A few years before children and my beloved minivan, I sit behind the wheel of my red Acura TSX in a line of cars waiting to enter a parking garage.
Yet another opportunity to practice patience.
Soon enough, I am next to the man in the booth.
“$10,” he says.
I give him a twenty and an “I thank you.”
He adds my money to the large stack of bills in his hand. I wonder how it feels to hold that wad of cash. He hands me a ten and a receipt and presses the button to lift the gate.
Before I press the gas, I notice the sign behind him.
$8 FOR THE FIRST TWO HOURS.
“Hey, I’m not going to be here longer than an hour,” I say.
His gaze is fixed off towards the distance. Silence. He says nothing.
I try a more direct approach: “Can I get the $2 back? I’m not going to be here longer than an hour.”
“You didn’t tell me,” he says sharply.
I counter, “I’m telling you now.”
“You didn’t tell me when you came. No refund.”
He points to the sticker on his booth: NO REFUNDS GIVEN.
“Come on,” I say. And I wait.
He is better at this game than I am.
The car behind me, seeing that no transaction is happening and that the gate has already lifted, gives a polite honk.
“I’d like your supervisor’s number,” I say.
Nothing. He is stone-faced. He knows that I’m probably not going to spend the time to call, even if he gives me the right number.
A chorus of beeps and a shout come from behind me.
“Asshole,” I say, as I punch the gas and leave to find a parking spot.
I chastise myself for losing my cool, remind myself that I am human, and then chastise myself again for not being able to just let it go. It’s just $2. And my outrage seems ridiculous. After all, I had just given $5 to a woman standing on the freeway off-ramp.
A phone call to Marla (ROTB’s longest-serving board member) sets me straight. She says, “You have every right to be angry. You were ripped off.”
And that’s when I realize it: telling myself that I shouldn’t be upset when I am upset does not help.
In fact, it makes it worse.
I would be horrified to hear a parent tell their upset child “Just get over it.”
Yet I do that to myself.
It is spiritual-religious self violence.
Do you also tell yourself that you don’t have the right to be upset when you are upset?
What if, instead, we trained ourselves on compassionate self-talk?
What if the self-castigating voice in our heads was tempered by another voice, a softer, gentler one telling us that it is all right for us to feel exactly as we feel?