photo: Carl Wycoff on flikr

What’s more fun than getting pulled over by a cop?

Nothing, really. And boy howdy, did I have fun the other day!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The good times started way before my glorious interaction with the law. The fun began after my walk at Spring Lake the other morning, when I was inspired to buy a hedge trimmer.

I don’t have much of a yard – it’s really just two patios with a few trees and bushes planted around the edges – but it does need attention every now and then. The only tool I have to trim the bushes is some clippers. They look like this:

I know, they look pretty dangerous, but they’re not. It used to take me over two hours to do the yard work, and I’d be exhausted when it was over. Clip clip clip – all I had was my puny garden tool. I’d been meaning to buy myself something more substantial for years, and the other morning I finally broke down and did it.

I zipped over to the hardware store after my morning walk and purchased an electric hedge trimmer. I gleefully handed over my fifty bucks to the guy behind the counter and walked out of the store, purchase in hand.

I was so excited I could barely contain myself.

I have to tell you, I’m not much of a consumer. I usually wait until I absolutely have to have something before I allow myself to buy it. Kinda like the hedge trimmer, actually. I’d been wanting one for the entire nine years I’ve lived in my house. My excitement at my new purchase was commensurate with the amount of time I’d waited to have it. My glee was overflowing, overwhelming, overgrown. (Actually, it was my hedge that was overgrown.  But I digress.)

As I drove home, I fantasized about my imminent hedge-trimming activities. I imagined myself barreling in the door of my house, pulling my new tool out of its box, rushing to the back yard, and pruning the h*ll out of my bushes. I could totally see the professionally-crafted curve of leaves fashioned by the hedge-trimmer’s mighty shaping abilities. It would be a sight to behold, and I was about to behold it!

photo: Mark Fischer on flikr

And then I saw them. The lights. There were lights flashing behind me. Blue and red lights, whirling around and around. What was happening? My reverie was being interrupted by . . . a cop?

Oh yes, my friends. That’s where the man in uniform makes his inglorious entry into my story.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

Do they teach them this line in cop school? I’m sure they do. Wherever it comes from, it’s annoying.

Indeed, as I sat there in my car – window rolled down, handing over my license and registration to the gentleman in blue, all I could feel was annoyed. Not afraid, not ashamed, just annoyed.

Didn’t he know that I had a new hedge trimmer in the back of my car? Didn’t he understand that failing to come to a complete stop pales in comparison to the importance of trimming a sweet, clean line of hedge?

photo: Arthur Chapman on flikr

Apparently he did not. Apparently he wanted to raise money for the City of Santa Rosa by issuing me a ticket.

But here’s the cool part.

In the past, I’ve always been devastated by getting pulled over by the police. Oh sure, the annoyance was always there, but devastation was the prevailing emotion. Even the sight of a cop car used to make me feel guilty, as though their mere presence had the power to evoke every guilt-inducing aspect of my nature. Like they were going to issue me a ticket for being a lesbian, or for my left-of-center gender expression, or for my toxic, disgruntled thoughts.

But this time it was different. This time I didn’t care. I was so absorbed by my own experience – namely, the love affair between me and my power tool – that I couldn’t be bothered with wallowing in shame.

Not only that, there wasn’t nearly as much shame to wallow in. My past forays with traffic violations have seen me camped out in the driver’s seat, flogging myself for whatever transgression just landed me the attention of the police force. This time, I sat in my car, reading the instruction manual for my hedge trimmer. I didn’t have the time or inclination to stew in a vault of guilt. I had foliage to shape.

And when it was all over – when I made it home and trimmed my bushes and took a shower and took a breath – I realized something. 

Spiritual practice works.

Sometimes I feel like my spiritual practice is just a hobby, a diversion that benefits me like a band-aid benefits a wound – a topical analgesic. But it’s so much more.  Spiritual practice is changing me from the inside out, altering my view of myself and my place in the world. I know that I am loved. I know that I am Love. And no cop has the power to alter that. Not anymore.

I’m not saying I had absolutely no embarrassment about being pulled over. I still had some shame, but much less than I used to have. And I thank God for that. Literally.

What are your markers? What shows you how far you’ve come?



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