Frustration may be a natural reaction to having our plans interrupted, but it doesn’t serve us at all. A healthier response is to simply embrace reality. This is easy to say, but not as easy to do – particularly when you are awakened at 3:15 a.m. by a chirping smoke alarm.
I had planned on getting a good night’s rest. Instead, I found myself reluctantly crawling out of my cozy bed. Standing in the dark hallway, I tried to discern which of the three nearby alarms had the low battery. Once identified, I grabbed a chair to stand on, resolved the issue, and snuggled back under the covers.
Two hours later, my hopes of falling back asleep weren’t nearly as hopeful. Yet, instead of giving in to frustration, I decided it was a grand opportunity to embrace reality. After all, there’s really no point in frustration. It doesn’t change ‘what is’ or make us feel better. All it does it make us feel worse.
Since I wasn’t about to allow a 9-volt Duracell to ruin my night, I reminded myself smoke alarms save lives. I couldn’t be angry – it was only doing its job. Of course, I would have preferred it let me know it needed a new battery during waking hours, but I can’t control that.
We have a tendency to call this “bad timing,” but even that is a judgment. We’ve only decided it is “bad” because it interferes with our plans. It could be the timing is actually quite perfect.
In my case, unexpected wakefulness in the wee hours of the morning provided the space to think some things through. As a result, I came to the conclusion something I was planning to do, and had even committed to doing, would not be good for me to do. It wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t right for me.
Maybe that’s what the smoke alarm was trying to tell me. Maybe I needed that long, dark night of being alone with my thoughts to come to that realization.
Regardless, embracing reality instead of kicking against it in frustration, is a much gentler and kinder way of relating to our circumstances. It’s also a good reminder we are not in control of the outcome, and life is not out to get us, but to teach us.
Sure, I could preemptively replace my smoke alarm batteries every three months so they’d never chirp in the middle of the night. Or, I could just let go of trying to control everything and go with the flow of whatever happens. As a recovering control freak, going with the flow sounds like the better deal.
When things don’t go the way we want them to go, it’s easy to become frustrated. But when we choose frustration, we kick against the goad and bruise our foot. By choosing to embrace reality, the only thing we bruise is our ego as we submit to the lessons life brings.
Surrender is essential to living a victorious life. Yet, the surrender of embracing reality isn’t about throwing our hands up in defeat. It’s about wrapping them around whatever comes our way, trusting every circumstance is an opportunity for learning. When we choose that way of being, it won’t take a raging fire to get our attention. All it will take is a persistent little chirp in the night.