This time my “teacher” happened to be a middle-aged woman in a dark suit and the loudest gum-chewing style I’ve ever encountered.
You’re probably already thinking: “What is she talking about?”
Have you noticed how we come across certain people who seem to enter the stage for the mere reason of pointing out something we need to pay attention to? It’s not meant to be a pleasant interaction and neither we nor that person may be aware of the significance of that precise moment. It’s not until later and when we’ve had the chance to contemplate and reflect upon what happened that we may have an aha moment.
That’s exactly the kind of experience I’ve had the other day when I decided to go shopping for tea and honey.
She and I entered the store together and soon after we met at the tea and coffee aisle. I was looking at the various teas trying to decide when the crackling sound gum makes when somebody chews with their mouth open, made me turn. It was like nails on the blackboard. My whole body contracted at the sound. Did I mention that chewing gum loudly in public is a pet peeve of mine? I guess gum chewing etiquette was drilled into me early on and it’s here to stay.
Here I was, standing next to this total stranger who was chewing gum and my “back went up.” How is it possible to have this strong a reaction about something so trivial? My mood had changed within seconds.
I picked up a couple of teas and left as quickly as I could. I walked around the store picking a few other things. And then, the whole thing got really interesting. Everywhere I went, this woman followed me – chewing away! I just couldn’t escape her!
I headed to the register, paid for the few things I had, and left the store. As I drove back home, I reflected upon this random experience that caused such an intense reaction on my part.
- What had just happened?
- Where did this strong reaction come from?
- Do I really think I’m above annoyance over the little things?
- How often does my mood get affected by trivial stuff? Is it worth it?
- How often do I run away from an unpleasant experience and why?
- What would happen if I stuck with it?
- Who decides whether I stay or go? Is it reason, emotion or both?
Some of the questions are easier to answer and others will evolve. The truth is I’m not above annoyance over trivial stuff. Yes, I try to be mindful and I’ve been practicing for a long time. This allows me to be present to what happened but it doesn’t mean I got it all figured out. On the contrary! I’m becoming more and more aware of the fact that my work never ends. It just becomes more interesting!