How can we live our best lives in the face of seeming adversity and still think about raising our joy quotient?
One way is to think about how we relate to less than ideal interpersonal situations. If we’re not harboring unrealistic expectations about others, it will hopefully make us healthier and happier, lighter and brighter…and that my friends, will hopefully up the joy quotient in our lives!
As individuals, we often want to be able to accept and/or forgive others and we want things to be “made right” when they don’t feel so hot. It would be a wonderful world if that could always happen, but most of the time people are just who they are and “we can’t always get what we want,” to paraphrase the Rolling Stones! And in the end, not stressing and accepting, when possible, is a better reward when it comes down to it anyway. Most people I know would not turn down a mind full of more calm (which means less negative energy!)
When I’m having a difficult time in my mind with someone or something, I tell myself they’re like, “Project Calm for my Mind,” which is usually anything, but calm, while I’m cogitating on it! The aim, however, is to become a more calm, gentle and peaceful person.
The Hardware Store Doesn’t Sell Bread
I often and for years have said to myself that, “the hardware store doesn’t sell bread.” The hardware store meaning whomever you want to be what they are not. The hardware store doesn’t sell bread or milk or dairy or butter. It just sells hardware. And jeepers, sometimes that’s annoying and I need to continually remind myself of that.
Simply recognizing that the hardware store person or hardware store people only sell “hardware” means I am less inclined to be riled up when I see their actions weren’t personal to me or others they may have annoyed or hurt. It is more about accepting than forgiving or approving of the behavior(s) exhibited. There are many people with whom we encounter in our daily lives who may not have any further skill sets than they currently exhibit. These people run the gamut from close friends or relatives to people whom you work with or interact with in everyday interactions.
At some point, I realized that every time I went into the “hardware store” of talking to a certain person, I would get whacked on the head by a hammer. And then one day I was like, “ouch,” and “yeah, that’s right, they only sell hammers and nails and screws.” There was a kind of sad, almost mourning piece to it that can best be described as my realizing that was all I might ever get in a relationship with them. But after that, I got better about remembering not to go into the hardware store asking for bread or milk or dairy. I started going to other stores/other people in my life whom I knew and loved and realized, “hey yeah, they sell the bread and the milk I was looking for. Wow.” And in the end, it improved things a lot in my life to not keep asking for things from people who are not able to give them. It was both growth and a relief! I was less annoyed and bent and it brought me more calm.
For umpty-million years, I’ve been using this hardware store analogy and then a friend called to tell me that she read this story about the long-ago Navardok yeshiva in Europe and how they would make the yeshiva students go out and do a test of something to strengthen them to keep their resolve and stay strong in their own path in the face of meeting adversities in life. One such strengthening exercise they gave their students was to send these same students to go, for example, to a hardware store and ask for something that wasn’t sold there, like bread.
This supposedly strengthened the students to do the right thing even when others, in the store or community, might ridicule them or treat them like fools. It was seen as a way to strengthen and shore up the students’ own faith and trust muscles. The goal was to teach these students to be strong in who they were and to not get floored by anyone or anything, except for what they held to be true inside. For us today, holding on to who you are in the midst of adversity or hardware store people is a test. Coming out mindful and calm and not floored is a big success and can lead to feeling stronger in who we are as individuals and more in touch with creating our own joys in relationships and how we relate to those around us.
I have also heard that the phrase, “the hardware store doesn’t sell bread,” originated in Alcoholics Anonymous and in AA support counseling. Regardless of its origin, accepting that someone else is difficult for you and you’re trying to interact with them the best you can may add more space and ideally, some acceptance of things you cannot change. Regardless of who a difficult person is or was, and whether they are a loved one or another person who can’t give (or never could give) us what we want emotionally, is big. When WE react differently to what this person has available to “sell,” then this other person stops being the arbiter of our own internal calm and joy. Understanding that the person from whom we may have wanted a slice of bread can only offer us hammers allows us to stop being frustrated with trying to get unavailable merchandise.
At some level, all people, no matter their age, want bread and milk and dairy from the ones they love, their loved ones especially, but sometimes those people simply don’t stock this bread and milk and dairy. A friend told me she was upset that her Mother was still pushing all of her buttons and trying to trick her into doing something, and she’s still playing the same games she played for 75 years,” but then she acknowledged that her Mom hasn’t changed. “She, ” the Mom, still sells the same screwdrivers and wrenches and my friend, as her kid, still wants eggs and butter or bread and milk and dairy. That hardware store of her widowed Mother doesn’t have a refrigerator section!
I once spent an entire year repeating a few phrases to myself over and over. One was, “people carry a lot,” and the other was, “the world is as big or as small as you make it.” Everyone we know and meet carries a lot in their heart and the world is still always as big or as small as you make it. Knowing what you can and can’t get from others helps lighten the load carried and keeps you truer to staying strong in who you are and connecting the best you can with everyone who comes into your life.
Knowing that lightens the load to make way for joy…in whatever form “Internal Joy” means to YOU! How do you lighten the load in your life and make way for increased calm and joy? And/or how do you turn those oy’s into joys? Email [email protected] and let me know!