Mr. Finger vs. the Self Care Genie

by Carol Hess on September 27, 2011

Yesterday I was stopped behind a car at a traffic light.  The light turned green, but the driver in the car ahead of me was looking down, reading something on the seat next to him.  I waited politely for a few seconds, and when he continued to look down, I gave a very gentle toot of the horn.

He moved forward.  Then, as I turned left and he continued straight ahead, he thrust his arm and hand out the window and gave me the finger.

I was startled and immediately reacted by saying rather emphatically, “Screw you.”  Since my car windows were up and Mr. Finger was now fairly far away, I knew he didn’t hear me.  My reaction was more for my own ears than his. 

It was kind of a kneejerk reaction, if the truth be told.  Although, quite frankly, if there had been a chance Mr. Finger would have heard me, I probably wouldn’t have said anything.  I don’t argue with people who give me the finger.  That’s just asking for trouble.

As I drove through my cheerful little town on a bright and sunny fall afternoon, I was surprised to realize how much Mr. Finger’s response bothered me.  Maybe it was because it puzzled me.  Why such a strong reaction to very little provocation? 

Was it my fault?  Had I been too impatient?  After all, we don’t use our horns much here in Maine.  It isn’t like other places where the horn is used almost as much as the brake.  Nor is there anything gentle or polite about the honking.  It’s more like a blast – kind of the horn equivalent of the finger, come to think of it.

And why was I so bothered by some guy I didn’t even know?  Was I that much of a people pleaser that I even needed an anonymous driver I would never see again to like me?  Was I that concerned about upsetting someone who obviously didn’t give two hoots (you’ll pardon the pun) about upsetting me?

The Self Care Genie suddenly appeared.  Funny.  I didn’t remember rubbing the lamp.

“Stop making it your fault, Carol.  Stop criticizing yourself.  Didn’t we agree you were going to stop doing that?  Didn’t we agree you were going to be kind and gentle with yourself?”

“Yes, but I think I’m being over sensitive.  Why should one stupid hand gesture upset me so much?“

“Uh oh.  There you go again, sounding like you-know-who.  You are not over sensitive.  You’re sensitive.  That’s a good thing.  Would you rather be an impervious block of stone?” asked the genie.

“Well, no, but I still think some rude guy in a car giving me the finger shouldn’t upset me.”

“Shouldn’t?  Remember what we decided about should and shouldn’t?”

“Yes,” I replied.  “We banned them from my vocabulary.  Well, you banned them from my vocabulary.  I didn’t have much say in it as I recall.”

“Right,” replied Self Care.  “That’s because back then you knew so little about self care that I had to take the lead.  And it worked, didn’t it?”

I grudgingly nodded. 

“So a rude gesture has upset you,” the genie continued.  “How would you like to handle that upset feeling?  Hey, I know!  How about a little stop at Mickey D’s for a soothing quarter pounder with cheese and fries?”

“What?” I exclaimed.  “I don’t believe my ears!  You’re the one who’s always telling me a cheeseburger isn’t the answer to life’s problems.  Besides, you know what that food does to me these days.  My body acts like it’s being poisoned.”

“Smart body,” the genie muttered.  “So no quarter pounder with cheese and fries for us today?” Self Care asked in a normal tone of voice.

“No,” I answered.  “I’m getting a pedicure, and then I’m going to Whole Foods to stock up on some organic fruits and veggies.”

“That’s my girl!” Self Care beamed proudly.  “But what about that upset feeling you’re having as a result of Mr. Finger?”

“Oh that.  No big deal.  It’s about him, not me.  He probably just had a fight with his girlfriend or something .”

The Self Care Genie smiled and disappeared.  I kept driving.

Have you ever been shocked by someone’s reaction to something you said or did?  How did you handle it?  Do you ever label yourself as too much something or other the way I labeled myself over sensitive?  Whose voice is telling you that?  What do you do when you want to eat as a reaction to a strong feeling?

by Carol Hess

7 comments

Categories Self Care, Stress Management, The Mind Game

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sandi Amorim September 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Haha, love your self care Genie!!! You and he/she will have to post for me in October as I’ve decided it’s self-care month over at Deva Coaching!

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avatar Carol Hess September 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I’m sure my Self Care Genie will have lots to share with the Deva Coaching crowd. She’s rather opinionated and mouthy, if you ask me. But maybe that’s what it takes?!

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avatar Nikki Groom September 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

GREAT idea, Sandi! xoxox

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avatar Catherine September 27, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Carol I am always shocked and a bit offended when someone acts like that. Then I feel bad for their spouse since if that’s all it takes to get riled up, then what must they be like at home?! Love the Self Care Genie and your conversation back yourself.

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avatar Carol Hess September 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Exactly, Catherine. It was quite shocking and almost felt like a violation. And it is so what does NOT happen here in Maine, which made it that much more unexpected. Let’s hope the offender lives alone, right? I love my Self Care Genie too. She’s got a twisted sense of humor sometimes that I particularly enjoy. :)

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avatar Nikki Groom September 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

Carol……….. this post was important for me to hear in a couple of ways.

The first is that something someone flippantly said the other night in jest really hurt me and kept playing over and over in my mind for a full 24 hours (save snoozing time) afterwards. Instead of recognizing that the other person was simply being a thoughtless jerk and saying the first thing that came into his head, I took it really personally and started plotting out how I could be a better person and gain his approval in the process. The book “The Four Agreements” (I refer to this a lot in my blog and in conversation, because it’s SUCH a great read) talks about how we shouldn’t take things personally and, every time I read it, it’s a total epiphany moment for me. People look at us through their little blinkers and based on their own experiences and prejudices. THIS ISN’T OUR PROBLEM. It took a lot of mental wrangling yesterday to get to the place where I could understand and accept that what was said TO me wasn’t ABOUT me.

I said this post was important for me in a couple of ways… I am ashamed to say I have been guilty of giving “The Bird” while driving. It felt entirely warranted, in my humble opinion, at the time. In retrospect, it was giving in to my impatience, my anger, my tension-filled road rage at its worst. It lacked class and it didn’t make me (or the other person) feel good. Sorry on the other person’s behalf for giving the finger – since they can’t apologise to the recipient and neither can I, maybe this is one way we can set the universe back on an even keel.

Thanks, Carol. xoxox

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avatar Carol Hess September 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

“…I could understand and accept that what was said TO me wasn’t ABOUT me.” Thank you, darling Nikki, for that wonderful piece of wisdom. Not taking things personally is a challenge for me too, but I wouldn’t give up my sensitivity for the world. It’s more often a gift than a curse.

What is it about getting behind the wheel of a car that doesn’t bring out the best in us? You’ve been a finger flipper. I’ve been a name caller. Someone once told me that my car was a symbol of my spiritual well-being. If that’s the case, then I wonder what my behavior in my car symbolizes? I shudder to think! :) But I do love the idea of each of us doing our part to “set the universe back on an even keel.” That’s how to change our world one person at a time. Yum, love that.

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