Driving in London.
(Well, actually, it's driving in the UK, because there are narrow roads all over this country.)
When I first moved to this country from America, one of the things that I had to learn was how to drive on the left side of the road with the driver's seat on the right.
I love driving, so starting this new lesson and challenge was fun for me.
I kept chanting in my head, "Stay on the left. On the left. Stay on the left."
And soon enough, I got the hang of it.
Not many people know this about me, but I've lived and driven in a few different cities. Big cities. With lots of traffic.
Atlanta. Minneapolis, New York, Paris, and now London.
Driving in a city can drive you mad.
One of the unique aspects about driving in London (compared to the other cities I know of) is how narrow the roads are in London.
Small roads in America are almost always a one-way street. You can't have cars going in two different directions on a tiny narrow street! That's crazy!
Well, not in this country. Narrow roads are the norm.
I quickly had to learn that when a car was coming from the opposite direction, it was almost like a game of chess - I had to think two steps ahead and swiftly assess whether or not it was more effective for the other driver to duck into the side, or it was me.
When it was the other person, I passed him with a quick flash of my lights and a hand sign to say thank you for being so courteous and generous in their driving.
I aim to be like that every day on the roads.
Soon after I got the hang of driving in London, I found myself hand gesturing to nearly everyone who passed me on small streets, whether or not they gave me the right of way.
It was like my brain was set on automatic pilot.
One day last week I was on a road called Leigham Vale near my children's school where every morning it's chaos because everyone is trying to pass and go down that road.
Some roads you can just about manage to squeeeeeze two cars passing one another if you go very slowly.
This road isn't one of them.
Normally I avoid that road, but last week I just said, what the hell, I'll use that road to get to my practice.
As usual, I waited patiently letting as many cars as I could to come down and pass me.
As the oncoming cars drove by they were clearly very thankful for my wonderful driving generosity. Everyone who knows that road would be thankful for generous drivers.
While I was sitting there waiting for about 60 seconds, the car behind me started to creep up and proceeded to overtake me.
He decides to bully himself through, which caused total chaos (once again) because he just felt that he had no time.
What do these people think this will accomplish?
Where do you need to be in such a hurry?
Can't these people just wait a few more seconds just to reduce stress for yourself AND everyone else?
So of course as the (not-so-clever) driver tried to pummel himself through the oncoming traffic, it slowed everyone. And all the rest of the cars on Leigham Vale felt the impact of that.
Thing is, this guy was frustrated. He had enough of waiting, got pissed off at me (and the rest of the people in his way), and there wasn't anything stopping him.
When people are in that state, their 'locked in' and engaged in a part of the brain called the amygdala. It's the area in the brain that controls fear, anger, and high emotions.
(Our amygdalas are engaged a lot when we drive.)
When the amygdala is active, it's hard to snap out of it and stay calm. It gets triggered when we are arguing with people, especially our kids and our significant others, and if you've never trained yourself to actively disengage your amygdala, then not much get snap you out of it.
Only time will let you ride the wave into calmness.
That day on Leigham Vale, my amydala was definitely active. I even started saying out loud to myself, "Stop acting like an a**hole!"
I could feel my emotions heat up and all I wanted to do was chase the guy and tell him how horrible of a driver he was.
But, with awareness and training, I was able to snap myself out of it, take a good deep breath in and out, and calmed myself down.
No big whoop.
Finally, there was a clearing on the road and I was able to pass.
Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.
So, next time you are driving down that road, or any other narrow road in London, let other people pass you as much as you can.
Even though you think you have no time at all.
A few seconds of generosity goes a long way.
Plus, it helps your brain.
And your health.
See you on the road!
And see you at your next adjustment!
— Dr MaryAnne.