Smile and feel your anger slink away!
Most of us get irritated with the small stuff. And it is how we deal with the small stuff that defines how we deal with the big stuff in our lives. Small stuff are the everyday irritants __ a flat tyre, a delayed flight, your smart phone or your computer hanging, an endless, boring, listless meeting, someone jumping the queue in which you are standing! All of these, and several more, punctuate our daily lives with alarming frequency. And each time we lose our temper or even feel irritated, we are losing that many more seconds, minutes, hours and days of our Life to stuff that won’t matter at all in the long run!
Yesterday, a young, talented musician taught me an important lesson in how to deal with such small stuff. We were at a Carnatic music concert by the gifted artiste, whom The Hindu calls, Junior M Balamuralikrishna (so that he is not confused with the maestro and Padma Vibhushan awardee who goes by the same name). He was outstanding. I don’t follow the nuances of Carnatic music the way connoisseurs do, but I do know that there is a thing called concert etiquette. This, I believe, is to be normally adhered to by both organizers and audiences. Yesterday’s concert was organized to celebrate the 30th wedding anniversary of a couple we know very well. So, even as the concert was on, several late comers, walked up to the couple seated in the front row to greet them. Flowers were given, hugs were exchanged and wishes showered. Clearly the occasion’s spirit dwarfed the concert brilliance. Impolitely so too. Yet the artiste, Junior Balamuralikrishna, went on singing. What intrigued me was that he smiled each time he found the activity in front of him distractive or disturbing. I found it strange the first few times that he did it. So I thought it to be a coincidence. But, as I started to observe him closely, I discovered that there was a pattern to his smiling. He sang, I assume, flawlessly, immersed in his own joy of being able to create such divine music. And he smiled only when he felt disturbed or, if I have read his mind correctly, when he was irritated. As the concert progressed, something even more bizarre happened. The audio system at the venue acted up and at regular intervals started to give a shrill, shocking feedback through its speakers. I am sure any other artiste would have lost it for the number times this happened. But Junior Balamuralikrishna simply smiled each time, still singing! Then someone insensitively, perhaps inadvertently too, dropped a stainless steel tumbler. The tumbler landed on the ground a few times, before someone grabbed it, and in that time it was such a jarring interruption. Everyone in the audience turned in the direction of the sound. But not Junior Balamuralikrishna. His smile only got wider and I could see the wonder in his eyes! He went on singing. But if I could have read his smile this time, it was saying: “Wow! Now, that’s interesting!” It was a beautiful, humbling and educative experience to watch this young man systematically turn sources of intense irritation into sources of amusement, wonder and amazement.
After the concert, I caught up with him. And asked him how he managed to smile every time he could have chosen to react with anger, provoked by the irritants. He replied, smiling, “I have been singing for 18 years now. I can’t let these (irritants) come in the way of my singing.”
The lesson for me was simple: don’t ever let any irritant interfere with your living, your Life, fully! And there’s a simple way to define an irritant, the small stuff, and differentiate it from a problem or a challenge. I think it was ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ author Richard Carlson who said that an irritant very simply is stuff that you will not remember at all a year from now. When you employ this criteria, more than 80 % of stuff that irritate you, bug you, bother you, worry you and clutter your mindspace, will fall in that IGNORE and SMILE bucket. Learn to smile at them rather than be enslaved by them! Only then will you live a fuller, meaningful and trouble-free Life! Besides, when you learn to smile at these daily irritants, your ability to deal with the remaining 20 % __ Life’s really big challenges__goes up phenomenally. (There’s way to deal with the big stuff too in Life. But that’s matter for another post, another day!) Even so, it surely makes sense using your available energy in fixing the big stuff in Life than frittering it all away on non-meaningful, unproductive things! Doesn’t it?