Nearly three years ago, I enlisted the help of three kind, unsuspecting strangers to break my car window. Last week, an unknown number of less-than-kind strangers offered their unsolicited assistance in doing the same thing.
My car was broken into last week in a busy neighborhood in broad daylight in the middle of the day while I was meeting a friend for tea. When I discovered the car, I was pressed for time, and I had no choice but to jump in and drive sans windows through the 20 degree day to retrieve the babe from preschool. When we returned home, I set about making plans for a repair and conducting a mental inventory of the contents of the stolen bag. Despite my burst of productivity, I felt deeply frustrated.
As I shared details of the incident with friends and family, they all expressed sympathy. Each time, I responded with the same mantra: "No one was hurt, everything was replaceable, and it was just a window." I believed what I was saying. I knew it to be true. But I remained stuck in an unhelpful thought pattern. Every time I felt my frustration well up, I was simultaneously hit with judgment from within: Why are you so worked up? You have a family member recovering from major surgery. Your good friend was recently robbed at gunpoint. And you are whining about a broken window and a stolen yoga bag? Get over it already!
It wasn't until a few days later after the window had been repaired and most of the stolen belongings replaced that I was able to recognize the cycle. Had I simply allowed myself to sit with the frustration, I could have acknowledged it and moved on. Instead, by forcing myself to ignore my feelings and respond in what I thought was the "right" way, I prolonged my discomfort.
We are all human beings with human feelings. Bad things happen, and even minor inconveniences can trigger unwelcome emotions. Our work is not to dismiss them outright, but to allow ourselves to experience them fully. Only then can we move forward with grace.
Next time you are subject to a less-than-desirable emotion, allow yourself to sit with it and learn the lesson(s) it brings. Treat yourself with the compassion you would extend to a friend in the same circumstances and put yourself in a position to grow.