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The past several days of my life have been filled with travel and wrapping up work and life responsibilities to prepare for a much-needed vacation. I reflect on how my tenor and mood have been. It is obvious that my mood has had a direct correlation on the quality of my interactions. My emotional state determines how I carry myself, as well as the quality of my introductions and first impressions I am afforded. If I stay relaxed, so do those I connect with. If I don’t, then I find problems where there should not be any. I fail to make valuable connections.

In such a chaotic and oftentimes hectic society I recognize how easy it is to get wound up. Throughout my life I have come to accept that I have a low tolerance for stupidity and even less so for dishonesty. I attempt to stay cool under pressure and during moments where my bullshit meter is firing its hypersensitive alarm. Oftentimes I fail and I lose my cool. It all goes downhill from there.

Just watch people drive in traffic. Watch yourself. I have unintentionally programmed myself to get frustrated while driving. I get irked by the slow or stopped pace of the cars around me. The same goes for the lack of attention or the aggressive nature of the other drivers. I feel my own pressures of getting to business or personal appointments on time. Sometimes I just want to arrive at my destination faster than the traffic will allow me.

None of this serves well. My shoulders and back tense up, as do my reactions while driving. I scowl. Swear words escape my mouth. Basically I get myself worked up. Nothing is gained from this attitude or these behaviors.

Before embarking on my continued journey of introspective growth I could not step outside of myself to see this was a problem. I saw nothing wrong with my behaviors and reactions. I could barely even perceive that I was doing these things. Perpetual narcissistic self-victimization was the state I was navigating the traffic in. Short of illegally maneuvering my automobile, there is no way to alter this reality. Getting into a car accident and/or getting a speeding and reckless driving ticket are not worth getting two or three cars ahead of where I am.

Today I attempt to reign myself in. I recognize the value of continually calming myself when I start to lose my cool. It has taken work and time, but I can now perceive my own internal mechanisms misbehaving. I must accept that I will not arrive at my destination any faster.

Instead of getting into the range of negativity I take a deep breath. If that doesn’t calm me down then I take another. When I see my shoulders tense up I actively tell myself to relax. I reset my arms’ position on the steering wheel. I sit up straight and relax my spine. I have to consciously remind myself that driving tense will not get me ahead of the traffic.
Amazingly I become more relaxed as I settle into my reality. My focus shifts to the things I can control. I call a family member or friend I haven’t spoken with in awhile. There are the podcasts or music I choose to listen to as well. I enjoy the scenery and the vistas. The act of driving becomes stress free and my disposition improves. I become and remain content and happy. It’s freeing.

I know I may arrive at my destination late. It doesn’t bother me because the worst case scenario is not even that bad. A boss, coworker, customer, or receptionist may become frustrated. That worse case scenario is not really that bad. It’s definitely not life or death or the end of the world. The only thing I can truly control besides my attitude and disposition is leaving more time to commute the next day. Even then I may still get stuck behind an accident or another obstruction that prevents me from arriving on time.

This is all a process. I continually find instances like driving where my attitudinal shortcomings arise. Another is how I respond to my young daughter. Sometimes the girl does things that are wrong or misguided. Those times I legitimately need to reprimand and correct her. More often her offenses are more matters of my perception. She is just a child. She is mostly innocent and just trying to enjoy life. Who am I to prevent her from experiencing and learning?

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Deep down I just want the same things as her. My judgment is clouded by a lifetime of experience and social programming. For better or for worse this programming allows me to think I know the truth about the difference between right and wrong or what we should or should not do.

I am still learning to be a parent, just as she is still learning to be a human being and a functioning member of our dysfunctional society. If her offense truly warrants corrective action on my part then I have to constantly remind myself to relax. Getting infuriated and yelling at her do nothing. Saying “Because I said so!” has infinitesimal effect on her young developing mind. It does not affect her empathy or behavior.

When someone is yelling or not giving a compelling reason to not behave a certain way, she just shuts down, just as I would in her position. When I relax and calmly explain to her the reasoning behind my direction and correction she immediately grasps what I am trying to get across. She is much more willing to listen to a calm father than the irate alternative I sometimes present.

