I remember the day well. I was sitting in the chapel next to my oldest who was dressed in white, about to get baptized. And I was livid. Absolutely furious. This was supposed to be a huge, wonderful day in our family and I was seething to the point that I could barely see straight. Not because of the upcoming baptism. But because, once again, certain family members were late. Late to the point that they were going to miss it.
These family members were always late. Late to everything. It didn’t matter if I told them an event started an hour earlier than it really did. They would be late. They would be late to holidays, family reunions, parties, activities. They would be late to events that they were in charge of. It drove me so crazy that I would get to the point that I couldn’t even enjoy the party, holiday or reunion. It would take me hours to come off the ledge.
I considered them the most rude, disrespectful and completely uncouth people I knew. I told myself a whole story about how these people didn’t care about us at all. That if they had any sense of decency as human beings they would be on time. How they must be beyond lazy or just totally self-absorbed to not realize that their actions were inconvenient to others. Judgmental, much?
Here’s the deal as I have come to see it as a more rational adult. Them being late was 100% MY problem. It was my problem because I tied my emotional well-being to their behavior. I let myself get into a state of absolute rage because they weren’t following MY script for how adults in my family should act.
But guess what? I don’t actually have any say about how adults get to act. Adults get to do whatever they want. Crazy, huh?
When people don’t do what we think they should, we tend to create a negative story around it and then let our emotions run wild around that story. A friend doesn’t call you back. Suddenly you are depressed because you just know they must hate you. Or your adult child leaves the religion of their youth. Suddenly you are devastated and trying desperately to save their soul because you feel as if you must be the world’s worst parent and that you failed this child miserably.
Your thoughts create your feelings. So you are responsible for your feelings. When you blame your feelings on someone else’s actions, you are not taking responsibility for those feelings. I’m not claiming that separating your feelings from other people’s actions is remotely easy. It’s not easy at all. But the more you can learn to do this, the more peace and happiness you will see flowing into your life. Release your desire to control those around you. Let go of the script you have decided that everyone needs to follow. Let people be who they are and never, ever let your life or emotions or mental health be dependent on anyone else’s behavior. As you practice this, you will see your life change dramatically.
Do I still get annoyed when people are late? Um…absolutely! I still tell myself negative stories about why people are late and what that must say about me. But I work every day on being aware of when my emotions are dependent on someone else’s behavior and I try really, really hard on a daily basis to reclaim my responsibility for my own happiness. Because I need the peace it brings into my life.