Lauren Green: Writing was a game changer in lowering my psychological thermostat

By Jaidyn HaysApril 2, 2024No Comments

Lauren Green: Writing was a game changer in lowering my psychological thermostat

By Lauren Green

I have never served in the military, but I do know a thing or two about discipline. I make my bed every day. I wash my face every night. I even wake up every morning well before dawn and power walk around my neighborhood.

Granted, this last one mostly happens because I consider it my ticket to the day’s first cup of coffee. Self-bribery aside, once I set an intention, it usually doesn’t take long for it to take hold and become a habit.

One practice, though, stubbornly eludes me; writing every day. I have made countless attempts to set aside time in my daily schedule to write. Yet regrettably, not even a hot cup of Texas pecan is enough to coax me into putting pen to paper regularly.

This is too bad because if I practiced writing every day, I would probably become a better storyteller. I do love a good story, especially when it helps me make sense of my world.

Some of my favorite stories come from a now-discontinued cartoon strip, “Calvin and Hobbes.’’ The little boy Calvin often asks his dad serious questions. In response, his dad spins thoughtful, detailed yet altogether false and ridiculous explanations. I know we shouldn’t lie to kids, but I have to applaud the creativity of these answers. Calvin’s dad is a master at flipping the narrative. And all joking aside, this is a skill I find useful just about every time I get behind the wheel of my car.

Up until a few years ago, I experienced a surprising amount of road rage. Once, a man honked at me because I was slow in going through a four-way stop. It was pouring rain and he couldn’t see that I was waiting for a pedestrian to cross in front of me. His honk infuriated me. So much so that I followed him home (in my own neighborhood no less) and watched as he peeled into his driveway and escaped through the garage door before the deranged, rain-soaked woman I had become could approach his car.

Another time, I was turning onto Southlake Boulevard and nearly hit a cyclist crossing in front of me. It was my fault completely, but when he looked back and acknowledged me with a one-fingered wave, no matter how deserving I was, you can bet my temper flared. I rolled down the window to wave back, but thankfully, he continued cycling away.

Then there was the aggressive pickup driver zooming through the bank parking lot. And the lane hog who wouldn’t move over to let me merge onto I-30. And I’ll never forget the hothead who blared his horn while I was coaching my son on how those flashing yellow arrows worked during his driver’s permit days.

I could go on and on about how riled up these encounters made me feel. But when I shared those stories at my dinner table, my husband was far from sympathetic. He was adamant that I get my anger issues under control. We live in Texas, he reminded me, and road rage is not something to mess around with.

I can’t pinpoint when things changed, but somewhere along the way, I conjured up my inner Calvin’s dad and began making up stories.

It was a game changer in lowering my psychological thermostat. That guy who honked at me for not going through the four-way stop fast enough? Maybe he had just received a call from his injured elderly mother and was racing to get to her. That cyclist who flipped me the bird after I almost hit him? What if this was his first time out on a bike after a round of chemo and he was a bundle of nerves? In no time at all, I got pretty good at construing some impressively intricate tales about the people I encountered on my daily drives. A woman riding my bumper? Maybe her water just broke. That man who weaved into my lane? Maybe he was avoiding a baby squirrel.

Who knows what the true stories are … and honestly, who cares? I love the what-ifs. The fabrications I compose in my head keep my temper down and outlook up. As a bonus, my creativity gets a healthy boost; as does my compassion. The truth is, written down or not, we weave in and out of each other’s stories every day. Luckily for all of us cruising around out there, the slant of those narratives is ours to choose.