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Day 215 - Trials on the Trail.

So every day I get up and take my dog on a hike. I take the same route every single day because I like seeing how the view changes and doesn’t change every day. I like seeing the same people along the way. I like doing a loop from my front door and back.

Since the virus came, everyone has been doing their part to be safe and keep the trail safe for others. Some people wear masks but most do not. Every morning I see someone on the trail, most days it is the same six people. I go early when it is not too hot yet. So far, it has been nothing but love and light out there...until yesterday.

I have about a twenty minute walk to get to the trail. So the dog and I had just gotten on the path. I am usually talking to someone on the phone as I walk at least for part of the hike. But yesterday I was just listening to music on my AirPods. I didn’t hear anyone coming up behind me...but I noticed the dog alert to something in back of us, so I turned around. There was a woman running towards me, no mask. She started motioning for me to get out of her way. I must have had a weird look on my face because she then started talking to me. I couldn’t hear her due to the AirPods. So I missed part of what she said. I removed an AirPod in time to catch that she was asking me to move aside so that she could pass me!

I was stunned. This has never happened before. First of all, there is almost no one out there when I hike. Secondly, its is customary trail etiquette to walk on the right and be passed on the left. I failed to see why this protocol was not being followed and I was, instead, being asked to move over to the left side of the trail while this person continued on the right.

She was not angry but there was this complete all encompassing belief she communicated that she had every right to ask me to move, that she had the right to maintain her position on the trail and that I should not. In fact, my presence there seemed like an intrusion to her even though I was ostensibly on the path first.

I was incredulous. I was incensed. I was offended. But I moved over. Which was totally RIDICULOUS! There was no change in the distance between us. NONE! It was exactly the same except she had been successful in making me alter my behavior to accommodate her own. I said as much as she passed not a very nice tone. I didn’t say it loudly or with any profanity. I just kind of muttered how ridiculous I thought her request was...she sheepishly ran by me and then quickly took a side trail when given the option. And she was gone. I did not see her for the rest of my hike.

Her absence did not, however, provide me freedom from her. I was pissed. How dare she ask me to move so that she could maintain the right side. It was so stupid. Her passing me on the left achieved the exact same result as asking me to move over...except she had to go around me which was way simpler than interrupting my hike to request me to move over! But I know that whenever I am disturbed it is really an issue with me so I quickly inventoried my own interiority to find out what was going with ME!

After some thought, I realized I was pissed because I moved. I shouldn’t have allowed her completely bizarre request to alter my behavior. I should have just stayed my course. But this is not how I go through life. I tend to go through life being afraid that I am doing it wrong and always quick to change my behavior at the first sign of trouble from someone else. Like I have less right to be there, less rights to the air, less right to occupy the planet. And here I was doing it AGAIN!

I also realized that I have a hard time with people like this woman. People who set boundaries for themselves but then use those same boundaries as weapons against others. My experience with boundaries is that they are for me. They are about what behavior I am going to accept from you and what I am going to do in response to your behavior. I really cannot stand people who take boundary setting and use it a way to manipulate and control others. Or try to. And that was what really made me mad - that I accommodated AGAIN! I acquiesced. I gave. I allowed this complete stranger to alter my behavior to accommodate her neurosis. Still. Dammit, I thought I had made more progress.

I quickly reviewed. I was better than I used to be because some years ago I would have called her a name and probably it would have included some expletive. So I can recognize the growth in the fact that I didn’t do that. On the other hand, she was now fully occupying my attention and thoughts so I wasn’t really where I wanted to be yet either...

So I decided that she was my teacher for the day. She was brought into my life to show me that I still have work to do. I am not “there” yet. So my reaction was not where I want to live. I want to be the person that would have just looked at her, continued my walk and not have allowed her to completely derail my mental state. I wish that I would have just turned back around and continued walking. AirPods in. Oblivious to her neurotic demands. I wish that as she ran by I would have been able to see her as a person who, like me, isn’t all that well. That was having a moment. That just like me acts ridiculous sometimes. I wish that I could have blessed her away and then returned to my peaceful state of mind.

As usual in my life, I was on the path but far from a completely enlightened response but also not plotting to take her out at the next bend either. So there I was in the middle. And, I recognized, that was a pretty incredible place to be. A place that eluded me for a very, very long time. So I turned my face toward the sun and I was grateful to the middle way that I finally could recognize as my first inclination. I was somewhere between complete asshole and Buddha. Perfect! Aim for the middle. The middle path is the best path.

I guess I am aiming for someplace higher than the middle. I would like to get to a place where I don’t get so upset and offended by something so trivial. I would like to get to a place where I am not triggered by this person’s strange request. I would like to hold my own center long enough to come up with a response that feels good to me instead of defaulting to the standard, “let me accommodate you to my own detriment.”

Upon further reflection, I could see that there really was no detriment to me. I moved aside, she ran by and what I was really pissed about was that I allowed her to alter my behavior when I found her request completely inane. What really got to me was that she felt she had the right to demand that I move out of her way - the level of entitlement baffling to someone who really kind of walks through life apologizing for her existence. Her behavior a reminder and an affront to my belief that one can be anything other than accommodating.

While it may seem that I was washed away in this trial, I was not. I used the whole event as an opportunity to check in with myself and why I was feeling so disturbed by it all. I was able to dig a little more deeply into my own psyche and find out why this all bothered me so much. I was able to see my own pathology and then I was able to laugh at myself. I was able to forgive myself for giving way to someone else’s drama instead of holding my own. I was able to see that this, in the grand and not so grand scheme of things, was not a big deal...unless I chose to make it one.

And I did not...chose to make it one. I completed my walk, unoffended. I was happy and grateful and joyous to be out in this wonderful valley I live in and I was free from this woman and others who believe that they have some weird God given right to make me do anything other than what I want to do.

I was able to be grateful that I was not her. I was able to be grateful that I just moved out of her way and that act be seen by her and the powers that be to be my act of contrition, to give way to someone else who needed something from me, even if in the beginning I wasn’t really willing to give it and thought that it was completely ludicrous that she asked me for it.

In the end, I was happy to have obliged. In fact, I could see, that she gave me an opportunity to see that I am living my best life. I am using the things that happen to me on the path to wake me see where I am still stuck and where I have made immeasurable progress. I didn’t cross check her off the path...once upon a time that would have been my go, I just raged a small, carefully worded argument in my head.

So I have changed. I am a better person according to my own definition of better and person. I am ok with my reaction yesterday. It told me a lot about who I am and where I am in this whole living life thing. As I hiked back to my home, I was incredibly grateful to this woman in the sunhat running on a Wednesday morning. She showed me who I was in the moment. A snapshot of Erin in her life, living it. She showed me where I am doing well and not so well. She showed me where I focus some energy. She showed me where I could still use some growth. For that I am incredibly grateful. Because what is most important in my life is that I use all the things that happen to me in this life as a vehicle to wake me up, to shake my foundational beliefs and help me see, really see who and what I am because I can clearly see who and what you are. And I can see that we are the same.

So I have a big shout out to the woman in the sunhat. Thank you for holding up the mirror. I am forever in your debt. Thank you also for giving me today’s blog post. I dedicate it to you and all the people like you who are my unwitting teachers of who I am. Maybe you run all the days of your life in grace and peace and find the willingness to maybe next time just run around the person front of you instead of insisting that they move to accommodate you. Maybe, just maybe, you might, next time, see if you might be able to accommodate them. Lofty goal, boy do I know that!

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