I seem to jump into all sorts of things that aren’t really mine. I also find myself jumping into things that I could easily stay out of.
For example: I’m driving down the road and someone cuts me off, honks cause I’m slow or almost hits me as they turn without signalling. In that moment I have every right to react, shout, stomp or swear. I can and sometimes I do. My issue is always afterwards. Even if I give the guy a dirty look, shake my finger at him or give him a piece of my mind, it’s never done there. I can’t leave it there. My mind picks it back up again and again and I ruminate on it. My mind spins rapidly trying to change how I acted, reacted, won or lost something in that moment. My mind wants me to go back and do it again but more perfect this time. It wants me to assert justice and pass down a warranted punishment on the refuse that offended me. Yet, I find myself hours later picking up the same regurgitated scenario to rehash – again- for a different possible outcome that is impossible. Time has moved on. I cannot go back. I am regurgitating something that is untouchable, unchangeable and unfixable hoping that I can fix it. I work myself into a frenzy and suffer. It hurts all over. I beat myself up for the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s that weren’t. I do thousands of if / then’s I’d’s. And I work myself further into a frenzy and I suffer. Since multiple things tend to happen in the same day (or commute for that matter) I can get to the end of a day or drive with a multitude of regurgitating scenarios that leave me reeling into the night. I CAN’T SLEEP because I am reliving – over and over- what I should have done different to deal with that thing…. And I suffer.
With a measure of awareness, I begin to realize that the outcome of all of these situations seems to be the same: no matter what, once I am in, I end up suffering. So I started asking myself. “How do I not get in? How do I stay out?” If no matter what I do the end result is suffering, why do it at all? It’s like willingly signing up to punch yourself in the face repeatedly. Hmmm, can I opt out with a no Thank you….pretty please?” I don’t want it. I don’t need it. I have enough on my plate already. So how can I not? Cause really I always seem to be picking up the pieces and living with regret.
In a book called Wonder, by R.J. Palacio (an epic book by the way), there is a quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer that resonates profoundly with me “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” I’ve been choosing what’s right for far too long with no evaluation to what’s kind to you – or even kind to me for that matter. Don’t get me wrong there are things worth fighting for in terms of right vs wrong, but there are also myriads of things that I pick up daily in an effort to fight for justice that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things that aren’t kind and result in me suffering. It’s those that I need to learn to set down.
So what’s kind? Kind is not putting myself through things I don’t need to go through. Kind is not engaging in behaviour automatically that will result in me thinking and rethinking about what I chose and they chose. Kindness is not picking everything up. Kindness is awareness that picking some stuff up means I suffer and you suffer. Kindness is leaving some things well enough alone – even though I’m right! Kindness is only picking up what I have to. Kindness is saving myself for the right moments.
In a world full of suffering our resources are already taxed. We only have so much. When I jump into certain things I spend – invest in – give-away energy that I don’t have. I spend it on things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter at all. We are so selective with many things: organic or not; local or not, fashionable or not. We read labels, check ingredients and choose. But when it comes to what we invest our energy in, how we behave, our very essence, not so much. Sometimes we are all in – without thought – over things that don’t matter at all in the big picture. Being all in everywhere always saps your ability to invest in the things that truly do matter. So I don’t. I flat out refuse. How? I start by paying attention.
Instead I’ve started to think about what my brain gets stuck on. What do I ruminate on? What can’t I put down? What keeps me up? When I’m stuck I take note. Freaking out over getting cut-off. Noted. Thinking about driving my car into you to correct your asinine road skills. Noted. The way I talked to… Noted. That thing that kept me up… Noted. Noted. Noted. Once I start to pay attention I realize there’s a plethora of moments. What’s cool is, I usually get a warm wash of icky anxiety hitting me as I step into one of these moments. It shows up to, albeit not so subtly, remind me I’ve been here before and I, me, this guy didn’t like how I acted. So it’s here, in these moment, begging me to pay attention and to help me choose – if I am willing.
Now as anxiety washes over me as I start an argument, start to react to tailgating or social ineptitude I welcome it – anxiety – and stop to think about what I am about to pick up – a bucket full of suffering – and if I am careful I can gently set it back down. I’ve got enough. I don’t need it or want it when it doesn’t matter. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m learning to set things down that aren’t mine and act in kindness for both me and you.
At the end of the day it leaves for more for other things. I can care deeper, longer and better about the things that matter because I’m holding lighter, setting back down, the things that don’t matter. Got my order wrong? Okay. I’m good. Adamant we need to do it this way or I can’t do that. Okay. I’m good. Curt with me. Yep I heard it, but I ain’t picking it up. I got bigger fish to fry and a heart that can only hold so much. I want it full of what warms my soul and hurts my heart, not trash that clutters my vision so I can’t see what’s important.
What are you picking up that you don’t need to? Note it. Next time set it down before you are elbow deep in suffering that was optional. You can choose. Just saying.