The Healing Practice Of Identifying Other People’s Problems

aerial view of outdoor parking lot with cars
Reading Time: 10 minutes

IS EVERYONE OUT TO GET ME?

I suffer from PTPLS: Post-traumatic parking lot syndrome.

It appears that parking lots are the universe’s preferred locations to “come for me.” It’s here that strangers approach me as I arrange shopping bags in the trunk of my car. More often than not, these strangers come foaming at the mouth, spewing angry thoughts that have crystallized in their minds. I’m not privy to these thoughts, of course, nor to the context from which they stem. I’m merely the bullseye these enraged people have singled out; a punching bag for their verbal fists.

PARKING INCIDENT A

After circling the parking lot of a Target in Van Nuys, I finally parked my car in a compact space. Minutes later, a puffy-eyed lady wearing a fanny pack took the liberty to point out that, contrary to popular belief, my 2016 Honda Civic wasn’t compact by design. “Look it up, asshole!” she included in her two-minute rant about my wrongfully parked vehicle and its unfairness to others.

Her two cents: why should I enjoy the convenience of compact parking spaces when I abused said convenience?

I didn’t get a chance to thank her for the insight (she left as quickly as she came.) Her words faded into the air as sliding doors welcome her to Target.

LATER AT HOME (PART 1)

What was it about my demeanor that attracted these “exemplary” citizens? I wondered. What inspired them to put me in my place? Why do you keep sending them my way, dear Universe, when I’m minding my own business at the parking lot? 

“Would you say that I’m approachable?” I asked my husband. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Do I have, like, a non-threatening face? One that inspires the words of Lady Liberty? ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your projected insecurities, your fucked up misconceptions, etc.?'”

“I can’t say that you do,” Hubbie said. “But I can’t say that you don’t.”

PARKING INCIDENT B

I was at the Trader Joe’s parking lot in Sherman Oaks.

A middle-aged man approached me ablaze with incoherent thought. He was mumbling something to himself. We made eye contact (Oh god, is it me? Am I the one looking for trouble?) His mumbling grew louder. That’s to say, he was rambling

He spoke to me about the invasion of gays. We should all be lined up against a wall and shot in the head like they used to do back in the day, he said. Did they really do that to gay people? I thought.

The man scoffed: “Ugh, gay rights. To hell with that! To hell with you!” He yelled and pointed his crusty finger at me.

Someone nearby wanted to intervene: a heterosexual male decked out, from head to toe, in Fabletics. Although this was a well-intentioned display of chivalry, I held up my right hand to this gentleman. Stop, I commanded. He obeyed and remained a bystander as the middle-aged man yelled obscenities inches away from my face.

My fleeting thought: Say it, don’t spray it! His words lingered like a storm cloud above my head. As he walked away, sliding doors welcome him to Trader Joe’s.

LATER AT HOME (PART 2)

On the drive home, I thought about the combination of incidents that seemed to happen to me only in parking lots across Los Angeles. The one at Trader Joe’s was during COVID. Oh shit! I allowed floating particles of spit from that deranged man’s salivating mouth to land on my face. I pulled over, applied hand sanitizer on my cheeks, temples and T-zone like it was moisturizing lotion.

“Do I look gay?” I asked Hubbie when I got home. 

“What do you mean?” 

“If you saw me, like, from 20-feet away. Would I look gay to you?” 

He thought for a moment. “It’s hard to answer objectively because I know that you’re gay,” he said. “But yeah. If I didn’t know you from Adam and saw you from 20-feet away, I’d take a gander that you like Vitamin D.”

THE VOID OF OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS

How do we cope with these “parking lot injustices?” These moments that will no doubt happen to us at some point in time because the universe is ever so vast and comical and in need of our energies?

I don’t know about you, but when something like this happens to me, it leaves a void in my universe. I must fill said void. I must make right what was wrongfully done to me.

But how do we, in the spirit of closure, rectify these wrongs altruistically, without stooping to low levels or losing our shit? (I’ll circle back to this later.)

For now, we can begin by taking the high road.

TAKING THE HIGH ROAD

My truculent brother was upset by the way I handled these parking lot incidents. 

“Why’d you just stand there and take it? Why couldn’t you fight back? Give ‘em a taste of their own medicine?” he asked.

