Thursday, July 3, 2014

7/3/14 - A Lesson in Expectation (Disguised as a Lesson in Intuition)

Today, I received a lesson in expectation, wrapped in a lesson in intuition. Before I go into it, however, I must first relate a previous experience.

A couple years ago, I was initiated into the subtle-but-powerful force known as intuition, and how it could serve me in a practical sense. I was parallel parked alongside a narrow downtown road, and after checking my mirrors, I went to open my door to get out. However, I stopped before doing so, frozen by a distinct urge to keep the door closed. There was nothing logical to this feeling -- I had, after all, checked my mirrors and judged it safe to exit the vehicle -- yet it was oddly coherent, as well as firm in its demand that I keep my door shut. So I obeyed, without question, feeling as if I'd been shouted at.

A split second later, while I remained stunned in my driver's seat, a bicyclist blew past on my left, going as fast as a car (I was parked at the bottom of an incline). As it were, the man had been in my mirrors' blind spot, forced alongside the parked cars due to the narrow road. For this same reason, I found my odd, illogical urge all the more notable, since the same blind spot would've kept me from seeing the potential danger even subconsciously. Had I opened the car door when I'd originally gone for it, the man would've face-planted it, without a chance to swerve, such was the timing.

Ever since that day, I've learned to suspend my normal, rationalist thinking whenever an intuitive urge comes knocking. However, as I've already said, today's experience was a lesson in expectation, not intuition.

That said, it all started with an intuition.

My miraculous non-accident with the bicyclist would be the first time I consciously realized the mysterious urges I've labeled intuition -- or, alternately, a "Compelling," as I've come to call them. As it were, I would encounter these Compellings again and again in the time thereafter, as to reliably recognize them and, eventually, obey them unquestioningly. Say what you will about my decision to trust these feelings, but this post isn't a review of the evidence for and against the phenomenon. Instead, I'll just say that, after my brush with the bicyclist (and several equally consequential sequels, including a recent one which spared me a head-on collision), I listen when a Compelling announces itself in my thoughts.

Such was the case earlier this week, when I ordered a first aid kit online.

It was late. I was tired. I was seconds from shutting down my PC -- when I saw an ad for a first aid kit. At once, my fatigue lifted and I took notice: I had to get one of these kits. The idea was entirely illogical, and entirely spontaneous, but, like the edict to keep my car door shut that one day, it was entirely intransigent, brooking no argument. I was getting one of these kits, that feeling said, no doubt about it -- a classic Compelling, of the kind I've come to know well.

Just a year ago, I might've hesitated. By this time, however, I was far beyond question. I ordered the first aid kit literally without a second thought, completing the transaction in less than a minute.

Now, fast-forward to today, when I received my intuitive lesson in expectation.

I was about to leave the house for the afternoon -- in my truck, key in ignition -- when a new Compelling befell me: check the mail. Even after everything, I almost ignored this one, since, as best I could recall, I had nothing coming in the mail (I'd entirely forgotten about the first aid kit by this time, as we do). But, of course, I ended up going with it, sparing the whole ten seconds to get out of my truck and open the nearby mailbox. Sure enough, a package was inside. It took me a moment to remember the first aid kit, but even when I did, it was an anticlimax: Okay, so the first aid kit I don't need has arrived. I got back in my truck.

Then came a second Compelling, now to unwrap the first aid kit.

Again I obeyed -- I would've used the kit to give first aid to a tree stump, had I been Compelled to do so. Afterward, I sat with the opened kit for a moment, studying the cheap Chinese-made packaging as I waited for a third Compelling. But no such Compelling came, so I finally started up my truck and left my driveway, the denuded first aid kit in my passenger's seat. Down the road, however, I got to thinking: this was all leading up to something, I was sure. Being no stranger to these Compellings, I knew from past experience that there was a good, logical reason for all this, as always. Never once had I been Compelled for naught, especially when a succession led me in a certain direction. I was going to need this first aid kit, I knew -- somehow, in some way, and in my truck of all places, I was going to need this dinky little $6.99 (shipped!) first aid kit.

My first thought: an accident.

