It’s February in a city known for its long winters.
Blowing snow, frigid temperatures, thin sunlight.
It’s also a city known for its walking population. “Pedestrians in Montreal are crazy,” a friend told me when I first moved here in spring. Add feet of frozen precipitation, tonnes of salt and gravel to the frenzied desperation of people wild enough to brave the outdoors and it’s a recipe for disaster.
I’m no stranger to the practices of loving kindness, but I need to fess up—I’ve been suffering from sidewalk rage.
I don layers of wooly undergarments, wrap my head with what is referred to as “a dead muppet” and walk to class three days a week. I walk fast, even when I’m not in a rush, and navigate treacherous sidewalks full of anything from inches of ice to sloppy, salty slush.
It ain’t pretty.
Any excuse for my unsavory thoughts would be exactly that—an excuse.
When my frustration and annoyance get triggered, I know the most loving, kind and yogic thing to do would be to accept whatever I am being presented with and not let it effect my mood. But darn it! I need to get where I’m going and you’re in my way.
Sidewalk rage comes in various forms and degrees. I aim to raise awareness of this serious issue infecting our streets in hopes that it can one day become eradicated.
At the most basic level, some people walk more slowly than me. Okay, I can usually handle this without my sidewalk rage getting triggered—just pass the person and all is well.
What happens when the path around them isn’t clear? Blocked by people coming the opposite way or when the narrow plough track forces us into a single file line?
This is where my sidewalk rage might rear its ugly head.
As I’m vying for the next wide, ice-free path to pass someone, they’ll curve sideways, texting on their cell, oblivious to my plight.
Can’t they see I’m trying to pass? Don’t they understand I need to get around them? What’s wrong with them?
At its root, the habit of impatience comes from attachment.
I am stuck in my own head and the reality created inside my mind. I forget that this reality is not necessarily shared with everyone around me. I forget I am not the only person trying to exist in this world.
How about breathing in and breathing out and having compassion to the needs of the delivery trucks, large groups meandering down the street, construction closures, people pushing strollers and the infirm.
Complicating the origins of my sidewalk rage are, of course, factors in the rest of my day that may be causing stress. But do the two students chatting blithely about their weekend need to bear the brunt of my thinning endurance to deal with the weather?
My harried need to quickly get to the grocery store? My preoccupation with looming deadlines?
No, they deserve every bit of loving compassion I can muster.
While some days there isn’t much leftover—I endeavor to reach into my reserves of loving kindness to replace my sidewalk rage. And if I happen to bump you because I wasn’t over to my side of the sidewalk enough, I apologize in advance.
Oh wait, that was you—oops, there it is again.
Well, that’s why it’s called practice.
Author: Guenevere Neufeld
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photos: courtesy of author