Mar 25, 2008

My Lenten Resolution: A report

My Lenten resolution this year was to be a kinder, gentler person. Every day, I read a little bit of Richard Carlson's book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

The book is wonderful and I can't recommend it enough. The chapters are all short, so they only take a few minutes to read. And after the first few times through the book, you only need to read a few sentences before you remember what the chapter is about.

What the book does for me is give me perspective, and also remind me of my priorities: being peaceful, kind and happy is much more important than being right.

And have I changed, at least a little bit? I think so. I am more conscious of getting caught up in the "small stuff" and getting better at learning to let go.

The extent of my progress was evident recently, when I was feeling particularly stressed. Work has been piling up, and I had a couple of big family events on my mind as well. I may also have been experiencing a little bit of PMS. In any event, my state was such that it wouldn't take much to push me over the edge and into tears.

It was in this state that I found myself at the exit of a parking garage with no attendant. I couldn't get out, nor could I find a button to push to contact someone. I also noticed that the parking rate went up $3 at the 40-minute mark, and that I was at the 37-minute mark. Eventually, a voice came over an intercom but then quickly disappeared. More minutes passed. I decided to refuse to pay the extra $3 since it was the garage's lack of an attendant that had caused me to go over the 40-minute mark.

By the time the attendant arrived, the lawyer in me was ready to scream "false imprisonment!" He demanded the extra $3, I refused. He told me I could stay there and started to walk away. I demanded his supervisor's name and number, which he refused to provide. He also refused to provide his own name, of course. Perhaps if Tyler hadn't been in the car, I would have stayed put. But instead I swore at him (something I don't think I've ever done before!) and threw my money at him. I drove away and called Marc in tears.

I've read enough Consumerist posts that I immediately began thinking about whom I could hit with an EECB (executive email carpet bomb). But while I could try to get my $3 back and/or get the attendant fired, I couldn't do it right away because I had other things that I had to do first.

And that's when it hit me: It's easy to practice being kind and gentle when life is good, but much harder when things get rough. And this was one of those times when I really needed to call upon the "happiness muscles" I'd been exercising since Ash Wednesday. Amazingly, it worked. Within a few minutes, I was calm, able to think about what I needed to get done rather than getting vindication or revenge, and the rest of my day was good. I was able to see the experience as an opportunity for personal growth. Now that's progress!

Needless to say, my Lenten resolution hasn't really come to an end. My quest to be kinder and gentler and therefore happier is really a lifelong quest, one that will never end.

But I'll make a different resolution next year. ;)

Note: In retrospect, I also realized that the whole incident with the attendant perhaps could have been a pleasant experience if I hadn't been so wound up to begin with. That's what I have to work on next!


Angie said...

Wow, what an infuriating situation. Kudos to you for turning it around in the end. I have a feeling life will teach the attendant exactly what he needs to know.

Tip Junkie said...

I need to get that book! ;)

Chief Family Officer said...

@Angie - Thanks! And I totally agree with you.

@Tip Junkie - I don't think you can go wrong with the book! It's been a huge bestseller over the years so I know I'm not the only one who thinks it's great.