I had an encounter today with a stranger in which kindness was not the option selected among several. A point of contention arose because I had parked taking up two spaces while sitting in the car waiting for my son Frank to have his blood drawn. I had backed in carelessly, intending to park properly once he was out of the car. Then, I got absorbed in something else (probably my phone) and immediately forgot to fix my position.
After about 10 minutes, an older man walked up to my driver’s side window. He was wearing an American flag face mask and a veteran baseball cap.
He was angry and incredulous. “Two spots? You’re parked in two spots?” He had clearly never witnessed anything so obscene. He was demanding a response to his high-charged accusatory semi-question.
So, maintaining my composure, I gave him an instant response, “Yes. I am. And, I am also sitting in my car.” I was planting my feet, but I was also inwardly admitting that I had not intended to hog two spots. I knew it was, indeed, an inconsiderate thing to do. However, I was also aware despite his anger, he had parked only one car space behind me — not a mile. So perhaps his anger had less to do with me than he thought. The man countered that he couldn’t see that I was sitting there until he had already parked and walked up. He was being a jerk, but all things being equal, he had a point.
Admittedly, I was also a bit triggered because I could notice that, using my creative palette, I was painting a picture of him, as he was likely doing to me (Richards, 2018). Plainly stated, I was making some pretty heavy assumptions about him based on all that I could assume about someone of his age, race, and attire living in our current political climate. I could imagine his worldview: by birthright, he was superior to me in this nation and the world. I projected that he was angry about the recent change in leadership in our nation. True or false, who knows?
But then, in the midst of it all, within me, there came a pause. It was faint, barely a glimmer or a millisecond. I could have missed it. I could have ignored it. Yet because I didn’t, space opened up. It was enough for me to realize that my response was flawed. In an egoic response to his awful approach, I had pushed back, when I should have pulled in. So, trying to get out of the muck, I asked him earnestly if I had inconvenienced him. I wanted to find his eyes and recoup our mutual humanity. I was hoping to create a bridge over which to extend an apology. I didn’t feel I owed him any explanation per se, but I thought it was worth telling him that I really had intended to move and not take up two spaces. But, before the bridge could be built, and maybe he just didn’t trust the builder, he snorted and hobbled off angrily. Stiff and stooped, he dismissed me with a low wave behind his back, right at butt level. The relationship was over. Or was it? Indeed, it was not.
See, according to my philosophy of creativity, we had just been a part of a powerful creative event. I believe that creativity is the ability to respond. It is also a function of conscious choice. Together, the gentleman (aka grumpy ole’ man) and I had responded to the situation and (unconsciously) chosen to create discord, anger, frustration, separation, and anxiety. It was a team effort, and then we parted ways with it all just lingering in the air. Now, in solitude, I had a dilemma. What else would I create with this fresh, raw material? I had some choices. Would I be angry? Would I be self-righteous? Would I tell my story to those who know and love me and who would co-sign my perspective of innocence? Or, would I own my responsibility for the impact I had just made upon humanity, however inadvertently? In short, would I acknowledge that all things being equal, he was right? I was parked wrong. Would I move now, or naw? Would I let him win, or would I stand my ground?
There I stood at the intersection of spiritual intelligence and creative thinking. My ability to hold multiple perspectives was at work (Wigglesworth, 2019). As a trained creative, I was evaluating and resisting premature closure. My next move would determine the inner condition of my life and this required tactical thinking. I needed to find the balance between my commitment to spiritual growth and managing the potential risk to my autonomous personhood (Wigglesworth, 2019; Puccio, 2015).
The pause — the flat, open sacred space within me, my inner labyrinth — was allowing me to notice the inner creative process in action, and to shape it. It came down to a simple question: Now realizing that I was parked wrong, would I own the mistake and take corrective action, or would I flip two birds and die on the hill for my right to be wrong? It was bigger than a parking space: it was about my shaping the condition of my inner life and reaching my highest human potential at that moment (Maslow, 1971). It was about, even in my opponent’s absence and without his affirmation, would I use my everyday creative power to transform my creative material into love?
I moved my car. I chose love; I chose unity; I chose humility. It doesn’t matter that the guy was behaving like a jack-wagon. Yes, he could have chosen another way to approach, and he didn’t. Yes, I might have chosen a better response. And eventually, I did. Conscious choice is a creative choice. It’s all a part of the journey.
Co-create your life with the power of the pause was originally published in Creative Enlightenment on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.