I was in a fury this morning. “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this,” I muttered, as I went about doing a chore I hated. “I don’t want to be this kind of person.” My resentment and bitterness poured out into my actions as I tackled the work at hand viciously.
Somehow, a voice spoke up amidst the angry protestations in my head: “Change the script. Say the opposite. If you have no choice of action, then choose the action instead of resisting it.”
And so I began to say, “I want to do this. I want to do this.” Instantly, a deep sigh escaped my lips, the shoulders slumped, resistance faded and my body relaxed. I continued my chore in a slightly less aggrieved state of mind.
By modifying my train of thoughts, I not only managed to feel better within myself but also resolved related issues with others in an objective, non-accusatory manner. By singing a tune of choice versus choicelessness, I empowered myself despite my limitations and chains. I now remember that this was one of the key messages in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
Later when all was said and done, I looked at where the resentment began. And it began where the expectation began. Expectation that I shouldn’t have to do this. Expectation of support. Expectation of appreciation for doing it. Expectation is the root of all heartache, said the lovely Shakespeare. When expectations are dashed, disappointment and frustration begin. This truth struck me today in all its queasy glory.
I know all this happened only to show me how to spot and stop restrictive thoughts and replace them with liberating ones. And perhaps a few other humbling lessons in love and acceptance as well. So, dear God, with the inimitable French accent of Steve Martin in Pink Panther, I say unto you, (“Listen very carefully, I shall say ‘zis only once!”):
Thank you for the irritations in my life.
Just ‘zis once. Okay?