Wooden spoons and watching the traffic

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I had a breakthrough the other day and I’ve just been waiting for the time that I could write this down and share it, because I think it’s something anyone in a marriage, relationship, friendship, family, etc. can probably relate to. Here’s what happened:

The Wooden Spoon

The other night, I chose to head to bed but my husband stayed up and was making himself a smoothie. Now, our blender’s okay, but it’s not the greatest. It especially struggles with the frozen fruit we use in our smoothies, so often you have to get a spatula or a spoon and keep pushing the contents of the blender down on the blade, just to make sure everything gets pulverized adequately.

So, I wake up the next morning, I’m putzing around the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, etc. and there in my sink is one of my wooden spoons – the end of it completely mangled. It was clear what had happened – my husband had grabbed the wooden spoon to push all the ingredients down in the blender and got the spoon a little too close to the blade.

I’m not going to lie; my first thoughts weren’t nice.

What was he thinking? How could he be so dumb? Couldn’t he pay attention and not shove the spoon all the way to the bottom, knowing that there’s this super sharp spinning piece of metal down there that’s only job is to chop things up into super tiny pieces?!?! Is he just TRYING to ruin my kitchen utensils?! UGHHHHH…

Yeah, I’m not proud, but that’s where my mind jumped in the moment.

Watching the Traffic

Before I finish this story, I should take a step back.

Over the past six weeks or so, I’ve been “working on me”. Better fitness. Better career. Better self. In the “better self” category, I’ve been meditating, using the guided meditation app “Headspace“. (Side note – I highly recommend it if you’re a beginner at meditating and need a little assistance, like I do.)

One of the first things you learn about in the Headspace guided meditations is the idea of “watching the traffic”. So often our minds are racing, jumping from thought to thought. Headspace recommends treating your mind as thought you’re sitting on the side of the road, watching the traffic go by. Each thought is a car. Some cars might stick out more than others. You can see that big, flashy car. You can acknowledge that it’s there. But then, you let it pass and go back to just watching. This analogy has been incredibly helpful for me in mediations and even outside of meditations, when I see myself getting fixated on something (especially frustrating thoughts). (Here’s a great video on this idea.)

Letting the Car Go By

So, here I am, taking my morning walk and still irritated about this spoon. Sarcastic, nit-picky, nagging thoughts are running through my head. Man, when I talk to him, I’m going to say…

And then, all of a sudden, I realized this irritation and frustration about the spoon was one of those big flashy cars backing up the traffic in my mind. Any other cars – potentially happy, inspiring, motivational thoughts – were getting caught behind this big negative one.

And so I chose to let that car pick up speed and drive off.

What followed was nothing short of a breakthrough for me. I recognized I was having that negative thought. I acknowledged it. And I let it pass by. What flooded in after it was thoughts of love, acceptance, and realization.

My husband hadn’t been trying to ruin the wooden spoon. He had just been making a smoothie and it was an accident. It was only a spoon – I’ve got lots of others. At the end of the day and in the greater scheme of things, this was no big deal.

Choosing Your Reaction

How often do we fixate on the tiny things in life that annoy us? How often to we harp back at people, toss out a sarcastic comment, or just make sure they have a little piece of our mind? Honestly, I can speak from experience and say that I do this way too much. Laundry laying around – Jeez, can’t pick up after yourself, huh? Dishes all over the counter when the diswasher is empty – How hard is it to pick up the plate, open the dishwasher and set it in?! <with over-dramatic demonstration of this, of course> Even if I don’t verbalize it, these sarcastic quips float around in my head all too frequently.

Oy.

I was sharing this story with my sister recently and she said, “You know, my boyfriend has said the same thing and it really makes me stop and think. He has said, ‘You know, I’m not trying to make you mad, right?’

And how true is that?! Most people in our life love, care and respect us. They aren’t trying to push our buttons on purpose. And how’s the old saying go? Something like, you get to choose how you feel/react?

So what if we took more time (myself included) to recognize these thoughts in ourselves, realize what’s happening, and let that car/thought pick up speed and drive off? And what if we replaced those negative thoughts with more compassionate ones? Would that make a huge impact on the quality of our relationships, making the world a happier, more loving place?

If this experience with a wooden spoon is any indication, I think so.

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