A couple of weeks ago, I witnessed a tense interaction in a parking lot. I decided to visit a specialty market on the way home from an outing with my daughter and a friend. My daughter fell asleep by the time we arrived in the parking lot. Not wanting to wake my preschooler from this rare nap, I patiently waited and sat with my daughter in the car so that my friend could shop.
Our spot was at the end of a parking row, adjacent to an island with trees. A big semi-truck pulled up to park parallel to the island beside me. The driver startled me because he kept scraping his truck against the branches, snapping twigs off, twisting the tree with every adjustment. I was so bewildered by the tree mangling taking place next to my car that I hadn’t noticed this person’s actions caused a commotion in the spot diagonal from me. Because the semi-truck driver parked the way he did, he ended up blocking the end of the parking row across from me. As people were trying to leave and drive off in the direction of the truck, they realized they were arriving at a dead end. A traffic jam formed.
The car diagonal from me tried to back up to exit the parking row, but a car blocked him from behind. Fortunately, the car beside me left, leaving room for the vehicle diagonal from me to drive forward to exit the parking lot. However, there was still yelling and commotion from the drivers as they were leaving. One man was mad that the semi-truck created a dead end. The other driver reasoned with him, “Or, you could just turn around!” The other argued, “I shouldn’t f*ing have to turn around!!” Eventually, they both drove through the empty parking spots beside my car, with the stubborn, angry driver still cursing expletives as he drove off.
Thankfully, my daughter napped through this entire interaction. After the drivers left, I continued to sit in the car to wait for my friend and reflect on what I saw. One of the driver’s reactions made the whole situation more stressful for everyone. It made me tense to watch and hear them yell at one another. While it is irritating that the semi-truck unexpectedly blocked one end of the parking row, people could have chosen to exit on the other end once they realized one side had a dead end. This lot did not have one-way parking rows.
The driver was correct in pointing out to the other driver that he could turn around. However, the irate driver was stuck on the fact that he didn’t create the scenario and shouldn’t have to adjust his actions. By him refusing to move, he remained stuck and blocked the path for others. He was angry and miserable and spread this sentiment to those around him. In life, we may encounter obstacles caused by other people’s actions. Our reaction shapes our resiliency. While resilient people may have experienced hardship or unfortunate circumstances, they do not dwell on their victimhood. Resilient people focus on ways to get out of a bad situation instead of bringing others down with them.
Every person encounters obstacles or dead ends. While we have good reason to be angry or upset by unexpected obstacles – particularly ones caused by others – we have choices for how we react. You can wait for a barrier to be removed, maneuver around the roadblock, or force the obstruction to clear. All are valid reactions. However, I encourage you to choose what empowers you (and hopefully does not bring others misery). Staying stuck and blaming it on others is not productive, nor is it empowering, yet these were the actions of the irate driver. He was so upset by what the semi-truck driver had done that he took it out on those around him and didn’t notice or care that he was blocking others with his car.
In my life, I have to confess, I have acted like that man. Have you? Sometimes it takes a while to learn that certain hardships may not be my fault, but I am still accountable for how I react to them. You can complain about something or someone, but are you willing to take action and do something about it? Are you venting a lot to your friends about the same things over and over? I was a continual complainer, years ago, about my job and a relationship. As a result, I began to look into a career change and am now a second-career nurse. As for that problematic relationship, well, it ended. However, because of my experiences in that relationship, I attended Al-Anon and began to accept and embrace the idea, “I can’t control others. I can only control myself.”
You will encounter obstacles and roadblocks in your life. You can be stuck and blame others for it, or you can recognize that you can move in other directions. You are the driver of your own life. You can’t control other drivers. Choose to be empowered and resilient as you encounter unexpected detours or inconsiderate drivers in your life’s journey!