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By Jeff Baugher
One of my neighbors owns several classic cars. He usually parks them in his driveway or in front of his own house, but a while back he left his refurbished '65 Mustang parked on a side street right next to my house. Two days later, I noticed it there again. A week later, I saw that the car still hadn't moved it was sitting in exactly the same spot.
I felt a little irritated by this. I live in the city, and it is illegal to leave a car parked on the street in the same place for over three consecutive days. Another week went by, then another, then it was a month, and then another month and still, the car sat. As each day went by, I became even more irritated.
It eventually got so bad that every morning, the first thing I did after waking up was to walk over to the alcove in our bedroom, and look out the window to see if the neighbor's car was still 'in the wrong place.' And of course, when I saw that it was, I would get angry! Eventually my wife and my daughter began to kid me about my 'thing' regarding the neighbor's car. When that didn't slow down my daily harping, my daughter crisply advised me to "Just give it up, Dad!"
Her reaction gave me pause. I had to admit that there was plenty of on-street parking space around my house, and that one car did not change that. As I studied what was happening a seemingly minor situation generating an out-of-proportion emotional reaction, I realized this was a classic sign of something being 'in shadow' for me. What was it in me that I didn't like and couldn't own, but that I could easily see in my neighbor's behavior?
One morning I woke up and decided to slow down in order to generate a different perspective on my 'shadow ritual.' As I moved toward the alcove to check on the parked car, I looked down and had an epiphany.
Sometimes when I am busy, I will bring my clean laundry up to the bedroom and just set it in the alcove until I have a chance to put it away. And although I hate to admit it, I will also let my dirty clothes overflow the hamper (again in the alcove) and accumulate on the floor, creating what I jokingly refer to as a 'clothes garden.' The problem with this approach to housekeeping is that if the various mounds of clothes sit out in the same place long enough, I actually stop seeing them! It's almost as if they become a normal part of the room.
So, while I clearly saw that my neighbor's car was not in the right place. I couldn't see my own misplaced clothes. And every morning as I looked out the window to see his out-of-integrity behavior, I would literally overlook my own clothes. Underneath it all, what was really irritating me was my own stuff being out of place. Welcome shadow!
After this 'Aha' realization, I cleaned up the alcove. And as expected, the parked car stopped bothering me. Then something even more surprising happened. Two days later, my neighbor spontaneously moved his car back into his own driveway. Although others may call this a coincidence, I like to consider it an example of how a simple inner shift can actually trigger real change in the world.