The morning was icy, foggy and treacherous for those setting out on any early commute. I left in what I assumed would be ample time to promptly arrive for my 8:00am doctor’s appointment. As traffic slowed to a crawl and the clock ticked down each minute, I became more and more frustrated that all signs pointed to a late arrival.
I tried calling the receptionist to let them know I would be late but their voicemail recording announced the office was closed and directed me to their off hours answering service. Closed?! It was well past 8:00am. Were they stuck in this mess of cars and ice as well?
My irritation at level 10, I reached the answering service and tersely told the young man I was confused why my doctor’s office was not picking up the phone when I clearly had an appointment and staff should be on site.
He explained that although doctors took early appointments the office did not turn on their phones until 9:00am. He offered to send over a message and explain my delay.
“I don’t see why they should keep their phones off when patients have appointments,” I snapped back.
“So, I’m guessing that’s a yes?” he responded. “Do you want me to send over the message?”
I immediately felt ashamed. Anxiety and road rage had taken over. I had started the day speaking rudely to someone who was doing their job, someone trying to help.
I simmered down and gave him my name accompanied by an abundance of guilt ridden thank yous. My actions bothered me for the rest of the morning.
After lunch, I sat down for my daily guided meditation. The theme of the day was none other than irritation.
The guide spoke about her own experience with this emotion; one example being negotiations with her Internet provider. When these discussions didn’t go her way, she described the uncomfortable physical feelings that would arise. On the next call, she makes a conscious decision to dis-allow negative reflexes to take over and proceeds in a warm and friendly manner.
Quoting Tich Nhat Hahn, the meditation guides says, “Every feeling is a field of energy. A pleasant feeling is an energy which can nourish. Irritation is a feeling which can destroy. Under the light of awareness, the energy of irritation can be transformed into an energy which nourishes.”
Unfortunately, I had let irritation destroy my interaction with another that very morning. Although I may not be able to control how I feel, I can learn to use the energy from that emotion to control how I react.
Sorry off-peak answering service guy. I hope the rest of your day went well. I feel ashamed I treated you so poorly.
I’m learning to be aware of emotion as it arises and stop the knee-jerk reaction of irritable anxiety.
Sidebar: I had just got my period that day. Meditation? Energy fields? Sometimes the damn hormones win.