In January, among the chaos that was ShadowLand, I started a program of introspection. Through this program (which is guided in part by books full of "meditations", books full of questions, meetings with other folks who are also going through similar programs, and one person who is guiding me), I'm learning a lot about myself, and a lot about ways in which I used to do things (or still do things) and/or think about things actually made my life harder than it needed to be.
I'm starting to listen for little life lessons in things people say, or things I read.
Yesterday, for example, I came away from a conversation realizing that every time you encounter a situation where your initial reaction is to become upset, and thus leap energetically into an argument, you have an opportunity to CHOOSE what you actually do next. You can choose to leap, you can choose to stay quiet, you can choose to walk away.
Not that this is easy, mind you. When a teenaged child pushes one of your buttons, it's really hard to stop and say to yourself: "AHA! An opportunity to behave in a calm, rational, compassionate, SANE manner!" (or even "aha, an opportunity to go ballistic"). BUT, I figure if I can start to register that I'm being presented with an opportunity to go ballistic, then I can start to choose not to take that opportunity. After all, just because I have the opportunity to do something, doesn't mean I'm obligated to do it.
No, seriously. I mean, think about it.
Just because the store is providing you with an opportunity to buy 10 loaves of day old bread for $6.00 doesn't mean you're obligated to buy them. And if you're as confident as I am that were you to buy ten loaves of bread all at once, at least eight of them would be moldy before you could eat them, you'd more than likely decline that opportunity.
Just because the car dealership is offering you an opportunity to buy a brand new gas guzzling BMW X5 SUV (12/15 mpg) for a mere $50,000.00 instead of the usual $85,000 doesn't mean you're obligated to buy it. Your gasoline bill would match anyone else's car payment -- and we don't even want to discuss the insurance premium.
Just becasue you are given an opportunity to try meth, or partake of any other recreational pharmaceutical doesn't mean that you have to do it.
Just because you are given an "opportunity" doesn't mean it's something you want to do. And that means the you can take that opportunity to say no. And that means I have the opportunity to be kind, or calm, or.... even when my initial reaction is defensive, angry or hostile. Not that this opportunity currently provides a large window of time in which to make the choice. Sometimes, old habits and freshly awakened emotions run roughshod over delicate new opportunities. And that means that I may not be able to make that choice every time. But for today, I'm going to try to be aware that the opportunity to choose exists.