ago, my college botany professor asked us if we knew how leaves change color. We didn’t. They’re dying, she said.
Shorter days and cooler temperatures means a decline in chlorophyll production. Chlorophyll, needed for the process of photosynthesis, gives the leaves their green color. As it dissipates, other pigments (there all along) combine with various factors to create the vibrant display of reds, oranges, yellows, and even purples.
The whole process is a beautiful (if overused?) metaphor for letting go but also for discovering something that could only be revealed by letting the more common, typical thing falling away.
The moment when I stop talking so others have the space to share.
The moment when my regular route is blocked by construction which forces me on a whole new path.
The moment when my knee-jerk defensive response just feels wrong, tired, like the brittle leaves of winter ready to drop.
It’s not: From now on, I’ll NEVER leave a cart in the lot or I’ll NEVER put one back again! Or, People are assholes or I should have just returned it, to save the peace.
And it’s not even, From now on, I vow to drop the defensive shield that gets instantly erected when I feel wrongly accused of something.
I think it’s: What might arise if I simply turned my attention to NOTICING the shield?
Who am I, anyway? Am I the person who did or didn’t do the right thing with the cart or did or didn’t do or say the right thing in RESPONSE to the people who got upset about the cart?
Or am I something else more vibrant and alive underneath all that, witnessing the whole thing and waiting to emerge?