At times, I’m astonished by the amount of patience I’m able to apply to a situation or person. Let’s say I’m in the endodontist’s chair (look it up: it’s a root canal) and I’m being racked with pain. I can take it, no problem. The doctor keeps saying, somewhat apologetically, “You’ve got the longest roots I’ve ever seen. I promise this will be over soon.” Ok. Whatev.
Or, say I’m in an unbearable line at one of our fair city’s urban grocery stores. All kinds of mayhem and chaos will inevitably take place in the line ahead of me, but I’m cool with it. No problem. It really doesn’t bother me.
Now, take this discussion in a different direction. I’m working on three things at once, and my MP3 player goes dead. The screen says something about the digital rights management software being corrupted. “Reformat your player and reload your music collection.” All of a sudden, I’m losing my
shit crap. Then the computer freezes up and a piece of paper jams in the printer. Christ, I’ll think, the whole friggin’ world is against me. I’ll be on the verge of a full-blown panic-attack-style meltdown.
This actually happened to me earlier this week, and after about 10 minutes of freaking out, when the feelings were still fresh in my mind, a little bit of mindfulness kicked in. “WTF?” I thought to myself. “Did you actually think the computer, the MP3 player and the printer were all aligned against you?”
The more I think about it, I realize this happens a lot. Maybe at work during crunch time, or at home during a heated discussion. Then it occurs to me: I’m a control freak.
Well, “freak” is too strong a word. Perhaps a control-o-phile? No, still not right. A “fan of control,” as in, one who occasionally likes to control every single aspect of his environment, including the actions of the people and objects he interacts with?
It doesn’t really make sense, because when I’m in a situation that I know ahead of time is going to be tough, difficult or annoying, I’m cool as a cucumber. But when I’m hit by something like my MP3 player crashing as I’m getting ready to go upstairs and listen to it while I read, I’ll lose my head.
So I did a little experiment at work today. All day long, I waited for something to happen. Perhaps my boss would make me do something I hate, or I’d be on a tight deadline and something would break or go down or crash.
The trigger today ended up being the same MP3 player.
I was crunched at work and wanted to hear a song that was in my head all day, so I plug in the player, and up pops the same error message. This was after I spent two hours the night before reloading the 400 albums I carry on it. I could feel “it” rush up my spine like a bottle rocket, complete with sparks and gunpowder — the control freak thing.
And once I saw it coming, I stopped it, dead in its tracks. That’s all it took. A little dose of mindfulness and the problem went away.
Of course, mindfulness ain’t easy. But I’ve got even more proof now that it works.
(I’ve since come realize that my MP3 player hates Windows Media Player 11, which is what caused my licenses to corrupt. With a level head on my shoulders, another problem was solved!)