I’ve been at a loss recently in regards to my own behaviour when approaching a painting project in my complex. Correspondence on this issue has taken up much of my down time, and I’ve had this churning, dreaded feeling in my stomach every time I open my personal emails.
While I should know better because of my profession, I am just realising yet again that aspects of a situation can draw out undesirable characteristics in anybody. If an environment is tense and antagonistic, I find myself drawn to respond in kind. Shooting back a terse email is automatic and requires little effort at all when I am angry.
When my brother-in-law visited yesterday, he commented that my approach to life’s challenges seemed very relaxed and open. His words made me think about the life I like to lead and the approach I like to take when solving problems. This led to the realization that I had not been acting this way in terms of the painting project, and it was actually my response in the situation that had led to my despair.
While it is difficult to read disagreeable emails, I realised that my prolonged distress had more to do with my unhappiness in my own behaviour. Somehow, my behaviour had become so incongruent with my values that I hardly recognised myself in these emails. The distress at having to respond to these emails did not come from the problems being insurmountable (I am of the fatally optimistic mindset that no problem is insurmountable), it was because the emails brought out the worst in me.
Now that I know this, I am trying to keep my values in mind when responding to the emails. I want to be open, collaborative, and solution focused. Today when I responded to the string of emails with my values in mind, I found that I could breathe a little easier and my stomach didn’t churn as much. Nothing in the situation has changed, but I am better able to endorse my current behaviour, which makes it easier to sit in my own skin.
Of course, the flip side of this is that some situations in life really are toxic and we might do well to remove ourselves from the situation when we can. I am certainly not going to participate in projects of this sort again in the near future. Life’s too short!