Having arrived half an hour ahead of time, I settled in with my laptop, a bottle of drinking water and adjusted the client’s chair carefully at the right angle. With 5 more minutes to go for the first client to arrive, I made a call to the account manager of the company which had hired my services for this project. The arrangement was that I would visit this client’s premises once every fortnight for a few hours. As I had been travelling for the last few weeks, I was resuming service after a month’s interval, and saying “hello” to the account manager seemed like a good idea. With a smile on my face and a tune on my lips, I dialled his number and waited for the response. After about five rings, I heard his voice say “Hello”. With a widening smile, I asked about his health and went on to update him about my arrival at the client site.
There was a pause on the other side of the line. Wondering if I had lost him, I checked “are you there?” He confirmed that he was. Then sounding sheepish he told me that there had been an oversight on his part and he had forgotten to update me about a change of schedule. Essentially, he was telling me that I wasn’t supposed to be there that day. My smile faltered and eyebrows knitted together, while my mind tried to make sense of what he said. I could hear him carry on saying that my travel expenses would be reimbursed and that he really was sorry about the mix-up. As the full implication of what he was saying dawned on me, I sensed the blood rush to my face. But, before my protests could leave my lips, he repeated his apology and bid a hurried goodbye.
In a matter of seconds, my breath had quickened, my jaws had clenched and I could feel anger bubbling up within my chest. Thoughts about how unprofessional he had been, how his company was taking me for granted and how his apology didn’t sound sincere, added fuel to the already burning fire.
The thing about being a practising Emotional Wellness coach is that while you can choose to not practice some of the things you preach about regulating emotions, awareness of the feelings rising and falling within the self, is not something you can completely ignore, even if you wish to. It was almost as if there were two of me. One experiencing the anger and frustration and the other observing the first, calmly. This ‘calm me’ gently pointed out to the ‘upset me’ that just a few weeks back I had promised myself that I would let go of chaotic thoughts and feelings, that had the tendency to drag me down and drain me of vitality. I tried hard to ignore that quieter voice. But it persisted.
Parallelly, my mind had been busy plotting revenge by considering demanding pay for my lost time, writing detailed emails about unprofessional behaviour of the manager to the top boss and eliciting a sincerer apology from him. Suddenly, the quieter voice in my head took control and drew attention to the ridiculousness of all these plans (a sincerer apology? Really). It occurred to me that the situation couldn’t be reversed. No matter how much I seethed, the schedule was not going to change. Recognizing the futility of holding on to anger towards the manager, helped me consider the choices I had at this moment. I could either go on being upset, telling myself stories about how unfair others had been to me and how I deserved more respect, OR then I could spend this spare time on something more rewarding.
“Every ego confuses opinions and viewpoints with facts. Furthermore, it cannot tell the difference between an event and its reaction to that event. Every ego is a master of selective perception and distorted interpretation. Only through awareness – not through thinking – can you differentiate between fact and opinion. Only through awareness are you able to see: There is the situation and here is the anger I feel about it, and then realize there are other ways of approaching the situation, other ways of seeing and dealing with it. Only through awareness can you see the totality of the situation or person instead of adopting one limited perspective.”–Eckhart Tolle
As I calmed myself down by slowing down my breathing, an option to view the situation from a different perspective, presented itself – Maybe there had been a genuine and unintended oversight and maybe the manager was truly sorry? I thought about all my past interactions with him and it was evident that he was indeed a sincere person who took his work and responsibilities seriously. I reflected further and was convinced that the oversight couldn’t have been deliberate. ‘He is only human and we all make errors’, I reflected, ‘I have been there too. How would I feel if I made an unintended error and someone tried to rub my nose in it?’ Turning my attention back to me, I studied my own waning anger with more compassion and recognized my emotional patterns that tended to play out on automatic mode whenever my awareness was low. As my empathy towards myself increased, so did my compassion towards the manager. Taking deep breaths, I allowed these calming thoughts to wash over me.
“As I look back on my life, I realise that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” – Steve Maraboli
As the moments passed I could feel the smile returning to my lips and with a sudden sense of adventure I mentally ran through the many exciting options I had for spending this newfound time, in what had been an especially packed week. I eventually decided to meet a longtime family friend who stayed close by. A quick call confirmed that they would be more than happy to have me over for lunch and with a spring in my step I set out to explore the day!
After a wonderful time with friends and some additional time to catch my breath at home, I felt revitalized for my next assignment that evening. When the day turned to night, I received a text message from the account manager expressing his sincerest apologies and acknowledgement for the frustration I must have experienced during the day. I hastened to let him know that I had been upset for all of 2 minutes. I went on to elaborate that I trusted his sincerity and that I was not upset in the least. Saying this, flooded me with a sense of gratitude and realized that this experience had been a gift; an opportunity to practice letting go.
“One thing we do know: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know that this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.” – Eckhart Tolle
It doesn’t come this easy every time. Each time I start to bask in the assumption that I have mastered the art of calming down, yet another episode pops up to remind me of my fallibility. But it is in those very humbling experiences, where I have been beaten by my own resentment and upset feelings that I have learnt the most valuable lessons on setting myself free from my own grudges!