Understanding and getting to know others’ personalities has always been fascinating to me. It seems I’ve always enjoyed getting to know people and understanding who they are, how they think, and how they live. It’s also a hobby of mine to people-watch when I go out in public. This isn’t so that I can make judgments or gossip about what I see but more so that I am genuinely interested in the wide variety of us humans out here. And, as I notice others, I’m sure I’ve been noticed myself from time to time. As a matter of fact, some of the more interesting and consistent tidbits I’ve gotten are comments like, “you have such a calming voice,” “being around you is relaxing” and even most recently, “will you make a recording of your voice so I can get to sleep more easily at night?”
This isn’t a contrived way of being or talking on my part but just part of my nature, I guess. The interesting thing to me is that even when others tell me I seem calm, there are many times that I’m actually feeling quite anxious or angry or (fill in the blank) on the inside. I can remember when I was younger and frequently sang in front of others. I would be so worried that my anxiety was blaringly obvious to the audience, but when I would ask my mama after singing, she would comment on how calm I seemed. I mean, we’re talking panic-attack-level anxiety that I had and, somehow, it just didn’t seem to break through to the surface. I must admit that I’m grateful that this seems to be a part of my demeanor because it’s very helpful in my life, my work, and my relationships.
Lest you start to think I am some paragon of peace and tranquility, I have to say that the calm in my voice and demeanor is nowhere to be found should you ever be a “fly on the wall” when I’m driving in my car. As adept as I seem to be at projecting calm, there is no mistaking the anger that rushes out of me when I’m in traffic. That’s it. You heard me. I have road rage. It’s almost like I become a completely different version of myself when I get in the car, behind the wheel, and (invariably) behind a slow vehicle. I raise my voice and call people names and, generally, behave in a way that I would never behave outside the safety of anonymity. I know what you may be thinking, but I assure you I won’t end up on the news at the wrong end of a road rage incident gone badly. My anger is typically confined to my voice, and I avoid aggressive or unsafe behavior of any kind. I would gladly give you the psychological insights as to why I, and probably many others, have such anger in traffic, but I’ll spare you the details of that for now. I will say that yelling inside my car is typically proportional to stress I’m feeling outside my car. It has become, in some ways, a barometer or trigger for me to consider what may be troubling me in my life outside the car.
Not so long ago, I was feeling pretty good about things. Life was moving along with relative peace and purpose. During that time, and for the period of about a week or two, it seemed like traffic was conspiring against me. It seemed like I would get behind a slow vehicle or hit all red lights every time I got in my car. I mean every. single. time. Of course, I expect this to happen on occasion, and since I’m in my car a lot, I expect these pet peeves of mine regularly, even. But this seemed almost ridiculous in its frequency.
Several years ago, I came across the idea to “pay attention to your life” and the notion that our lives and daily paths will show us what we need to learn. During those couple of weeks of being forced to “slow down” in my car, I started to ask myself what the application might be in my life. At the time, I was rushing head-long into a situation that seemed to be everything I wanted and needed. All the lights seemed to be green, and I was ready to get on with it. So, as I considered my traffic woes, the thought occurred to me that perhaps I should slow down a bit and wait for things to take their natural course — just like we have to wait for a light to go from red to green or wait our turn at a four-way stop, etc.
Sometimes, we just have to move through the steps of a process without bypassing the steps that seem to get in our way. So, you might be thinking, “what a helpful observation, Sarah. I’m sure you followed this inner prompting to slow down, right?” Well, wrong. I didn’t. I continued to plunge ahead, but Life in its wisdom and compassion slowed things down for me. It took me a while to see and respond to what my life was trying to teach me, but eventually I got there. My life is always speaking to me. It only takes my attention and awareness to notice the messages. And, those lessons are that compassion and love and guidance isn’t found only when I’m calm and feeling my best self. They are ever-present. So, I continue with my road rage at times, and I am grateful for the driving lessons.
Sarah Moxley is a native of Yadkin County and works as a counselor in private practice in Winston-Salem.