A couple weeks ago I dug into my heart and past to write about the death of my father. Sharing my thoughts and emotions has turned about to be a cathartic experience. Since publishing this article I seem to have opened up some long closed well of awareness within me…dammit. That shit was supposed to stay stuffed way down like all self-respecting men are taught from a young age. Alas, now that it is out there I may as well probe around a bit and see if I can use it to improve myself.
In the original article I argued for taking time to reflect on our past to see how specific events and experiences have shaped us. It is during these times of reflection that I believe we have the greatest opportunity for choice in who we will be going forward. We can choose to focus on the bad experience and wallow in the “why me” questions. Or we can choose to embrace who we are today, be comfortable that we can’t change the past and get busy living. Given the title of the article was “Embrace Who You Are Today” I will assume you know where I happen to lean.
I realize now that I don’t need to look in the past to practice being comfortable with who I am and how I react to the environment around me. There are a multitude of small experiences in the present which present me the choice in how I respond and what emotions I will feel as a result.
Responding to the Little Annoyances
While sitting here in China in my newly (albeit slightly) enlightened state of being I’ve found that there are more experiences than I ever imagined that let me practice how I choose to respond. Every day there is some small event which presents the opportunity to scream in frustration. A child wailing on the train. A man (I wish it was only 1 man) smoking on the bus. A group of people pushing you forward while you stand in a swarm (lines are apparently forbidden here) waiting to enter a museum.
How we respond to these situations is the choice between peace and frustration, between punching someone in the throat and laughter.
Bad shit has happened to everyone
It’s happened to Brad Pitt, Genghis Khan, Marilyn Monroe, and Julius Ceasar and everyone who’s come before and after them. None of us is immune to these small (and sometimes not so small) frustrations in life. Where we can be different is in how we respond to them.
Look back on your most recent “less than pleasant” experience. Think about how many stories this one experience provided for you. The comedy, the audacity, or the sheer pain that you were able to share with others. Remember in the middle of these tough moments that you can choose how you want to live through them.
Here are a few ideas to help you the next time your entire bus of fellow passengers appear to be engaged in a contest to see who can smoke the most cigarettes in our 12 hour trip and then hock the biggest luggie (insert your own experience if you find this one is not directly applicable):
- Start crafting the story you will tell friends when this is over. Capture each detail into your memory to ensure you accurately capture the sounds, sights, and smells (hopefully this last one is rarely needed). You want your story to be as compelling as possible so take the time focused on making the story come alive. You owe it to your friends to share this experience over a well earned drink.
- Close your eyes, put a smile on your face, and imagine yourself sitting in your perfect chair in your perfect location looking out at your ideal scenery. Perhaps it is overlooking a mountain view in Ecuador, or sitting on the deck of a ship sailing across the ocean, or whiling away the time on a beach without a care in the world. What ever you do, don’t take your annoying offender with you. Leave them behind to frustrate those poor souls still sitting there.
- Think of yourself as a cultural anthropologist. Explore the historical reasons why your offending party could have chosen such a behavior. Perhaps you can trace them to an ancient tribe known widely as Dickus Maximus. Perhaps they were dropped as a child, dislodging the part of the brain that recognizes there are other people in the world.
I realize that just saying, “hey I’m going to stop worrying about all these unpleasant experiences and just be happy” is not reality. But I do know that we can control our reactions to them with awareness and practice. Here are a few additional resources to help hone your skill:
- 40 Tips to help you release stress. Lessons from Buddhism and insights to help you realize “Every moment is a chance to let go and feel peaceful.”
- Do you feel you just must get it off your chest? This site lets you share your annoyance with the world and release those bad feelings. Their tag line says it all “Dear World – You Suck”. Reading this for 10 minutes will have you laughing out loud and forgetting your annoyance.
- When all else fails to help you could turn to the ancient Chinese ritual of “da siu yan”, or “beating the petty little people”. For just $6 you can put a curse on the offending party, which seems like a fair punishment for that guy who believes that farting next to me on the train is acceptable behavior
Life is challenging enough without all these outside influences seemingly intent on driving you crazy. Despite my firmly held beliefs, Betsy is probably right when she tell me “these people are not out to get you”. They are simply going about their own lives, possibly with a bit less realization there are other people occupying the planet with them. Regardless of their intentions I can only choose to control my responses each and every day.
I’m confident I’ll reach the point that my urge to punch people subsides completely, but for now I’ll settle for not letting their behavior ruin my day.
The good news is there are plenty of opportunities to practice and I am committed to doing a bit better every single day. I believe this is all any of us can ask for every day…just be a little bit better than yesterday.
Do you know someone who would benefit from learning to let go of the daily annoyances? [email_link] this over to them and introduce them to the Live the Good Life Movement.