I knew it at once: I was going to be in an accident, or was, perhaps, going to come across one that had already happened. It all made perfect sense, and I can't fault my logic, really: I'd been Compelled into having a first aid kit in my truck, opened and ready, and I'd never once been Compelled wrongly, so it was only natural to reason that some fashion of accident lay in my immediate future. After all, what else could it have been? First aid kit + truck + holiday-weekend drivers = accident. I didn't make assumptions of doom about this inevitable accident, at least; I'll give myself that. I stayed calm and cool-headed, but just went on alert for an accident of some kind, whatever that might entail. A good student of intuition, I was sure a new lesson was afoot, to further bolster my confidence in the Compellings by way of my being outfitted with the unlikely first aid kit.

That is to say, I was expecting an accident and its attendant exercise in intuition, since it was the only foreseeable outcome within my range of possibilities. And therein lies the heart of my lesson: that expectations can limit and restrict one's thinking, as to obscure possibilities outside of one's awareness (or imagination).

So, there I was, driving hyper-defensively, perpetually scanning for smoke or blood or crumpled car hoods. However, I arrived at my destination, a local gym, without incident, the first aid kit unused. I'll admit: I experienced a moment of doubt. Even after my years-long romance with my intuitive Compellings, and their consistent pay-offs, I still had the thought that, this time at least, I'd been mistaken. Maybe it was all in my head; maybe I'd allowed my illogical subconscious to lead me astray, buying up a first aid kit out of some hidden fear. Nobody is perfect, after all, so why couldn't I have been wrong to go along with my illogical urges? Everyone should be forgiven a mistake or two; I believe there should be vouchers issued for this, at birth.

As I was thinking these things, I was interrupted by yet another Compelling: now to open the first aid kit itself, and explore it.

Despite my self-doubt, I obeyed this one, also -- maybe slower, and a touch begrudgingly, but I obeyed. As I unzipped the flimsy nylon case, I distracted myself with the fact that it wasn't all such a bad idea, really, having a first aid kit in my truck -- because, after all, what if I did come upon an accident and needed to administer to an injured driver? And, likewise, it was probably best that I familiarize myself with the kit's contents, as this last Compelling had commanded. If nothing else, these ideas provided me some consolation, lending a bit of logic to my indiscretion.

And that's when I saw the wound on my hand.

I used my left hand to open the kit's flip-style flap, and in doing so, I upturned my palm, which had an open wound on it. I'd had a splinter there the day before, and it had been uncooperative enough to result in a bite-sized wound upon being coaxed out with tweezers. Still, nothing much to worry about, except for its location: being smack-dab on my palm, it was a prime target for contact with germ-ridden public surfaces. For this reason, I'd made it a point to put a Band-Aid on it before leaving the house, especially since I was going for a workout at the gym, to use public equipment handled by a great many unclean hands. But, of course, I forgot the Band-Aid, just like I forgot ordering the first aid kit.

Need a Band-Aid, I thought at once, still sitting in the gym's parking lot. Without protection of some kind, there was no way I was using the weight machines, since it would be asking for infection. I might as well have gone in there and licked the handles.

Upon having this thought, I realized that I held in my lap an open first aid kit. And there, just beneath the wounded left hand with which I'd opened the flap, was the kit's collection of small adhesive bandages. Being in the super-cheap kit, they were knockoffs rather than proper Band-Aids, but the one I put on my hand proved of resilient quality, withstanding the stresses incurred during my workout.

In my oversight and narrow thinking, never would I have expected needing a first aid kit in this manner. But then again, isn't this how we learn?

(A postscript: it was an interesting chance occurrence that led me to the first aid kit in the first place. I was browsing my email, and when I went to click on one, my mouse glitched and the cursor jumped, so that I instead clicked the previous sequential email -- a piece of spam mail which was chiefly advertising its ultra-cheap, $6.99-including-shipping first aid kits. My mouse does this every now and then, stuttering about erratically, God knows why. Had this chance glitch not occurred when it did, making me accidentally open a spam mailing that I never would've touched normally, I'd have never seen the kit that bore me my Band-Aid precisely at my moment of need ...)

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