When I read this writing prompt, there was one particular incident that came to mind, which happened earlier in the summer. The mistake that I made was fueling a negative thought pattern until it got out of control, something I hadn’t done in a long time.
That day, I was working from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm so in order to arrive at the office on time, I had to begin my commute by catching my first bus around 4:40 am. This would mean I’d arrive at Bloor-Yonge for around 5:00 am, where I’d take a second bus up to work. Ideally, I would arrive with at least enough time to comfortably buy a coffee and get settled at my desk before 6:00 hits. This is why I chose to start my commute so early: so that I didn’t have to rush to work.
That morning, I arrived at my stop for 4:35 and waited patiently for the bus to come in a few minutes. And just like what my TTC app said, I saw the blue lights climb over the hill meaning the bus was approaching. But as it came closer, it didn’t slow down the way it normally did and instead barreled by, the sign above the windshield reading “Out of Service”. I shrugged it off, and didn’t let it bother me. I figured another bus would come by soon enough. Because I chose to leave early in the mornings, I had a window of time to accommodate for delays while still allowing me to arrive at work on time.
I was right. The next scheduled bus appeared at the horizon, so I took my Metropass out of my pocket and kept it at the ready, but to my surprise it also rolled past, the same “Out of Service” message being broadcast.
I and the other man at the stop looked at each other, dumbfounded. What was going on in the transit system? This was a crucial moment, one where I could choose my reaction to the situation, which is what was under my control, rather than the transit issue. Unfortunately, on that morning I was feeling particularly low energy, and this had been happening for a few days. During that time, I was choosing to dwell on negative thoughts out of stubbornness, even though I knew how that would affect me. This instance was no different. I could have chosen to accept what was happening, as resisting the situation would not change it: it would simply ruin my mood. Instead, I began to dwell on negative thoughts: “I should already be at Bloor/Yonge by now but I’m not. The next bus is only in another 10 minutes. I hope I get to work on time. I can’t believe the TTC, how can they have two buses in a row out of service?”
On and on this went. The more negative thoughts I focused on, the more came up, until I was basking in an energetic bubble of frustration and self-entitlement. Looking back at this now, it was almost comical how personally I was taking this. I say ‘almost’ because of what ended up happening.
Because I was choosing negative thoughts, I became too focused on them and lost my ability to watch these thoughts happen without getting involved in them. I was right in the middle of their storm, and I wasn’t mindful as a result. When the third bus finally arrived, thankfully operational, I was so deep in those frustrated thoughts and emotions that they did what they do when you don’t watch them: they acted out through me.
I stepped onto the bus, and I sternly asked the driver: “What has been going on? There are two buses that went by out of service.” I didn’t raise my voice, but since my energy is so strong, I saw him flinch as if I had hit him. Just as I noticed that, he responded in the same frustrated manner as myself, and I felt he was hurt: “I don’t know what’s happening with the other buses, I just drive this one. If you have a complaint, you can send the TTC head office a message, otherwise you’ll make me have to put this bus out of service.” That’s when I realized this whole thing was entirely my fault. I didn’t watch my thoughts and emotions, and the reaction they caused involved someone else in that negativity. Poor guy just wanted to drive his bus. I immediately apologized and took responsibility for losing my temper, but I could tell he wasn’t convinced I meant it. Embarrassed I went to sit at the back, and I felt guilty throughout the entire ride.
I almost convinced myself to simply slip out the back door, but that would have been the less courageous choice. Instead, at my destination, I went back to the front and on my way out I said: “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry again for my reaction. Thank you for what you do, and have a nice day.” That’s when I saw a genuine smile on his face as he said it’s okay, and wished me the same. I sincerely hope that I repaired some of the damage I did, though words can only be forgiven and not forgotten.
One thing I am happy about is that as soon as I realized what happened, I took responsibility for the way I acted and did my best to patch things up with the driver. I didn’t want to leave him with that energy all day, and from what I felt it seems my last comment to him helped clear at least some of that negative energy I had created. The lesson I learned here is to always return to mindfulness as soon as I realize that I’m not being mindful, as otherwise thoughts and emotions can get out of control. It was a humbling experience, a reminder that though I’ve developed my ability to mindful over the years, I am not immune to bouts of mindlessness!