She’s so patient. So very patient with me.
She stands right next to me in a congested restaurant line and is my mouth when mine is rendered stammering, twitching mute. Her husband has just created a mortifying scene. From behind the cash register to the booths at the back wall, everyone in the building is gawking at me. Some are smirking.
I slowly look up and scan the room and everyone is still staring at me.
My head plunges. A torrent of tears well up, stinging my eyes, splashing down on the dirty mahogany floor. I feel like the main event at the circus freak show. I want to disappear. I want to die.
You know what she does? She stands there swooning – with that same hypnotizing glow she had in her eyes for me when she said “I do.”
Taking my hand, she leans close to me, silently and unabashedly announcing to everyone in the restaurant, “This is my husband and I am not ashamed to be his wife.”
We get in the car and I start apologizing for putting her in these situations. I ask her “H—Hhhhhh……hhh…h….hooooow are you n-n-nnnn-nnnot emb—-b—-b—-embbbbb-b-b-b-b-bbb–baaaaaarrassed?”
Smiling, she says, “You’re Moses. And I am your Aaron.”
And in an instant, I want to live again.
One of the most effective strategies I’ve learned in reducing my anxiety didn’t come from a psychiatrist sitting across from me. It didn’t come from popping antidepressants. It came from my wife.
It was a lesson I learned from her on the highway one Friday night.
Traffic is one of the most stressful and bothersome places to be. Even people who have never suffered with anxiety disorders are rattled by it. But to those like me whose brains are a New York City traffic jam, ten thousand fold more.
It so often presents the things that trigger my anxiety the most.
Rush! Rush! Rush! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Now! Now! Now! Go! Go! Go Go Go Go Go Go!!!!!!!!!
Everyone’s in such a hurry. And for what? To get to the red light six seconds before anyone else does?
It doesn’t matter how fast you drive. It’s never fast enough for the tailgaters who get right up on you, who try to intimidate you into risking a ticket and possibly even death because they need to go a hundred miles an hour in their brand new Porsche.
You’re surrounded by rabidly impatient people with red toilet paper strips on their chin who are fifteen minutes late for work, who are dropping their kids off for school before the big meeting, who need to get to Arby’s.
The millisecond the light turns green, they’re leaning on their horn, flailing their arm; livid that the moron in front of them (that’s me) has not accelerated from 0 to 55 in one second in his 2001 Honda Accord with a transmission that’s hanging by a thread. Once, I was even honked at and delivered the middle finger for having the audacity to stop at a stop sign.
It’s everything I am actively seeking to avoid at all costs.
My speech disorder is fueled by the anxiety that comes from being rushed and panicking when I feel as if I don’t have enough time to say what I need to say.
When someone is throwing gasoline on the anxiety fire you’re fanning the flames to, you either lash out at them or you retreat.
God forgive me, far too many times, I have lashed out.
I don’t know how many date nights I have ruined and how many marital spats I have started because I just had to give that jerk behind me a whiff of his own cologne – nearly breaking my foot on the break pedal, going 15 miles an hour on the highway and showing them what slow is…
“Just turn around and take me home. I don’t want to be with you tonight! Just take me home and go by yourself if you’re going to act like that.”
All I had to do was swallow my stupid male pride, turn my blinker on, get in the slow lane and get out of their way.
She’s so patient. So very patient with me. Even when I’ve justifiably angered her.
“You know, David, this stuff rarely ever happens in the slow lane…”
The slow lane.
For my entire life, I was living at 350 miles an hour on a Nascar track.
Rush! Rush! Rush! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Now! Now! Now! Go! Go! Go Go Go Go Go Go!!!!!!!!! Feeling like I have to do six thousand and two things at once. Perfectly. Trying so hard to please everyone in the whole world – and failing every single time.
She taught me that if I don’t want to be imprisoned by anxiety for the rest of my life, I can’t live at 350 miles an hour on the Nascar track anymore. I’m going to have to start living at 30 miles an hour in the slow lane.
It was a difficult and frustrating adjustment. It still is. People drive realllllllllly slow in the right lane!
But after three months of doing this, I haven’t had a single person tailgate me, rush me or even remotely irritate me. Because they’re whizzing by me like I’m standing still, pushing everyone else around. All I’m doing is breathing and smiling and arriving at my destination completely calm.
The other day, I had to be in the left lane for ninety seconds just before my turn. Sure enough, someone tailgated me.
Rush, rush, rush. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Now, now, now. Go, go, go, right?
What did I do? I took a deep breath. Turned on my blinker. Got out of his way. Let him get on with his day, I got on with mine.
And it felt so good.
Life in the slow lane feels even better than that.
I’m still the same hard worker I’ve always been – but breathing………….breathing……………breathing. Smiling, smiling, smiling. Happy, happy, happy. Calm, calm, calm.
Chilling like the grand marshal of the Rose Bowl Parade.
Doing one thing at a time. Seeking only to please God and making no attempt whatsoever to please the world.
Changed my life.