I know it’s the day after New Year’s Day, but apart from being a skilled procrastinator, I was literally flattened by a particularly nasty flu over the past week. I was amazed that something as small as a virus could cause a fever that kept me on the brink of delirium for three days, make it difficult to draw breath, and strip me of my energy so completely.
Reflecting on the past year, I see that I have allowed myself to be sickened by many very small things: a nasty comment made about me; rain on a day I’d planned to spend outdoors; being needed by someone I love when I’d hoped to catch up on some project of my own; phone calls by telemarketers; having to stand on an overcrowded bus; customers who are impatient despite my best efforts to help them; even the simple demands of everyday life. How is it that such small things are able to derail my day and disturb my inner sense of well-being?
These petty annoyances, when I allow them to get to me, spread just like a virus. If I receive a nasty remark, I may then feel badly about myself and take it out on the next person. Instead, I can contemplate that maybe that person is hurting inside and is merely trying, albeit ineffectively, to expunge their pain by being rude to me. They need my compassion. If it rains on a day I’d planned to spend outdoors, I can pick up a book instead and relax. If a loved one needs me, I should delight in the fact that I have loved ones who can depend on me and on whom I can depend, instead of feeling irritated that their request comes at an inconvenient time. When a telemarketer calls, I can simply tell them that I have no need of their product or can’t afford to support their charity and wish them a good day. When I have to stand on the bus, I should rejoice that I CAN stand, despite having broken my leg very badly a few years ago. The rare customer who is impatient with me may have more pressing issues on his/her mind. Instead of getting flustered, I should appreciate the many customers who do take the time to tell me how much my help means to them. The demands of day-to-day living, if performed mindfully, are transformed from chores to opportunities to live in the present moment.
I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. Every day can be a day that I resolve to be mindful of others and of the many blessings I enjoy. Being felled by the flu this year gave me time to reflect, however, on how easy it is to let small things upset my inner peace, and on how a careless thought or act on my part can cause ripples of unhappiness that spread outward.
May you have a multitude of things to be grateful for in the year ahead, and should I encounter you, I hope I treat you with the kindness and compassion you deserve.