Sometimes, taking the high road stinks. It’s a dark alley filled with dumpsters and street cats on the prowl. It gave you no guarantee that the person who wronged you will eventually get their comeuppance.

So what was the point of walking away?

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but hate crimes in the U.S. are once again on the rise. People are blowing their short fuses left and right. Murder rates are also spiking in 2020. These are dangerous stats, especially when magnified by an unprecedented game of U.S. politics and the ebbing waves of a pandemic. 

Let’s not add fuel to the flame.

Let’s, instead, use our guiding lights to see through the murky high road ahead. Let’s get rid of the misconception that taking this road is taking the cowardly way out, when it’s in fact brave to disengage from the attacks of others.  

“So just let ‘em walk away?” my brother asks incredulously.

Yep. And here’s why:

There will be other parking lots. The injustices against you will persist.

I’ve made my peace with that. I’ve accepted my role as a vessel for other people’s problems. I’ve learned that, through me, they find a brief moment of solace, even if it’s fucked-up.

I believe that we can transmute anger and fear into insignificance.

SUCKING OUT THE POISON

“Well, that fucking sucks.”

I know, bro. But look at it this way: if you were on a trail somewhere and found Target Lady or Trader Joe’s dude writhing on the ground from a snake bite, wouldn’t you try to suck out the venom?

Or would you leave them to die?

Remember: poison can be rooted out before it’s too late.

“But what do you gain from this?” my brother asks.

IDK—humanity? 

IDENTIFYING OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS

Back to voids: we fill them by preying on others. We do this because we were once preyed upon, too.

Perhaps these “predators” simply needed to be given the time of day. Perhaps this was the only way they knew to release the anger that was gnawing at them like a freshwater piranha.

Target Lady felt entitled to educate me on what constituted a compact-size vehicle because she had perceived an injustice done to her.

My injustice.

But with the proper lens, Target Lady could’ve realized that this wasn’t an injustice at all, but rather a simple misunderstanding.

That didn’t matter to her, evidently. The fact that my car’s tires encroached on the adjacent parking space ruled out any other alternatives in Target Lady’s point of view. 

Similarly, Trader Joe’s Dude, who felt that the world was in decay due to an ever-present and flaming gay population, didn’t want to go down without a fight. Maybe he hadn’t shared his perspective with a gay person before and thus chose me. Maybe it didn’t matter if he had. Maybe his mission was to elicit homosexual shame from me (which he failed to do.) Maybe he wanted a homosexual to feel the burn of his words before it was too late.

Internalizing the injustices of others leaves room for irony. Was it also not unjust that I had to stand there and take it when there were probably other gay people in the parking lot? Why me? I mean, look around, Trader Joe’s Dude. We’re everywhere!

Not to mention, there were other compact spaces available at the Target parking lot in Van Nuys. I scanned my surroundings and identified at least seven of these within a 30-feet radius.

But the point wasn’t to enlighten me on how gay people were taking over the world, or on what constituted a compact parking space. Again, I was merely a vessel for the deep-seated problems of others; a screen to capture their projections.

BUT OMG—LIFE IS SO UNFAIR!

And you’re just realizing that now?  

Sweetie…

Welcome to the club!

Glad you’re caught up!

Now, all aboard! 

It’s never too late to jump on the unfair bandwagon.

THE DANGER OF LAST WORDS

Circling back to this.

It will behoove you to internalize the following: 

You don’t need the last word. 

Trust me on this.

Why? Because you can make your own last words, in so many different ways. 

Here’s how I make mine:

THE HEALING PRACTICE OF IDENTIFYING OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS

Okay. Now that you’ve let go of this last word buffoonery, it’s time to identify other people’s problems.

In her book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” Louise Hay includes a glossary of ailments — like, hundreds of them — each with an underlying cause as well as a “new thought pattern” to overcoming said ailment.

Ergo, the disclaimer: this is by no means the be-all and end-all trick to tolerating the shittiness of others. I’m merely sharing what works for me in hopes that it’ll work for you, too.

So, let’s say that you suffer from frequent hemorrhoids. 

(Bear with me, folks.)

