I wish I could say I was easy going, but there is a lot about life that can bug me—depending on what’s going on, I can be pretty uptight. One of my biggest challenges as an adult has been to overcome this tendency and learn to go with the flow–the fact that I am an OCD perfectionist by temperament doesn’t make the going any easier! But, no matter how relaxed you think you are, there are inevitably things that annoy you, too–people or events that generate little black clouds which hover above your head. As someone who aspires to gain at least a frisson more maturity than I currently have, it is my goal to be bugged by less rather than more…
Don’t you hate the whiners?
All those people who grumble and grouse along the sidewalk of life.
They don’t even have to say a word.
This will date me, but when I think of such examples, Gladys Ormphby comes to mind—a major sour puss. We all have some Gladys in us. Alas, my own Gladys is alive and well, but I’m determined to neuter her a little bit at a time. By way of example…due to poor planning and certain circumstances beyond his control, my dad neglected to get his car inspected, which meant that I was forced to take it to the dreaded DMV on Half Street, SW located in the bowels of Washington. This is a chore I loathe second only to doing taxes, so I was quite unhappy when I realized that it was up to me to take care of this matter. Either that or make my dad into a motor vehicle scofflaw akin to Jesse James in the eyes of the District Government. There was no escape…
As someone who is quite organized and determined never to miss a deadline, I was not pleased by this. But as I sat there starting to fume, I realized that here lay a re-booting opportunity, I had a choice: I could make his oversight into a big deal or I could shrug, pick up the keys, and go…
So, I went.
Turns out, it wasn’t so bad.
Now, you may reasonably roll your eyes at this little story of mine, but it actually contains an important point. It is only by learning to exercise our small muscles that we gain the strength needed to withstand larger challenges. The fact that I did not fuss and fume over having to interrupt my day and march down to the DMV says a lot about how far I’ve come! Maybe getting your car inspected is a relatively painless process, but I assure you, here in the District it is not. Regardless, the attitude I took made an enormous impact on the overall experience for my dad and for me. (I even learned a faster way to get there!)
Sweet are the uses of adversity.
What I am discovering is that the more I try to control my annoyance and replace it with acceptance and a shrug, the easier life gets. Not being outraged by daily frustrations, disappointments, or inefficiencies helps us reorient our mindset to one of seeking out the possibilities and minimizing the inconveniences that inevitably occur. When you think about somebody who gets ticked off easily, do you find that this reaction enhances their day or speeds along remedying the situation? I bet not. This is certainly the case when it comes to relationships! Of course, it’s vastly preferable to plan ahead and sidestep predictable difficulties with preparation, but we exist in a world where this simply doesn’t occur to most folks—people we have to live with.
So, how do we cope?
Since they’re not going to change, we must. We can do so by catching ourselves when we slip into our old patterns. We can discipline ourselves by preparing ahead of time with a better course of action. We can watch closely for improved outcomes that will follow from others. And, in time, we will grow to see that there is a better way for us to behave—all of which reduces our sense of irritation with the world.
Now, who wouldn’t want that?
All around us, we see examples of outraged indignation. People and groups wanting to implement change by showing us just how mad they are. They believe that such anger will make the rest of us cower into doing what they believe is right. Maybe yes, but probably no. Do you think that if I threw a fit my dad would plan any differently about getting his car inspected in the future? Would fuming change the fact that the car had to visit the station before X date? Would my instinctive reaction enhance my day? No, no, and no. Likewise, were we to pan out to societal issues, I can’t help but raise my eyebrows when I see demonstrators yelling epithets and acting angry during one of their “peace marches.” WTF? Let’s at least call it for what it is because then the entire vocabulary becomes more honest. That Emperor runs around naked a lot of the time…
Similarly, it is fallacious to believe that exercising maturity over “big” issues is possible if we don’t first practice with little ones. Magnanimity must exist on all levels, not just those where others are watching. So, the next time you start to grouse about whatever nuisance has interrupted your day, I want you to think of Gladys and how grateful you are not she, it’ll make your day a whole lot nicer.