Legend has it that at the tender young age of two, I held a grudge for several months against some neighborhood teens who smashed my pumpkin at Halloween. I don’t remember it except as it was related to me by my parents, but this seems to be the earliest indicator of my penchant for “medit-hating.” (Did I just coin a term?) My apparently iron grip on bitterness and resentment have long been a subject of mental stress and strife in my life. But maybe, just maybe my tenacity and determination to focus all my thoughts and energy on inconsequential things I have no control over could be transformed and repurposed for good instead of evil.
Case in point: Recently, I was texting with my friend Lauren about how mind bogglingly great people can be at times. I’ve been collecting donations for a fundraising raffle and because this is the first time I have participated in this type of event, I have, on the whole, been completely blown away by how generous people have been.
I had just come from picking up a shockingly generous gift card donation from a local restaurant and should have been ecstatic. I mean, I was ecstatic, but then I let another business owner’s blunt refusal bring me down suck up more that a fair share of my joy.
I do not know why this woman, who owns a specialty tea shop, declined – maybe she had a legitimate reason, like that it’s her right to not give things away for free every time somebody comes asking. Who knows? Quite honestly, I have been overwhelmed and a little bewildered by the number of people who have said “yes!” with no questions asked. Ok, so they get a tax write-off, but still. I’m sure it’s easier to do nothing, and yet, most people say yes without hesitation.
So, I was explaining to Lauren via text message how inexplicably indignant I felt about being turned down:
Me: Oh, well. I should concentrate on the awesome people and stop feeling personally insulted, huh?
Lauren: Yeah, definitely don’t feel personally insulted. I would say the majority of businesses are very kind and generous, so focus on that…so where should we go next time we have a tea date?
Me: I’d go to Dunkin’ Donunts before I go back to (redacted)! It’s my thing to feel personally insulted by the slightest thing. I downloaded a meditation app. I think maybe I’m gonna give it a try.
Lauren: Lol. I don’t know if you meant that to be funny, but I thought it was…
See how self-aware I am?!? I know I need to let. it. go. I never even spoke to the owner of the aforementioned tea shop face to face about this fundraiser – though I have frequented her shop for several years and have met her in the past. As far as I know, she does not know who I am or have a reason to refuse me on personal grounds. She’s not even the only one who said “no.” She’s just the only one whose shop I patronized semi-regularly and whose product my son and I are both obsessed with – TEA! And now I can never go back there. Of course, I could, but I shan’t. Ever. I love to support local businesses, but, as I mentioned above…personally insulted, grudges, etc. Doesn’t have to be rational to be irrevocable! (That is not advice, by the way. I was born on the cusp of Scorpio…)
If I had just a couple more mental hang-ups than I do, I might have shot off a mean-spirited, negative review on Yelp or on my neighborhood list serve, but I pride myself on my restraint. Also, there’s laziness. And maybe mild paranoia about possible repercussions, such as being revenge-murdered.
Why is this funny, as Lauren put it? Mainly, because it’s sad. My own personal psychological tragicomedy. This is the incident that finally got me to download the app I’d heard about. It’s called Headspace, and it is, as far as I can tell, a free app that teaches meditation and helps you guilt your friends into meditating, too. Everything is about social networking now. Because that’s just what we all need, right? To know exactly how many of our friends are more mindful than we are! It’s meant to be encouraging, but we all instinctively know the real outcome of seeing our friends’ steady progress toward enlightenment…competitiveness, humble-bragging, and low self-esteem.
That said, I’ve been meaning to learn to meditate for years. Years. And from time to time, I take a few minutes to actually attempt it. But the app wants me to make it a habit. And habit making – at least the good kind, can be really hard. I guess that’s why we need encouragement.
After I did the first 10-minute session, I immediately invited my husband, Fab, and one of my sisters. If I need to take it down a notch, Fab, in spite of his cucumber cool exterior, may be simmering just below the surface. Turn up the heat ever so slightly and he just might boil over. He’s got the patience of a saint, until he doesn’t anymore.
I just sat down for my third session in as many days and guess who I invited to join me this time! Lauren! She was texting me about some nasty traffic she’d been stuck in, so I thought it was pretty much my duty to share. Also, today’s meditation actually used traffic as a metaphor for how we should relate to the teeming thoughts in our heads. I really had no choice.
What do I hope to get out of meditation and mindfulness? I want to convince myself that there is no “hate” in “meditate.” The impetus for finally getting started on this much procrastinated journey was my intense, but senseless focus on one tiny and fleeting grey cloud on an otherwise crystal clear, sunshiny day of positive experiences. I need some perspective. I want to learn to de-escalate the hate so it can’t make me miserable for no good reason. I think I just found my mantra…
Here I go!
What helps you de-escalate the hate?