I recently heard someone talking about their day: it had been frustrating, and she was looking back on it laughing a little -- at herself. She said that she'd realized part way along the day that what was going on wasn't as much that everyone else was making her life miserable, but that if she looked hard enough -- she was making herself miserable.
She then offered up one of those marvelous little sayings that can, if we let them, jolt us back into better perspective. This one is odd -- it's not a sweet platitude. It's even kinda harsh: The magic phrase? "I'm so mad at myself that I hate you."
Yeah, I know, at first glance that makes no sense. But....
Think about it...
When you're behind some drivier who insists on driving the actual speed limit through town when you're running late, you get angry at that person. It's really easy to believe that the other driver is somehow at fault for your lateness. But, why were you in a hurry in the first place? Perhaps because you dawdled at home,and didn't leave enough time to get where you were going. Perhaps you got up late, or lost track of time. But even if the reason you started your journey late is your own doing, you find yourself angry "at that person". Road rage burbles, and you call the poor driver unpleasant names in your head (or out loud even). But ... if you looked closely enough, that person isn't doing a darned thing wrong. In fact, if you look honestly enough, you'll realize that you're not, in fact, angry with the other driver. You're angry with yourself, for not leaving the house on time.
How often do we snarl at others because we're disappointed in our own choices?
And how often is it because we made some choice without paying attention?
Or perhaps it was a decision that we sort of let slide until the decision was made for us? Heck, it can even be a decision that made perfect sense when made (and was indeed the right decision at the time), but which has had consequences that were neither expected nor intended.
I'm sometimes angry at my lovely daughters because they're not eager participants in the task of making and keeping our house as clean as I'd like it to be. Clearly, they're making their own decisions day by day, but even though they're "almost grown," my behavior in the past still has a lot of influence on their behavior today. So ...... let's look back at the WHOLE picture.
I, myself, am not the neatest person on the planet. (I'm sure you're shocked.) While I really do like to have my living room neat, and my kitchen neat.... (oh heck, I love it when the whole house is sparkling clean, and the wood furniture has that wonderful just polished glow, and everything is in it's place (or would if I ever got the whole house that way all at once) ... I am completly guilty of leaving knitting projects and textbooks lying around (okay, clustered around the "nest" that is my knitting chair, but still.. not put away.) Thus, my choices (whether concious or not) of what to do with my own stuff hasn't modeled the behavior that I'd like them to exhibit.
Sure, I clean all my stuff up every time I have people over who aren't such close friends that I don't feel the need to make a good impression, but I don't maintain that area as neatly as I'd actually like it to be. My choices have shown them to leave their books etc. around the living room.
I, myself, have not modeled really cleaning on a regular basis. Oh, sure, they've seen me clean the kitchen after dinner; they've seen their father clean the kitchen after dinner. But, as they grew up, they did not see me scrubbing toilets and cleaning bathtubs. they did not see me scrubbing floors either. Why? because I had the luxury of being able to afford people to clean my house for me. That meant that they didn't grow up associating a clean bathroom with anything someone they saw actually DID to make /keep it that way.
In fact, other than getting them to participate in the daily job of cleaning up after supper, I didn't introduce them to the lovely art of doing serious cleaning chores until they were in their teens. That was a choice. It seemed to be a reasonable choice - after all, that choice meant that I didn't have to spend time cleaning a house instead of doing fun things with them, or working, or ... well.. okay or knitting. But, that choice means that they didn't grow up understanding at that level where we don't much have to think about it, that someone has to clean things up, regularly, if the house is going to escape falling into a state too vile to live in.
And that, in combination with the fact that they're teenagers, means that they resist doing chores - they don't reliably clean voluntarily. And they don't always clean as well as I'd like.
And I get angry at ---- them.
Now, I'm not saying that they share none of the blame.... but it's about time I remembered that they don't own all of the blame. I made choices too. We all do.
So, I'm going to try to remember, when I start feeling angry with other people -- amd I angry at myself?