Oh my God, I wasn’t in the door five minutes today when I found myself boiling with irritation. The drive! Please, the hurricane was on Sunday. Why are people still driving like they can’t find the gas pedal. One of my office mates has been a thoroughgoing…..(fill in the blank with your favorite expletive here) for about two weeks. I know perfectly well that I’m supposed to know what it is that I did but I don’t, and I don’t care, but in about 20 minutes there is going to be a flash of nail and teeth. Not to mention the lady at the Post Office. I only want ten stamps. Is that such an imposition. It is, after all, your job.
It’s a terrible feeling, and so hard to defend against. I came across another seed of wisdom from Pema Chodron, the Buddhist writer from Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton. It has given me pause:
“If we were to make a list of people we don’t like—people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt—we would find out a lot about those aspects of ourselves that we can’t face. If we were to come up with one word about each of the troublemakers in our lives, we would find ourselves with a list of descriptions of our own rejected qualities, which we project onto the outside world. The people who repel us unwittingly show us the aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, which otherwise we can’t see. They mirror us and give us the chance to befriend all of that ancient stuff that we carry around like a backpack full of granite boulders.”
It’s true when you think about it. We are living in a hall of mirrors, projecting our impatience onto others, having it thrown back at us, absorbing their impatience, throwing it someone else. We can’t be reminded often enough that we are responsible for our own emotional weather patterns. We can’t control the world around us, but how we engaged with it, whether we do so with patience and compassion or with irritation and contempt, is entirely up to us.
For more from Pema Chodron, whose books I highly recommend, here is a link.