Tuesday, December 13, 2011
At some point, we all have pulled out the wad-o-Christmas-lights from a box where they were packed a year ago in a non-ideal fashion. You begin to untangle them and the wires get caught on the bulbs and after a few tries you start to get irritated. We are so used to immediacy nowadays. If anything takes us longer than a moment, we begin to get impatient. Our entire mood changes and we start snapping at people ("I said hold THIS strand!"). We may set out to have a festive family day of decorating, but then whole afternoon gets ruined when the lights don't cooperate.
I was thinking about this this year as I trimmed our tree. As usual, I pulled out the lights and they looked very similar to the above photo (even though I SWEAR I put them away in a very orderly fashion last year). I started to push and pull, thread and unthread the strands. Once I saw I was making it worse I could feel the annoyance creep up. But this year I did something different. I recognized the annoyance. I didn't react on it like in previous years. I saw it coming from a mile away and chose how to react instead of blindly doing so.
I considered what I was doing - untangling Christmas lights. Plural. Hmmm.....That was my problem. I was trying to untangle the entire strand of lights at once. I was the rabbit, trying to save time in the imaginary decorating race by speeding things up. But it wasn't working. So I chose the route of the turtle - slow and steady. I began with just the first light bulb on the strand. Then the next. Then the next. Over and over I did what it took to just untangle the next bulb, not the entire strand of lights. I broke the task up into manageable parts, feeling a sense of accomplishment over every bulb I set free. Slowly, the strand became linear. When I finished there was no annoyance left, just the joy I began the decorating with.
I will remember this lesson for a long time to come. When the task at hand is a bit overwhelming and not able to be accomplished immediately, quickly, use it as an opportunity to grow. Look for ways to quell the negative emotions that come up so you can still think rationally. Break the task into smaller pieces - that gives you more opportunities to feel successful. Concentrate on just the task at hand instead of the larger picture. And most importantly, don't let a silly inanimate object dictate your mood for the rest of the day!