So, you’re driving home after work; you’ve got a meal to cook on arrival, people coming over for dinner and you’re feeling the heat of the whole situation. ‘Once I get home, I’ll be fine...’ you think. ‘Just got to get there first…’ the worry fills you up. Like a kettle, you start to boil. The pleasurable music on the radio becomes an irrational nuisance. There’s a red light up ahead, only the THIRD IN A ROW! Is there something out to get you today? Of all days? Then, the unthinkable. Some absolute dim-witted lunatic completely slows down in front of you; confused whether to turn at the next intersection or not. But seriously? “IT'S A 60 ZONE, NOT 35!” you furiously broadcast, as if this will somehow make you feel better about the three seconds you’ve just lost.
I’m sure we can all relate to this highly-strung episode of negative rage. We all do it. To connect to the present, we find those three seconds meaningless. As humans in western society, research suggests we spend seven-fold more time in a state of negative thought than positive or neutral. So, to understand fully how to move away from this cycle of negativity, let’s first check out four funny situations of ‘disproportionate inconvenience’ we can completely resonate with.
1. The airport baggage carousel. Now I sense you’re already chuckling. We all know this one way too much! My brother is a classic victim to this ‘disproportionate inconvenience’. He fills with rage, takes his phone out and actually films this madness to prove to his audience just how ‘crazy’ this is. He then takes to his social media platform to show how serious this misdemeanour is. “Retards!” he captions his video as passengers crowd around the conveyor belt, desperately searching for their long-lost checked luggage. Meanwhile, those filed five and six deep can barely catch a glimpse of the lonely suitcase awaiting its rendezvous. They make a point of shaking your head dramatically as they squish past the cluster of strangers to collect your bag. They head for the exit and fume over the moronic act and waste more energy than it was ever worth thinking about how you’ve been violated.
LOST TIME TOTAL: two seconds.
2. The overfilled bin.Whether it be your sibling, partner or other, whoever put the last scrap on the top of the pile should hang down their head in shame! What were they thinking? How dare they inconvenience everyone by leaving a trash-filled bin for me to have to clean up. As if you didn’t contribute one small bit, and obliged to play the world’s victim, you begin to clean up everyone else’s crap! Oh great. The potato peel and eggshells are now falling on the floor around the bin, meaning you’re having to spend excess time now going above and beyond. And what's that gunk starting to slime its way across fingers and up your wrist.
LOST TIME TOTAL: fifty-two seconds.
3. Empty butter container.It’s snack time and a golden crispy slice of toast should amply suffice. More than suffice, you start to smell the sensation that fills the air. ‘Pure bliss’, and your stomach grumbles from below. In anticipation, you prepare the plate and make for the fridge to get the final piece to your treaty puzzle. A cool breeze greets your inquisitive eyes. As a gift from above, the butter presents itself on the top shelf. Your outreached hand first questions an irregularity, then your brain clicks into gear. The coolness turns your heart to ice and your afternoon, in one small moment, ruined. 'What sort of lazy (or crazy) fool puts the empty butter back into fridge?,' you question. Logic tells you probably the same jerk who saw that the bin was too full to place it in there!
LOST TIME TOTAL: one minute, three seconds.
4. “Who peed on the seat?” You’re busting! Off you trot to the Jon when it stabs you in the eye. It’s the last thing you ever needed, but at this moment, of all the moments? Doing doodoo in public is never an act you openly engage in but when you’re desperate, it’s just gotta’ happen. If you weren’t already demoralised from the experience, then cleaning up after a grotty stranger from a time gone by is almost unbearable. The rage that engulfs your mood now enters overdrive. ‘Imagine if someone sees me cleaning a random’s pee’, you think. Grimacing your teeth whilst wrapping an inundation of toilet paper around your palm, you begin to wipe the loo seat. Oh, the shame. Just for good riddance, you layer the seat with excess tickets to cushion your embarrassing visit.
LOST TIME TOTAL: one minute twenty -eight seconds.
Society, according to a Harvard study, conducted by Steve Brandt, spends 46.9% of their waking time thinking about “what isn’t going on”. We struggle to live in the ‘now’ and let’s face it, we do it 100% of the time. Is it too harsh a reality that we need to live in a time already played out or of dreams of future perfection? Well, Brandt ha revealed, this practice is making us unhappier. So, when we actually spend time in the present, it's in a constant state of negativity. The now is filled with positivity, everywhere, we just have to make the choice to find it. Ok, cleaning up after someone grotty isn’t ideal nor is getting held up when you’re late. But to think of the total time lost from the above scenarios, we can see quite clearly, it is not the end of the world. Maybe the person lost in traffic requires a quick u-turn for some unforeseen emergency. They possibly need those three seconds more than us. If we think about the goodness that comes from helping others, the other virtues which arise from having the ‘horrible’ scenes above play out may just make us a little happier. Empathy, care and love. Practice floating in the other half of the empty glass.
Finally, to finish on, I hopped into my car recently, wife in the passenger seat and two-year-old daughter in the back. We come to a traffic light and the little one from behind calls out, “c’mon Grandma!” clearly replaying scenario number one which had taken place with Mum the day before. Her ensuing giggles joined the chorus of chuckles from the front seat and reminded all of us the present moment, filled smiles are 100% a gift.