07 December, 2013

The difficult poses

They always say there’s much that can be learned from the poses that are difficult for us. The things that come up when we are in these situations often provide a much clearer picture of what we are probably doing in our lives, to a varying degree, at all times.

Today’s difficult pose was getting up to go to the airport at 5am after having only 2 hours of sleep. That was my choice to stay up late, because I wasn’t feeling tired. There are consequences to choices, but that’s not what this is about. The series of interactions I have had today in the wake of this lack of sleep made me realize something useful. My form of “reactivity” is to complain. I complain a lot. Probably every day, all the time. I complain even about the things that I like. To me, these are merely “observations” but they are often heard as complaints and it probably becomes tiresome to hear after a while.

The first interaction of the morning was with the front desk employee who called my room for the wake up call. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone, so I was not pleased when, shortly after the wake up call, the man called again with some question about the logistical details of my trip to the airport. This person was trying to be helpful, but my internal reaction was “I don’t want to speak to anyone, and I want you to shut the fuck up before I scream.” Of course, I said none of this, but was merely curt with him. When I came to the lobby for checkout, the process took longer than I thought it should take, and there were again a lot of questions. Again, I wanted to scream. It caused such extreme rage in me.

When we got on the flight, there is one flight attendant who is an older man, formerly military, and he is going out of his way to be helpful, and polite, and conversational. I think anyone would agree it is a little much, but it was triggering such anger in me. I started thinking about how I plan to contact the airline and complain about him, and say he is annoying passengers too much and making mistakes because he’s too busy talking instead of doing his job. But then I caught myself, and thought, “What if the airline took me seriously, and decided to fire this person?” He would lose his job for what? For trying to do a good job, actually, for trying to do a great job, and be more than just passable as a service person on the plane. He would be penalized for trying, because some complaining asshole (me) had to express every feeling of discomfort.

I don’t stop in the middle of yoga class and tell the teacher I don’t like the pose, or that they don’t know what they’re doing. I also don’t write a letter to the yoga studio saying that so-and-so’s class sucked today. I wait a couple of hours or days, and that emotion is gone. Often in minutes. 

But there’s this reactivity.

My way of coping with discomfort is to complain. I started to recognize that there’s perhaps never a time where complaining provides value. There are times where it makes sense to be honest, and say that I am not happy with something (i.e. if the food is bad at a restaurant). I won’t go any further down that avenue.

I complain a lot, and I think it’s taking me away from where I really want to be going. 

Later on during the flight I discovered that the flight attendant was a very interesting man, whose "full time" job is coaching the German National Baseball team, and that he only flies once in a great while to keep his license active. He's an American, but lives with his wife and children in Germany. He served in the military for many years, including more than 1 war overseas. So, for him, the idea of being a flight attendant once every few weeks, or whatever it is, is a responsibility that he takes very seriously, and which gives him a pride in service. He doesn't experience the kind of burnout that people do who are doing this all day every day. So his enthusiasm is actually kind of refreshing.

It was me who needed the attitude adjustment, and once it happened, I saw his entire behavior through a different lens. That, to me, is one of the most interesting parts of these realizations... when nothing changes except how I see it, and that alone is enough to make all the difference.

Food for thought.

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