Yesterday I was working in my office when a truck pulled up behind my home. It parked in front of my garage and directly in front of the “no parking” sign, blocking my exit. This happens frequently at my place, when workers and delivery people in the neighborhood use my drive as a parking and loading area. I went out to my patio and kindly asked the worker and accompanying neighbor how long they would be. The neighbor said with obvious irritation, “We’re just nloading.” People often unload from this spot and sometimes this can take all day. I needed to leave within the hour. I asked, “How long will you be?” She said in a terse and nasty voice, “We won’t be long. You can go back inside now and take your medication.” I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t heard a remark that blatantly rude for . . . well, I can’t remember when. I spoke a few minutes longer with her in an attempt to mediate the situation. I was unsuccessful and went back inside.
I was able to maintain my objectivity after this, but I watched a voice in my head screaming, ranting and raving. “How dare she say that? What kind of person is she? She doesn’t know me. I don’t deserve this. We should do something. . . . “ It went on and on while I tried to ignore it. I meditated and released the negativity from my space. But, her remark still lingered. Finally, I said to myself, “Why do you give someone like that so much power in your life? Why would you even pay attention to a remark like that? This person said something intentionally mean and hurt another person. She’s not being someone that I would model myself after. Why does her opinion matter so much? Why am I so wrapped up in something that someone intentionally being nasty says? Why does the mind dwell on this?
Thirty minutes after this interchange I received a phone call from a friend and client. She called to tell me how much my session with her the day before had helped her. She went on and on about how she was physically feeling healthier, mentally on target, and felt like a new person. She told me that her entire life is better because of having me in her life. I thanked her on many levels and mentioned that her timing was impeccable. She was an angel sent to rescue me from the voices in my head that wouldn’t let go of the neighbor’s remark. Life sent her to tell me, “You are loved and wonderful. Don’t pay attention to your neighbor.” What a contrast. One moment someone’s attacking my psychology and the next someone’s telling me I’m God’s gift to her.
Life is full of contrasts. We are surrounded by people who love us, or don’t. We encounter nasty horn blowers on the road, and kind people who open doors for us. Some do favors for us and others steal. What do we focus on? Drivers often slow down to gawk at accident scenes on the road. They go home or to work and tell their friends and family about the terrible accident they saw. Images of the accident may linger for weeks. Yet, how often to you hear someone say, “Traffic flowed so smoothly today. Someone gracefully let me into the turning lane when I signaled and I had a great ride.” Do we remember the accident or the great drive?
We are trained and programmed to focus on the negative. We expect life to be positive and happy, and we’re insulted when it doesn’t go smoothly. We have a stressful day and complain because we weren’t allowed to have it easy. We have an easy day and we think, “Finally, a day like it should be,” as if life is supposed to be happy and we’re blowing it, or life is, if it things go awry.
Life isn’t supposed to be stress-free all of the time. Life has variety and is characterized by negative, positive and neutral forces. You can be sitting in your office happily enjoying your day, and a neighbor rudely insults you. You can dwell on it for hours and years, if you like. You can let this ruin your day, your year, and your life. Or, you can remain objective, neutral, and not focus on it. If you wait, something positive will happen. It’s inevitable. Will you notice it, or will you be so caught up in worrying about the negative that you miss the positive.
We create what we think about. We become that which we focus on. Life offers a smorgasbord of experiences for us. It seems like some experiences are put on our plate without our choosing them. Maybe they are, and maybe not. Still, we do have a choice about what we feed on – about what we focus on. We can choose to be happy about our life or not.
How big do you make the negative? Do you notice the positive, or everything else that’s happening in your life? I’ve decided to stop thinking about the neighbor. I’m not going to give her that much of my energy. If a thought comes up, I’m going to drop it and think about something else – anything else. I’m going to go for a run, create a logo, cook myself a wonderful meal, get my nails done, write this article. Life’s full of things to focus and linger on. I chose to be happy and enjoy the ride. This choice is also yours to make.