A life lesson from a slow tractor

It had been one of those mornings, filled with coffee and cuss words.

I woke up late, grumpy and unmotivated to meditate or take a walk. I tried writing, but the muse wasn’t answering her phone. My daughter hated her hair, my husband was worried about money again, even Cat Stevens, normally so snuggly, sat looking balefully out the window.

I wanted to face-plant in my misery, and possibly a giant cinnamon roll. I longed to go back to bed for a do-over, but I was already behind. The day had left on the last ferry and I had no way to catch up.

I had places to be, people to see. That’s how I found myself on the treacherous Combs Ferry Road, late for an appointment. As I sped around another hairpin curve, I almost slammed into the world’s slowest tractor, driven by a sloth in a John Deere hat. “Son of a biscuit!” I screamed, sloshing hot coffee on my favorite pair of jeans.

Unable to pass, I slowed to a crawl, checking my watch in frustration. I fumed. I wondered why the universe hated me so much. I felt violence toward a total stranger. It took approximately 1,000 brake lights before I got it.

When the universe wants our attention, she taps us on the shoulder. If we keep ignoring her, she will sweetly break our arm. The universe was literally flashing her lights to get my attention. And it doesn’t do to ignore the universe. 

What if this tractor wasn’t happening to me, but instead for me? Was it possible this elderly farmer was a messenger from the gods? That the universe was throwing me a line, giving me an opportunity to turn my day around?

The message suddenly seemed very clear: Just. Slow. Down.

When it hits the proverbial fan and you are completely overwhelmed, just stop and breathe.

I realized the suffering of my morning was of my own making, a narrative my tumultuous mind told my body. I’m not a victim to the universe, being played like a puppet on the string. I was allowing my ego to drive my day. And letting the ego drive is a dangerous plan.

I heard once that the word ego stands for Edging God Out. When we make ourselves the center of the universe, we disconnect from the divine. The ego always complains we should have taken a different route, fiddles with the radio instead of watching the road, takes each stoplight as a personal affront.

What I’m saying is, the ego should be more of a backseat driver. Ego rarely sees the big picture, instead, ego writes a tiresome “why me?” narrative. The ego constantly cries, “That’s not fair!”

Well, as my brother Ian says, the fair’s out on Route 15.

Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. Not fair is the ego’s tiresome battle cry, but it isn’t a definitive truth of our existence.

Regardless of the circumstance, we always have an opportunity to choose serenity over shitstorm. 

We cannot connect to the flow of the universe if we’re not fully present.

Rushing is a distraction, a tale that tells us we matter. Having a giant to-do list validates our importance. But rushing places us squarely in some unknowable future, a fugue state where there is never enough time. The more we rush towards it in frustration, the further it slides out of our grasp. We cannot control time, only our reaction to it. 

Back on Combs Ferry, the tractor brakes again, coming to a complete stop. I close my eyes and take a slow, deep breath in and out of my nose, shaking off the irritation I’ve been wallowing in. I open my eyes and sigh. We start inching along again, but this time the pace is a gift rather than a curse. I open the sunroof, turning my smiling face up to the warmth of the sun. I turn the dial, find some Motown, and happily sing along.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films. Send her a shout out at erin@theOMplace.net or play along at www.theOMplaceChannel.com.