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Healing Shame, One Traffic Ticket at a Time

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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25 Responses to Healing Shame, One Traffic Ticket at a Time

  1. Barbara Stafford August 17, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Insightful and funny first post, Z! You’re a freak!

    • Z Egloff August 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

      Thanks, Ms. Barbara. I do my best to earn my freak stripes daily.

  2. Marcy August 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    Z – having recently received a speeding ticket, I could totally relate to this post. Your insight and sense of humor have helped me reframe my own experience. Thanks!!

    • Z Egloff August 23, 2011 at 9:11 am #

      Hi Marcy, You’re welcome! Nothing like an interaction with a cop to put everything in perspective!! XOZ

  3. donna August 23, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    If only you had explained that you had just purchased your long-coveted power tool you might have been given a verbal warning. i have seen tool-user’s eyes mist up at the mere thought of a brand new, out of the box tool. just sayin’…

    heart you!

    • Z Egloff August 23, 2011 at 10:09 am #

      You’re right!! If only I’d had my wits about me. I was too misted up myself. On account of the new tool. Heart you back!! XOZ

  4. Francesca August 23, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I heart you big!

    • Z Egloff August 23, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      Love love love to you too!! XOXOZ

  5. Lillian August 23, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    love the pictures! The topiary elephants and rabbits — and especially the one of you and the hedge trimmer!

    • Z Egloff August 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      Hi Lillian, It would have been even cooler if I had a sculpture of me and the hedge trimmer made out of the hedges themselves! Maybe next time. . . XOZ

  6. Valerie Randall August 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Awesome, you’re getting noticed! You’re moving in the stream of traffic and everything’s flowing. All’s well. (I got a leaf blower, still in the box) xoxov

    • Z Egloff August 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

      Still in the box?! What on earth is it doing there?! XOZ

  7. Norma August 24, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    I enjoyed your blurb on the trimmer and ticket your writing skills show up.XXOO

    • Z Egloff August 24, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      Thanks, Norma! Glad you enjoyed it. XOZ

  8. Squirrel August 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    i love it, z. you make me giggle. funny, insightful and smart. you rock, dude.

    • Z Egloff August 26, 2011 at 10:05 am #

      Squirrrrrrrrel! I am pleased to have made you giggle. There is nothing better than a giggling squirrel. Nothing. :) xoz

  9. Melissa August 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    I have to admit that while receiving my last ticket, I was totally bummed and felt pretty embarrassed.I really had not known I made a mistake, so I felt shy and kind of stupid. Maybe next time, I’ll head for a power tool after…or like a new keyboard or some techie gadget (my equivalent.)

    • Z Egloff August 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

      A power tool would alleviate any and all embarrassment. I’m pretty sure.

  10. Jeff B September 29, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Awesome insight, Z. Gotta love them Power Tools. Anyone ever tell you that you are an awesome writer? Really enjoying your blog.

    • Z Egloff September 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

      Hi Jeff! Awesome to hear from you here. It is truly all about the Power Tools. Glad you’re enjoying the blog. Come visit again! XOZ

  11. Kathleen October 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Okay, off topic buuttttt — I want a power trimmer!!!!! I got so tired with my little hand trimmers after an hour, I decided it was my spiritual duty to hire one of the guys from our Young Adult group to come do all the rest. Cuz that way I’m participating in the Law of Circulation, you understand.

    And here is lovely Prescott, we have no need to stop for our tickets. They take pictures automatically and then send you the ticket. I got flashed (by the flashbulb…not REALLY flashed) the other day and I think I was going 28 in a 25). I decided to refuse to accept a ticket, told the Universe so, and don’t expect any mail any time soon. And that’s how I know spiritual practice works — cuz my other option was to still be stewing about it.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • Z Egloff October 10, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

      Hi Kathleen! Prescott is so Hollywood – taking your picture instead of handing you a ticket. Interesting! I like your refusal of the ticket – WAY better than stewing. And power trimmers rock. I love mine so much, I can barely stand it. XOZ

  12. KT January 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Z, I am a cop (among many other things :-D) and I have thought of starting my own blog so maybe some people out there could get a feel for the mind and the heart behind the badge. It’s one crazy, perspective-altering profession! But I wanted to tell you, you should also feel special, because of ALL the drivers out on the road, that cop chose YOU. And now doesn’t that make you feel special? On my shift, I select only the best to have my interactions with! heehee!!

    • Z Egloff January 18, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      KT,

      Gosh, I never knew that I was so special. That I’d been singled out, that I was one of the chosen few. This changes everything! Maybe now I should cruise around, looking for ways to garner the attention of the police force! Or maybe not. 😉

      XOZ

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    […] few years ago, I bought a totally awesome hedge trimmer that, aside from getting me stopped by the cops, made a huge difference in my willingness to do yard […]

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