|I fell back into an old behavior this week. Impatience reared its ugly head and grabbed me by the throat in a choke hold. Not only did I get swept away in the emotion, like a stream swollen with melted snow, I had a negative impact on others.
It began (or so I thought), when I arrived at the first day of class for my beginning watercolor painting class. Knowing that learning something new (especially something completely out of your wheelhouse) is good for the brain, I thought it would be interesting and contribute to my brain health. The class would be an opportunity to practice being a learner, continue to work on letting go of my need to be competent at all times, and who knows, it could be fun!
Within the first fifteen minutes of the class, I could feel myself becoming restless, shifting around in my seat, feeling bored. My interior dialogue was, “Get on with it! Why aren’t you more organized? I came here to learn, not listen to stories. Tell me something about color, composition, paints, supplies, anything!”
I was on a skateboard careening down the steep sidewalk of self-righteousness. I tried staring out the window and focusing on the beauty of the snow-covered hills across the valley. I got up and went to the restroom (and made silly faces in the mirror to get myself to lighten-up a bit).
At the forty-five-minute mark, I had lost complete interest in the instructor’s stories and had been unsuccessful in my efforts to generate a new mental dialogue. I wanted to get my paints out, to experiment. I expected that we would begin to mix colors, and see what happens when we mix paint with water and apply it to paper. (Why were we instructed to bring our supplies if we weren’t going to use them?)
I could observe myself becoming more and more impatient, feeling like a spoiled child who isn’t getting what they want. I could feel the negative energy oozing out of me. I could feel myself frowning and hear my harrumphs. I began to mumble and noticed the person next to me edge away, as quietly as possible.
I realized then the extent that I had allowed my critical narrative and negative energy to build up inside of me, and that it was leaking out, like a sulfurous goop spreading out across the classroom. I told the instructor I had to leave early and walked out of the building as quickly as I could, trying to look nonchalant.
Gulping the cold air while walking down the street helped me shift and return to a more neutral state. Later that evening, I reflected on the experience. “What got me so hooked? What was behind my reactions? I haven’t been that out of sorts in long time, what’s going on?”
It took a while for me to figure it out. Feeling like I was on an archaeological dig that had already been excavated, I continued to sift through the debris of my day. Eureka! I found the pot shard! Earlier in the day I had second-guessed myself, questioned my competence and spiraled down into self-doubt.
My impatience with the instructor, wasn’t about him. It was about me! Because I hadn’t resolved the earlier issue in my mind, it came back as criticism, impatience, and self-righteousness later that day. Unfortunately, that’s how we are wired. If we don’t resolve an issue it will pop up later in another form, leading us to believe that the two aren’t related.
The good news is I figured it out and could address my self-doubts. The bad news is I don’t know how many people were affected by my negative energy ooze. Although many people might not have been consciously aware of the negativity spreading throughout the classroom, that ooze has an impact. The people sitting closest to me may have felt unusually fatigued, slightly confused, or slightly “off” emotionally.
Although it feels like I take one step backward for each two steps I jump forward, I recognized what I was experiencing and what I was doing. And, I could sift through the dirt to find the initiating thoughts that grew to be that ooze. It’s a journey learning how to confront our demons. Thank goodness, the Universe is patient.