My mom said something recently that really stuck with me. She's 82. "It used to be that we did everything once, and now we have to do everything twice!"
I kind of brushed it off as a subtle sign of aging, but then I noticed, over the next 48 hours: the washing machine/dryer repair man left ("all done!") but the washer still won't progress to the rinse cycle and the dryer drum still makes a clanging sound as if a rock band is hiding in the laundry room. So we called—and the repairman is returning for round two.
The optometrist sent the wrong RX to the eyeglass store—three phone calls later it's sorted at last. The refrigerator repair man couldn't fix the fridge door hinge and suggested we take a video next time it won't close so he can see what's wrong with it. Sundance catalog insisted (rather unpleasantly I might add) that they never received the three pieces of clothing I returned two months ago (going to track that down today). And when I went in to have my blood draw at Hopkins yesterday they called an hour later and (very sweetly, apologetically) said that they'd forgotten two tests and could I please come back in.
I know this will seem impossible to believe but the dishwasher stopped going into wash mode. (We seem to have gremlins in all of our appliances at once, why is that?) We called the warranty phone number, via Lowes, and they couldn't find us in the system anywhere. After my husband's chat with the manager, they did—half an hour later.
I know we are all familiar with these situations, but what strikes me is how ubiquitous they've become. Does anyone else spend an hour a day re-doing what they already did once, or retracing their steps? Is my mother right—does everything have to be done twice today?
Are we all moving too fast, with too little little presence of mind and attention to our actual task at hand? Is that why so many things have to be done a second or third time to get them right? Add in the fact that things aren't built to last, the errors of modern technology and the human error factor and we are all spending more of our waking hours retracing our steps and fixing what we thought we'd already fixed.
A friend recently said something wise to me—she's found how much better it goes when she "treats everyone as if they have the words 'Make me feel important' written on their forehead."
I like that. I have been watching how incredibly easy it is for me to get impatient and annoyed in these second-time-around scenarios, and how much better I feel when, instead, I become mindful, compassionate toward the person drawing my blood, fixing (or as the case might be, not fixing) my refrigerator door, or the receptionist at the optometrist's office who is doing her best. And how much more helpful they become in response. If my mom is right, and "everything these days has to be done twice," the bright side is that I'm going to get a lot of mindfulness practice in, every day of my life.
I'm making a commitment to myself to use these moments of frustration to be mindful, to breathe, to note my feelings, to not make up stories about how big the other person's screw up is, or how this could only happen to me, or how unfair it is—while still asking for what I need. To move away from my own tiny-mindednes. To feel the freedom of not taking things personally.
This quote from Buddhist meditation teacher and psychologist Tara Brach is a helpful reminder for me: "Non-identification means that your sense of who you are is not fused with or defined by any limited set of emotions, sensations or stories. When identification with the small self is loosened, we begin to intuit and live from the openness and love that express our natural awareness."
When I remember that, I move away from my feelings of frustration, feeling put upon. I regain my natural awareness that we are all human. The day, suddenly, seems better. We all make mistakes. I can only hope that when I am the one making mistakes, others will be as compassionate toward me.
Follow Donna Jackson Nakazawa on Twitter and Facebook, or join her at her blog at donnajacksonnakazawa.com. Find out more about how to Green the Mind in her new book, The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life