Today I did a thing. I mean, it was a little thing, but it was a big thing. And it may seem like nothing at all to most people, but it has taken me 45 years and a pandemic to do it.
Today, when someone was needlessly cranky and short-tempered with me, I did not take it personally.
Not even for a moment. I did not feel hurt by it. I did not internalize it nor let it linger. I paused for mere seconds before telling myself, “It’s not about you”. I then took a deep breath and released it completely.
It was so liberating.
“It’s not about you,” I said. And it wasn’t. And, what was even more remarkable: I understood that completely.
We are all hurting, grieving, mourning, struggling, worrying, needing, raging and reacting.
We all just want to be near people again, to get out and live our lives, to forget that any of this has even happened.
We all feel victimized.
We all feel trapped.
We’re in shock.
We are experiencing trauma.
I'm not suggesting that we should allow people to treat us poorly. On the contrary, we teach people how to treat us. However, the next time someone is cranky or short-tempered with you, try to not feel hurt by it. Do not let it linger. Instead, give that cranky person all of the love, understanding and compassion that you can muster and repeat after me: “It’s not about you”.
And it really isn’t.
Do you ever have times in your life where you feel like you’re functioning on autopilot? Have you ever been half way through your commute to work and wondered how you got there, unable to remember the first part of your route? Many are the days where we coast through our lives completing perfunctory tasks, but feeling disconnected from our purpose.
The reality is that humans aren’t meant to live their lives this way. We aren’t meant to wake up every day and perform the same tasks over and over. We aren’t built to sit at desks, stare at computers or spend most of our lives indoors. As a result, we develop a type of numbness that keeps us from breaking free of these patterns of being.
When we feel disconnected from our purpose, we often fill the void by looking outwards when what we should be doing is looking within. At the end of the day, what drives us to keep going like this, to stay in jobs that don’t fulfill us, to spend more waking hours dedicated to the profit of others than to our own well-being – all of this comes down to social programming. The truth is that we are consumed by consumerism.
So desperate are we to have the things we’re supposed to have that we are prepared to abandon our precious time in the pursuit of material possessions. Yet, can we even say why we want these things? Yes, we need shelter and clothing and food, but do we need the latest and greatest of everything. Do we need to buy our own happiness with stuff? Can we really feed our emptiness or find our sense of self with possessions?
Our compulsion to consume is often connected with our social-emotional needs. A daily barrage of media messaging tells us that our lives will never live up to other people’s lives and that we are never enough.
We overeat to console ourselves. We buy new clothes to disguise our shortcomings. Even when we can’t afford to, we buy trinkets–houses, cars, baubles–beyond our means to assuage our inadequacies. We even fill our calendars with activities and commitments so as to be able to complain about our popularity.
The cycle of consumption–need followed by emptiness triggering more need and the eventual, inevitable realization of emptiness – is a spiraling vortex. IT’S TIME TO BREAK FREE. Consider the possibility that a happy life is not something we can buy because happiness doesn’t come from external “stuff”.
Life is full of ebbs and flows and we’re meant to feel it all. If we can find peace within ourselves, by prioritizing relationships over things, we can move through these ebbs and flows without needing to fill the void with “stuff”. When we live a life of purpose we feel less of a need for constant consumption. The key to happiness, therefore, is not found in owning more: it is found in being more.