The month of May has always been a trying one in these parts — the rush to get houses open for the summer season is usually stymied by bad weather, and everyone seems to feel an edge of urgency crescendo throughout the month, reaching its peak in the last days before the Memorial Day weekend.
Then, in the wake of the summer-ish holiday to honor our departed war dead, we suddenly fall into a lull. If we’re lucky, the pre-summer work checklist has dwindled, giving us chances to catch our breaths before hurtling back to work for the really big show that comes in July and August.
It’s difficult, in the traffic hell that our end of the island becomes for a few short months, to remember the better parts of our natures, to not give in to road rage and resentment.
We passed the tipping point of what our spits of land can endure years ago, and yet, somehow, we still endure.
How did we ever come this far?
At a certain point in the gridlock, our better natures must emerge. There must be some place in this island’s end for compassion for our fellow travelers, for an exercise in understanding the paths we are all on together.
This is no easy task, especially in a place so marred by excess and impatience. But embarking on that task proves a great opportunity for learning, and for personal growth.
Did someone just cut you off on the highway after tailgating you when you were doing 80 in the slow lane? Did you just wait half an hour for a break in traffic to make a left turn, only to see stony faces, razor knuckles on steering wheels, as an endless line of drivers stared straight ahead and didn’t budge for you? Are people cutting in line in front of you in King Kullen without even acknowledging that you are there?
These are not isolated incidents. They are the stuff of our everyday lives. It’s easy to boil up with resentment, hike up the chip on your shoulder and barrel through your day, doing your best to be as merciless as everyone you see around you.
But that’s just no damn way to live.
It sounds like a joke to consider loving-kindness as a reasonable approach to the summer season here. After all, with everyone around you elbowing forward to get their piece of real estate, even if it’s just a car’s length of Montauk Highway, it’s easy to feel like a fool for trying to not let it bother you.
But it’s the only way to truly enjoy your summer, unless you’ve already stocked up on baked beans and barricaded your door in the hopes of not leaving your house for the next three months. Loving-kindness may just be the only way to get through this season.
Taking a moment to search your heart for compassion can bring about real change in the world. If you set a good example and let someone into traffic ahead of you, you might just find you start a domino chain of drivers letting people in all down the highway in your wake, and you might find that everyone reaches their destination a little sooner and a little happier.
It only takes one good example to remind many of us of the better parts of our natures, beneath the scale we’ve all built up to protect us during the summer months.
And that’s where our strength and our faith in community can be let back in to remind us that we’ve been caring people for the rest of the year.
The season here is short, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. That’s a choice each of us makes, each and every day.