This morning, I received a text from one of the contractors who I'd hired for a job. "I'll be there shortly," it said. Hours later, when he still hadn't shown up, I began to feel pissed off. Grumbling led to my imagining how I might tell him off when he showed up. Because, this wasn't the first time this had happened. In fact, after I hired him 3 weeks ago, it happened often. If it wasn't mechanical issues, it was some other emergency mishap. He was under the gun with other commitments he had to keep, missing keys, personal drama, the weather etc.
To add complication, he was likable. My response wavered between impatience and compassion. I realize "things happen" but the situation was scattered. It was often how I feel with people who seem to be running "a day late and a dollar short." There's a frustration that comes from interacting with too much chaos. His life appeared to be cobbled together with masking tape and bubble gum!
So, the job kept getting put off, day after day with various excuses. Promise after promise. Ridiculous! So when I got THIS text, I was fuming. This guy clearly doesn't have his shit together!
But as I was judging him, I was also aware of times when my own chaotic behavior disrupted my success. I'm talking about my twenties, when I was just trying to learn how to navigate the adult world of responsibility. Although I wouldn't say my life was a series of disasters, the path I travelled was littered with snippets of chaos, poor judgment, and ineptitude. I'm sure I disappointed quite a few people just by not meeting their expectations. My worst habit was being chronically late, or barely there on time. I was always ashamed about doing things at the last minute, and pretty much keeping my head above water with commitments. Just like this guy.
I felt shame about those times where I was too frazzled to show up and do things better. But the person I really let down was me.
Here's what I noticed: although I'd matured, I never really forgave myself for my youthful behavior. I thought I had, until this contractor-without-his-shit-together crossed my path. Then, I felt the frustration build as I watched how he was doing things. He was letting himself down. He was messing things up! And who was he reminding me of? ME. A younger me, true, but I recognized myself in his display. And, it was less about the job not getting done, and more about the behavior itself. I found this very illuminating.
Unfinished business with our younger selves shows up as irritation, pain, disappointment in our present. Of course, unfinished stuff can be positive too. We can have something wonderful that began at one point and then shows up later to remind us of its wonderful-ness in present time! But how many people are we irritated with who present behaviors we've had ourselves and still can't forgive?
If you want to go deeper, consider that we all have reasons for our behavior. Sometimes we are so depleted and stressed that we really can't show up and be our best! When I look back, often that was part of my reason for being scattered, and it probably was true of the contractor, too. Deepest layer: there are no screw-ups, just awareness!
HOW to STOP the IRRITATION and Integrate what it Means to You:
1. Decide what it is the bugs you most. In my case, it was the feeling of someone not showing up for me.
2. Say, "Everywhere I've done that behavior or been that energy, I now destroy and uncreate all judgment on myself!"
3. It will ripple out to those people that seem to embody what irritates you most. And may even change em. But at the very least, doing this will release the charge you carry on your own imperfections.
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