Anyone with young children right now will have seen, or heard, or have sang numerous times the song “Let it Go” from Frozen. Essentially, the Princess finally stops holding her emotions in and is free. I have been using the song in a different way, to diffuse my negative reactions to the every day frustrations that I encounter. It’s probably more similar to the Seinfeld character that screams “Serentity NOW!” when aggravated.
I had a rough week. Hormones and general anxiety conspired to make me a rabid bitch, and life provided me with plenty of opportunities to exercise my bitchiness. During all this, I discovered something very valuable. When, I get angry at a customer service person, contractor, insurance company, my adrenaline and blood pressure stay up for hours, sometimes days. I don’t sleep well. My mental health basically suffers much more than any possible gain from the confrontation. I become the picture of a miserable person, wallowing in my anger and resentment, unable to move on. Yes, there are frustrations in modern life. The barber who butchers my son’s hair cut, the doctors office that bills incorrectly, the person who parks at the very bottom of your drive way….
But in the end, I didn’t have to wake up this morning and walk 8 miles to carry clean drinking water home on my head. I don’t have to put my children to bed hungry. Losing my cool over minor frustrations is not only bad for me physically and mentally, but fails to help me grow spiritually. The inability to forgive, exercise my patience and tolerance, and recognize the humanity in those who annoy me connotes a sort of spiritual poverty that many in the otherwise wealthy, industrialized world suffer from.
Possession of material riches, without inner peace, is like dying of thirst while bathing in a lake.
If material poverty is to be avoided, spiritual poverty is to be abhorred. For it is spiritual poverty, not material lack, that lies at the core of all human suffering.
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
When I have these frustrating interactions with people, it is helpful to imagine myself in their shoes. Failing that, I try to imagine a situation where I would feel compassion for them instead of anger. Now, these situations might be merely fantasy, but they are helpful to me. For example, the aggressive driver who cuts me off in traffic may be on the way to the hospital for an emergency. The child who is mean to my child at the playground may have a developmental delay, the lady cutting my son’s hair is learning a new professional after leaving an abusive relationship. Now, these things are probably not what is really going on, but certainly every person has trials and crosses to bear. I can’t possibly know what those are, but these imaginary scenarios help me feel compassionate. It backs me away from my anger.
In the end, if I can be a better version of myself, that might be the best thing I can do for the world. Yes, digging wells and working for peace and donating to good causes is all important, but if we can’t love one another, we’re all in for a much rougher ride than necessary. I can go to church every week, and still be an asshole to the waitress that serves me after Mass. Does that make me a good person? Don’t love humanity in general and be awful to individual people.
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
I think we can all use a little reminder of this every so often. I don’t need to fight every war that invites me. I don’t have to engage every person or issue that I come across. I know that some people will feel strongly about engaging those who make offensive remarks in person or on social media. For me, I need to stay out of the skirmishes in the comments sections. I honestly don’t think it does any good and certainly isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about another persons’ position. The only thing that will change someone’s mind is a relationship…but that’s another post for another day.