conflict avoidance is going to kill me... literally

This afternoon I was happily doing some work from my home computer on my fancy, new virtual network connection when I got a call from my therapist.  It was about 2:15, 45 minutes before what I thought was our scheduled appointment time and I realized as soon as I saw his name that he had been expecting me at 2.  After a brief conversation we decided I would hop in the car and come down for the remaining portion of our session.

I expected to be about 15 minutes away and was pleasantly surprised to find a highway free of much traffic and found myself just around the corner from his office after just 10 minutes in the car.  I had been thinking over the last several days that I wasn't sure what I wanted to talk about in this session.  I felt pretty "ok."  I mean, I certainly still have feelings but I am rarely, if ever, in crisis mode and just as rarely in a position where I don't have the skills I need to cope with what I'm experiencing.  I also noticed that I was wary of going to therapy.  I didn't want to dig too deep and discover that there was something wrong underneath this calm facade and walk away all screwy (which is an interesting fear because a skilled therapist, which he is, doesn't leave you all screwy when you walk away... they pay attention to the order of things as they take you apart and then close it up nicely and send you away all put back together).

I'm thinking about all of this while I wait at the light on the corner.  I'm the second car in line at a red left arrow and we're waiting for the arrow to turn green and allow us to turn.  I notice that we've been sitting there what feels like a long time.  I start to wonder if this intersection is one where the lights go in a different order.  I observe another cycle of lights-no, that's not it.  Then I notice that the car in front of me has left a significant amount of space between herself and the crosswalk... "oh, the sensor," I suspect out loud.  "You know, you have to move your car up past the sensor if you ever want the light to change," I say again, out loud (I do this a lot.  I'm not sure I would know that I do it a lot except that when Spiderman is with me in the car he's constantly asking me who I'm talking to).

I've pretty much concluded that this is the problem: the woman in the car in front of me (yes, I'm just assuming she's a woman because she's driving a candy apple red camry, wearing large plastic frame sunglasses, has bangs, and a tousled ponytail.  forgive me, gender gods) hasn't moved over the sensor so the light doesn't know that there are (now) 8 people waiting to turn left onto Franklin from Highland.

Then several things happen:

  1. I notice how amazing it is that no one has honked.  We've sat through at least 3 cycles of this light and our lane hasn't moved an inch.  It isn't a high traffic time of day, this is not an expected reaction of the typical LA driver I've come to know (assumptions again!)
  2. I start making deals with myself (this is something I do because: a) it's another way to avoid conflict and b) it's rooted in the belief I have that my needs aren't as important as others so I should wait) like "one more cycle of the light and you can take action"
  3. I notice that I'm worried about how exactly I'm going to take action.  
    1. If I honk, I'll be perceived as a bitch (or worse: bossy.  urp!).  
    2. The light tap of a "beep beep!" seems ineffective because if she hasn't figured it out by now she isn't going to figure it out
    3. Maybe I write a note/sign... even backwards so she can read it in her rearview mirror.  If I combine a "beep beep" with a sign when she looks up that will help.  Oy Vey!
    4. I could get out of the car and go tell her what's up 
  4. My curiosity and wonder has lapsed.  I'm officially irritated.  I was already going to have to pay full price for half a session of therapy because I got the time wrong... now I'm going to get even less.
The deal I make with myself expires and we make it through another cycle of the light without any change.  I open my car door and get out as traffic whizzes by in the opposite direction.  I realize I'm unsafe but instead of getting back into my car I cross in front of my car to go to the passenger side of her car again.  As I walk up her passenger is rolling down the window.  I lean forward and say, "the light won't change unless you roll up and over the sensor" and I gesture forward.  "Oh, thanks!" she says and starts to roll forward immediately.  I jump back a bit, startled, not wanting to get my feet run over.  I make my way back to my car and notice that my heart is POUNDING.

this is Mark Twain trying to encourage me to be
more willing to get into it with people and me expressing doubt...
"Well, now I have something to talk about in therapy," I think (not aloud, for the record).  I don't know what's happening, but I know I'm having an intense emotional reaction.  

I'll spare you the details of the speed session, but leave you with what I'm left with.  I worship the god of conflict avoidance.  I am willing, as evidenced by this episode, to put my physical life in danger (besides getting out of and leaving my car on a busy Los Angeles street my therapist also pointed out that the other driver could have had a weapon--I hadn't even thought of that!) to avoid conflict...  even the kind of conflict that is the result of honking at a perfect stranger on the road and the judgment I imagine they might have about me as a result.

I am putting myself into situations where conflict avoidance could actually kill me... literally.

Enough.  Of.  That.