I left the library on Monday, blissful six hours of writing time under my belt, sans (precious, adorable, energy-filled) Little Man. Driving down a narrow residential street, I turned the corner past our favorite neighborhood playground, and was about to turn right again when I came face to face with Mr. Mercedes Benz. Our streets were perpendicular to each other, so as he cut the corner to turn left, and I went around the parked truck in an effort to turn right, we came head to head, narrowly missing each other.
The hoods of our cars were almost kissing, a mere three feet between us, drivers squared up and ready to duel. We were Talladega Nights, but set to broad daylight in a quiet, residential area of the City.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who are able to afford a $131,000 car payment – and maybe if I banked a million or two a year, I too would be sporting a Benz. But then I’d also have my own driver (…and nanny and butler and personal assistant to boot), and I’d be spending every other month on a small island off the coast of Italy, so this kind of interaction wouldn’t necessarily apply.
But I digress.
Anger evident, he motioned his hands wildly for me to go to the left around him, for he obviously had the right of way.
I fought back, motioning for him to back up and admit mistake, as any kind I-almost-cut-you-off, I-was-wrong-you-were-right driver would do. I also debated the logistics of hopping the curb to the right of his car, as the laws of driving would suggest, but figured that the innocent stop sign or the neighbor’s white picket fence would probably win.
We were head to head, waiting for the other to plead mercy, to let go, to give up the fight.
And then I realized something: He’s fighting a battle.
Even though at that moment, I wanted to win the battle so, so badly, I stopped fighting. I stopped revving my engine, I stopped trying to be right, I stopped trying to win. And as I drove past him, I didn’t even give him the bird, as I’m so prone to do when I think that the driving population is far from being for me, when the world is entirely against me.
But instead, I drove around to the left, and instead of a lone middle finger salute, I raised all FIVE fingers in the air and plastered a -mostly sincere and genuine – smile on my face and waved at him.
Like a good neighbor would.
Like any human being should.
I feel like the phrase has been floating around the portals of America for a good while now; I’d heard it in sermons, and seen it in books, and lately strewn across Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram alike. But it wasn’t until this last week that the depths of its truth sunk into my soul:
Because this I realized: I’ve been fighting a pretty hard battle lately too. Experiencing the violation of a break-in has rocked me at times; even though I know in my head that we’re safe, that physically our house is more secure than ever, that mentally the chances of The Bad Guys coming again is slim, still I feel violated. Still I feel scared and paranoid and sad and mad sometimes.
It’s like I’ve got my Berenstein Bears distorted green glasses atop my eyes for a little while here – so I glance at the backpacks of those we walk past on the street to see if they’re wearing my husband’s stolen one, and I peer out the window at every passing truck – are they the fake service workers the police said robbed our house?
But then I stop.
I stop because I realize that these thoughts and feelings are normal for the time being, but they will not claim me. This evil is powerless. Instead, I acknowledge my own hard battle, and I lean into He who is my peace, the One who calms my beating heart.
I take a deep breath, and confetti-like grace showers my head, tickling my eyes and dusting my nose and covering my hair in all its New Year’s glory.
Somehow, this Divine Grace reminds me that the battle doesn’t just exist just inside me, but it’s inside every single one of us.
And somehow this truth, this truth of Hard Battles inside you and inside me, inside Mr. Mercedes Benz and inside every other stranger and friend I encounter today, is healing. It’s enough to make me realize that I don’t need to be right and win, that I can let go and practice kindness.
Because you never know what might happen along the way.
What about you? Can we fight the hard battles together? Are you in?