Friday, February 1, 2008

Calm, Temper & Humility

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found a new sense of calm. That’s not to say that I don’t still get emotional or lose my temper, but I’ve found that it’s easier to just let problems and irritations roll off my shoulders. For example, I used to get totally involved with sporting events. Back in the 80’s when The Blazers were making a run at the playoffs, I remember sitting in front of the TV on my knees hoping that my behavior would somehow help the team to win. When they didn’t, it was devastating! I moped for days. I also used to be really diligent about writing complaint letters when I felt the service I had received was less than expected. I still watch sporting events and I still like to see my team win, but when they don’t, well, I just look forward to the next game or the next season. I also still write a complaint letter now and then, but normally I stop and ask myself if going to the trouble will really make me feel better or will doing so just increase my irritation. I’ve also started writing compliment letters to let managers know about exceptional service received.

Since I’ve come to acknowledge this new sense of calm, I’ve been walking around feeling a little bit haughty; like, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m calm.’ Then, out of nowhere, something comes up that just sends me over the edge and I find myself right back in that emotional, temper mode. That’s what happened Wednesday as I was preparing to leave the house to pick up our cousins who were flying in from Australia. I had told the kids that I wouldn’t be home when they arrived from school, but that I wouldn’t be very late as long as the plane was on time. Then, just as I was flying around the house picking up keys and cell phone, the telephone rang. It was my ten-year-old son calling to say that he’d heard that the school buses were going to be on snow routes that afternoon. That meant that the children would have to be picked up by a parent about a mile-and-a-half from our house. True, the buses had been on snow routes that morning, but there was no longer any snow on the ground and on the last two snow route days the buses had dropped them off at home. My son was worried about whether or not he should get on the bus, about whether or not anyone would be at the snow route stop to pick him up. I called the bus company to confirm what was happening and was told this was “district policy”, even though it hadn’t been followed the last two times. I started calling all three schools to tell them to have my children stay at school until I could find someone to pick them up. At the first school I called, the kids had already gotten on the bus so I had to ask them to get them off. This was my first call after being told this practice, that hadn’t previously been followed, was “district policy”. I was completely flustered and irritated and, much to my shame, I took it out on the woman I spoke to at the first school. I started off by saying, “I know this isn’t your fault,” but that does not excuse the anger I directed at her.

After I had figured out how to get everyone home and I was in my car rushing to the airport, I took a deep breath and wondered where my sense of calm had gone. How had I let one little incident raise my blood pressure, and my voice, in that manner? I felt humbled.

Today I called the school to apologize to the woman who’d taken my call. I explained that we have regular problems with the school bus service on our route, that the “policy” hadn’t been followed in the past and that the adherence to it took me by surprise. But mostly, I just said, “I’m sorry.” I tell my children that, while it’s nice to say you’re sorry, the words don’t take away the negative action. Being willing to say you’re sorry doesn’t make it okay to do something wrong in the first place. I now realize more clearly than ever that, regardless of our age, there’s still so much to learn, so many ways to improve ourselves. I will continue to enjoy my new sense of calm, but I’ll also remember to think about letting irritants roll off my shoulders, to hold my tongue, to take a deep breath and relax.

1 comment:

Jim Simpkins said...

The "Don't Sweat the small stuff..." books are great on this topic.