My sweet little Volvo is so lucky. It has an odometer that measures how far it has gone since it was made, like all cars. And then it has two “trip” odometers. If I press the odometer button twice, I can get two other readings: for example, how many miles we have driven since God knows when, and how many miles it is to Riverhead.
But the great thing is, if I hold the button down on the trip odometers, the car will reset them to zero.
Too many times I find myself on an unwanted trip in my brain. I know I’m in trouble when I start to have conversations with people not present, telling them off, loudly, in my car.
Did you ever have a ferocious argument in the car with a person who wasn’t there, and then when you realized that the driver in the next car was staring at you, pretended you were singing along with a radio that wasn’t on? I have.
I’ve always thought it would be just dandy to be able to tap a finger in my ear, push the trip odometer button, and reset to zero, to have that person or situation just register as a blip, a tenth of a mile, on the vast odometer of my life.
For some reason, even though I was brought up with a lot of love and support, it didn’t resonate with me the way an unkind word could cut me down. Compliments were quickly forgotten, but one criticism could stay with me for 30 years.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to let a lot of stuff go, simply because it isn’t healthy for me. It’s like drinking the poison and waiting for someone else to die. And everyone has something good in them, the potential for enlightenment, the capacity to change at any moment. It’s better for me, much better, if I try to practice compassion rather than criticism.
I need a lot of practice. But I’m getting better.
When Michelangelo was in his 80s, he scribbled “ancora imparo” in the margins of one of his journals. It loosely translates to “I am still learning.”
I think I’m starting to understand what he meant, because the older I get, the less I know. I knew everything when I was in my 20s. Now, not so much.
I have to empty myself out every day and start over again. I have to let go of my expectations of what Other People Will Do and try to approach life with curiosity and a twinkle in my eye.
And when I choose to fill up my core with joy, acceptance, humor, and compassion, and let go of all that comfortable negativity, the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” have no hold on me.
I feel like Wonder Woman, but with much bigger thighs.
As long as I remember that I can reset my trip button any time I want.
Bridget LeRoy is a reporter at The Star.