June 24, 2006

Zen and the Art of Road Rage

Today I had a great opportunity to test the Zen breathing techniques I had been reading about; I failed miserably. My wife and I are in the process of moving houses and our baby is due to be born in ten days, or as the doctor said last week, “Any day now!”

I was at the new house assembling the crib. I have never been very good at putting things together. Maybe because no one has ever taught me to sit down and work slowly and calmly on a project. I want things done quickly and I get annoyed if anything goes wrong. Some of you may have noticed this trait coming through in my politics as well. I am learning to take things slower and give change more time.

I had most of thing put together; things were going very smoothly. It was quite simple actually; your typical mass-produced, plywood Allen-wrench piece of furniture, until I got to a point where the side wasn’t sliding up and down like it should. I took it apart several times and still nothing. I examined the meager instructions and still nothing.

This what drives me crazy. I read directions; everything is as it should be, but it still doesn’t work. After about forty-five minutes, I was sweaty, swearing, and getting really frustrated because I couldn’t calm myself down. “Come on! All that talk of being in the now, and breathing. For what? You can’t even put together a fucking crib!”

It wasn’t pretty. Then one of the bolts became stripped and broke through the wood. It was over. I had lost. My impatience had ruined another project. There was nothing I could until I went to the store, re-grouped and came back with more supplies. I told myself that I would take this time to focus and realize that I didn’t have to become so flustered.

Side note: living in Asia, it is not a good idea to go to a mall on a Saturday afternoon, especially, if you want to try and calm down after a trying afternoon project. There are a lot of people out and they all have cars. I spent about thirty minutes in traffic trying to enter the parking lot. I practiced breathing and smiling for no reason, to help me stay calm. It didn’t work. I became very angry. I pounded the steering wheel. What made it worse was that I was trying to stay calm, thus swelling my aggravation. Once in the parking lot, I spent another thirty minutes sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic winding up one level after another looking for a spot. I was trapped.

My frustration was palpable. At that moment, I could have killed someone. Then suddenly I saw the light. There was nothing I could do about my situation; nothing I could do about the crib; nothing about the fate of Iraq; or about how some people out in blogosphere think I am a self-righteous prick, even though all I want is some peace; there was nothing I could do but sit on the car and accept my present reality. So that is what I did. I sat in the car and examined my anger and frustration. I didn’t try and diffuse it. I simply let it wash over me. I swore that as soon as I parked, I wouldn’t let my experience affect anyone I would encounter.

Some time later, I was sitting in the car and forgot how perturbed I was.
I stopped forcing my mind to control my thoughts and let them float in and out as I sat in traffic. All the negative energy, anger and rage dissipated and suddenly all I could think of was that I would soon be a dad, and that I had a beautiful new house that I was in the process of setting up. I didn’t have to force my anger away. After I had accepted it, moved on and left an image of my daughter in my head.

Hours later back at the house, I put the crib together, put up some curtains and tomorrow we move the rest of the furniture. I am not sure what kind of lesson this may teach you, but I hope you can find one in there. I am pretty sure it may be helpful.


  1. Soon to be Dad? Or Dad of soon to be born child?