Hitting My Limit

excerpt from jane's world

While the president is making America great again, I decided to work on my part of making it kind again. Is it just me, or has everyone gone batshit crazy?

I feel like Henny Penny but instead of yelling the sky is falling, it feels like the world is falling apart. So much disagreement, disenchantment, and discontentment. Everyone appears eager to pick a fight and to blame others for it. I'm feeling about as low as I can go. I'm concerned about the golden rule we learned as children: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I went over this rule in my mind many times on a recent 14-hour drive with my youngest dog, Finnegan, who wasn't saying much. I kept asking myself, how do I want to be treated? My answers ranged from my first thought, “fairly,” to “with respect,” and everything in between. I want to be treated with compassion, love, honesty, and kindness. Don't we all?

My mom used to preach that compassion and kindness start in the home, and I agree. What we hear and see as young children from our parents makes a difference in our thoughts and actions later on as an adult.

Holding the door open for the next person, saying please and thank you, returning phone calls in a timely manner, and not saying anything unless you have something nice to say, seem fair game for starters. But as I drove on, my list started taking off in other directions. Before I knew it, the weight I was feeling on my shoulders settled into my foot, which was on top of the gas pedal.

I heard the sirens before noticing the red lights flashing in my rearview mirror. As I pulled over, Finn jumped up, interested in the sudden slowing down of the car and perhaps a shift in my pensive mood.

I rolled down the window, found my driver’s license, and took a few deep breaths. I said hello when the officer approached my window. As I handed him my license, I asked why he’d pulled me over. He said I was speeding. 

“But not by much, right?” I asked. 

I told him when I looked down my speedometer showed 62 miles per hour. He said that was because I slowed down when I saw him. He had clocked me at 67 m.p.h. I smiled and said, “A knee-jerk reaction, I guess!” He sorta smiled back. 

It was then I remembered the conversation I’d been having with myself before getting pulled over. If I wanted to start working on being kinder, I had to treat the officer how I wanted to be treated. 

Uh-oh, this was getting complicated. I didn't want a ticket. I started working out the math and politely pointed out the facts to him: “The speed limit is 55. If I was indeed going 67, I was only going 2 miles over the limit.”

I could tell by the way the officer’s face changed that he disagreed with my math. I decided to tell him how I figured it out: 55 is the speed limit; we get a free 10 miles over, and that equals 65; he said I was going 67 before I saw him; 67 minus 65 equals 2. I wanted to be honest.

After he busted the myth about a free 10 miles over and shared with me his math of 12 miles over the speed limit, he turned and walked back to his squad car. I decided right then and there I deserved the ticket. 

I felt even lower. I slumped in my seat. Finn hopped up as if on cue and gave my face two tiny licks before settling down again.

As I waited for my ticket, I had what seemed like plenty of time to go back to my list of how I want to be treated. Fairly. It seemed logical and fair that if I was breaking the law, I should get a ticket. Respect. There wasn't any problem there. I was being respectful and so was the officer. A few times we had spontaneously smiled and half-laughed together.

What I wanted to do was share with him my concerns about the world going berserk. I wanted to tell him my worries about people not getting along with each other, jumping too quickly to criticize, and judging before we have all the facts. After all, Finn is a dog and just doesn't get it, but the officer and I are two adult human beings.  

The officer came back and handed me my driver’s license with a genuine smile and said, “Here's a warning, Jane. Slow down and get back home safely.” 

As I thanked the officer and assured him I'd be more careful about driving the speed limit, I felt my lowness lifting. I thought about how easy it would have been for him to give me a ticket. After all, I deserved it. 

I was now wide awake, both hands on the wheel, sitting straight, and driving 55 m.p.h. Most important, I had a renewed sense of hope. Compassion and kindness might start at home, but we are given plenty of opportunities to practice them daily as we go about our lives.

I opened the glove compartment, grabbed one of Finnegan’s dog treats, and reached back to give it to him. I drove safely home, feeling lighter.

Originally Published April 6th, 2017 in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout

Jane shares blurbs from her weekly column in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout every week here. Occasionally she'll share the whole story. Locally you can pick up a paper at the Viroqua Food Coop.  May I suggest you bite the bullet and call 1-608-735-4413 to order a year's subscription to the paper for thirty measly dollars. Or you can always wait till Jane's next book comes out.