There’s always a swollen vein in your rectum. It renders you incapable of sitting down for long periods of time and from performing squats at the gym. And god forbid you sit through an HBO comedy special for fear that laughing will make you clench your asshole and rub Mr. Hemorrhoid the wrong way.

What if I told you that not all is lost, dear reader?

Enter Louise Hay!  

In “You Can Heal Your Life,” she writes that the presence of hemorrhoids stems from “anger in relation to what you don’t want to release.”1

Let me say this again:

Anger in relation to what you don’t want to release.

The thought pattern she offers to those with bumps in their assholes the size of marbles is, “It is safe to let go. Only that which I no longer need leaves my body.”

At first, I was skeptical of this practice. But then I ran with it for shits and giggles. As someone who has had recurring problems of the hemorrhoidal variety myself (that’s right, I’m bearing it all!), I said, “fuck it — next time the old buddy rears its head, I’m going to have a little chat with it.”

And so it transpired. Mr. Hemorrhoid came back. I channeled my innermost Hay and said:

It is safe to let go. Only that which I no longer need leaves my body.

And guess what? My throbbing hemorrhoid disappeared the next day! 

(Like, for real.)

So hear me out: when you are suddenly flooded by the shittiness of others — accosted by a “friend” or some random person in the parking lots of the world — I encourage you to access your innermost Ivan

Take a deep breath. Absorb the negativity. Roll with the punches. Suck out the poison. Become the bigger person. Take the higher road. Fill in the cracks of Target Lady’s despair. Allow Trader Joe’s Dude to lash out whatever insecurity he needs to release to fill whatever void was put into him.

A GLOSSARY OF AILMENTS

Let’s start with Target Lady.

She’s wearing a fanny pack. (I mean, the poor thing is lost.) Maybe she’s riled up because she didn’t get enough sleep last night, hence her puffy eyes.

Also, her voice is raspy as fuck. Maybe she’s got a sore throat? I think out loud. Yeah, that’s it. She came to Target to buy cough drops.

I consult the glossary:

Sore throat: Holding in angry words. Feeling unable to express the self.

New thought pattern: I release all restrictions. I am free to be me.

I take a deep breath and mutter, “I release Target Lady from all restrictions. She is free to be her.”

Moving on to Trader Joe’s Dude.

Which ailment is really on the nose when it comes to anger?

I consult the glossary:

High cholesterol: Clogging the channels of joy.

New thought pattern: My channels of joy are wide open. It is safe to receive.

“Hey, Trader Joe’s Dude. Just so you know, your channels of joy are wide open. It’s safe for you to receive.”

See how this works?

(If you’d like to learn more about the causes of symptoms according to Louise Hay, click here.)

WHY NOT CHANNEL YOUR INNERMOST IVAN?

Before you judge me for implementing a dated practice based on spirituality and universal energy, ask yourself, Is it really that far-fetched? 

We have written guides to interpret our dreams. We have reiki masters to cleanse our auras. We pray to deities before bedtime, asking them for number combinations to play the lottery. We attempt to find meaning in our lives by gazing at the stars and then consulting our horoscopes. 

We have well-intentioned doctors who can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong with us. So why not try everything we can to improve ourselves? Why not a spiritual guide for the interpretation of ill-behavior?

This lesser-known practice may or may not work for you. Just as you may or may not like vegan butter.

But you won’t know until you try it.

FINAL WORDS OF CAUTION

If you find yourself in the midst of a parking lot injustice, take care not to play the victim. 

Was there something you did to incite the anger of others? Did you speak loudly to a friend as you inched along the serpentine lines at Costco and spoiled the series finale of “Game of Thrones” for the person standing in front of you?

On the flip side, don’t be a martyr, either. You don’t always deserve the injustices of the world. Don’t over-stretch by exploring all possible explanations as to why someone rebuked you out-of-the-blue.

Gosh, did I say something wrong? Did I roll my eyes at them subconsciously? Did my Ren and Stimpy t-shirt offend them? 

No. None of these things are it. You didn’t do anything wrong.

If you’re met with injustice, refrain from indignation, and apply the practice of identifying other people’s problems. Deal with it and move on.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you fail at this. You’re a work in progress.

As am I.

As is everybody else.

  1. Hay, L. (1984) You Can Heal Your Life. Hay House, Inc. 145-207.
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