Annoyance on my back


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Often after school, Emmett comes downstairs to my home-office and sits on the back of my chair. He climbs up and wedges himself between my back and the back of the chair. This forces me to the front of the chair. It is not very comfortable. He is eleven and physically too big for this.
However, most days, I swell with joy that my son still wants to be close to me. He wants to be near me, to touch me. I love it.
But there are days, and then there are days.
There are days when I loathe the sight of him coming into my office and I sniffle myself from barking shaming words to him about personal space and manners.
He is doing the same thing; nothing is different!
The only difference is what’s between my ears and what I am making sense of in the world.
The only thing that’s different is my perspective.
If I am in a fine-to-good mood, I will let him be on my back.
But if I am not in a fine-to-good mood, I want to lash out at him when he assaults my personal space.
This brings us back to this quote – a favorite of all time – attributed to Irving Becker:

“If you dislike someone, the way they hold their spoon will offend you. But if you like them, they could drop a plate of food in your lap and you wouldn’t mind.”

If and when I get annoyed at other people, it’s more about me and my mindset than about them and what they’re doing.

If I like you, and if I’m in a good mood, it’s all gravy.
But if I’m not in a good mood or I’ve decided I don’t like you, you will upset me.
We have (some) control over how we perceive the world.
Think about this with regard to the anger you feel in your own life.
I often teach this to couples getting married.
I ask them to list two irksome or irritating things their partner does.
Common examples include:

  • leaving milk on the counter
  • not capping the toothpaste tube
  • giving unwanted driving advice

We talk about the power of perspective and how any of these things, when they are in a good mood, might even be endearing.
Wisdom is knowing the difference between what we can and cannot change.
And, while we can ask our children and partners to change, it’s much more effective for us to change what we can – our patience, compassion, and love.
The more patience, compassion, and love I have in my life, the more easily I roll with the proverbial monkeys on my back.
I’m not saying that we should be always able to make a molehill out of a mountain. Sometimes we can’t. Everything’s not always fine. I’m saying that we have the power within us to get annoyed less often.

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