She processes my lessons and instructions much better when I deliver them relaxed. Then, as relaxed as I am, she decides for herself how she will respond. Most often the response is the one I hope for. Due to the changes I am making within myself our relationship is improving immensely. This is in direct correlation with my relaxing my demeanor and my stance. She blesses me with more love, hugs, and kisses. There are much more fun times, laughter, and smiles.

This concept of true internal relaxation may be the greatest paradigm shift I have experienced in my self-improvement journey. Aside from personally becoming happier and more carefree, I have peeled back a layer of reality. I can literally perceive the people who are wound up all around me. This awareness makes me more prepared to navigate the world. I can predict conflict and side step it if necessary. I can diminish the flames of discord quickly if I cannot outright avoid them.

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As I approach my interactions with others in a relaxed way I stay more conscious. My listening skills heighten and become sharper. I focus on others instead of the angry voice inside of myself. That wound up, stressed out, sad, angry, confrontational, and explosive figure I have a tendency to become no longer holds dominion in my life.

As I listen more to others instead of the voice in my head I connect better. A simple business transaction with a Venezuelan ex-patriot reveals similarities in our socioeconomic views. I uncover these similarities despite the distinct differences found in our ideas of populism and social engineering.

We shared stories of Chavez, Guevara, Aristide, Obama, W. Bush, and Trump. We laughed. We snarled at the above-mentioned that we disapproved of. In the end I made a new friend.

Earlier that same day I had another similar interaction with a retired superintendent. I thought to myself, “How many opportunities does one get in their life to have a conversation with a superintendent of schools?” It all started when I complimented her Van Gogh’s Starry Night-printed tote bag. I wasn’t even doing business with Iris the superintendent retiree, but we had a wonderful conversation and connection.

I did not expect to make friends with Maria from Venezuela, or Iris the superintendent. If I was being tense and allowing my worst to control my being I would have approached both of these interactions stand-offish, offensive, or even cold. My interactions would have been lazy and soft.

I want to punctuate these stories by stating that this concept is physical in how I hold my body and posture. It’s includes my smile and facial expressions. It’s in my eye contact. It’s external, but it is also mental. I have to have inner dialogue. “John, relax your shoulders. Sit up straight. Smile. Don’t be an asshole.”

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The same day I had those stellar connections I also had a monster failure. I have a coworker that I’m close with; I consider him a friend. He is a kind person and he’s honest. He is sharing and he is generous with his positive connections. In a moment of weakness I allowed my “dark passenger {1}” to surface.

I became aware of a change in business that I felt negatively effected me. My coworker friend happened to be in the line of fire when I reacted poorly to the business change. We parted ways after the confrontation. Later he approached me and told me he didn’t appreciate the way I reacted and that he didn’t deserve to be treated like that.

He was right. Whether or not whatever negative thing that effected me was real or perceived it was not his fault. Even if it had been I still should have handled it better than I did. I should have reacted from a place of empathy and with more business maturity.

I knew my bud was mad and disappointed in me. I sent him a text message apologizing and owning it. Soon after, as I stepped into the break room, my friend was sitting there eating his lunch. We talked. He allowed me to explain my perspective and where my feelings were coming from. I let him know I am committed to not being a douche to him again. I am also making a concerted effort to not being a douche at all anymore.

An interesting part about becoming a relaxed person is that I can appear to others that things don’t affect me as much. They’re perception of me is correct. If someone gets mad and cusses me out, so what? I’m most likely never going to see them again after they or I leave the room. What if I get cut off in traffic? So what? I’ll get there one car later.

I’m saying “So what?” so often lately and I feel great. This is a busy world we are living in. It is arguably over-populated. So what? There’s not enough time in the day. So what? I’m staying conscious of my shoulders being relaxed as I type this. I lean back in my seat instead of tense and hunched over. I head onward to my next adventure relaxed. It will help me live, laugh and love more.

together

{1} “Dark passenger” taken from Dexter.


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  • A.Andreula says:

    Proud of you John. Although we may have different views of the world, you are definitely correct in saying that we need to relax more about the world around us. And to do our best to be respectful of each other. God bless you and keep you and your beautiful family safe.