I was having lunch by myself the other day at the retirement center when a woman sat down across the table and remarked, “You seem like a happy person. Are you?” Well, that’s a conversation starter, I thought. Since I live alone, it’s true, I don’t spend much time arguing with myself. But I suspect even a monk in a cloistered monastery can have his peccadilloes. (See Robert Browning’s, “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”)
If there is one trait about myself I would change if I could, it would be my impatience. Alone, I think myself an amiable character. People are my downfall. Earlier this week, I scuffled with a librarian — something I rarely do as librarians and nuns frighten me. He didn’t want me to touch a book I’d ordered until he’d given me permission. I thought his possessiveness was silly, so I asked why. His reply was uffish, as I should have expected. ”If you want the book, you must to conform to my rules.” I did, not because I am amiable, but because I wanted to read the novel. Like the monk in Browning’s poem, however, I indulged in some hard thoughts, which included imagining the librarian’s screams as he stapled his fingers together.
I should have been ashamed of myself. But the moment of guilt passed quickly and soon, I was my cheerful, vindictive self again.
Jessica Cassity, (“Sunny Side Up,” by Jessica Cassity, Family Circle, May 2015 pg. 100) offers advice to those, like me, who want what they want when they want it. Whenever she’s feeling impatient, she reframes the situation in her mind’s eye. If, for example, she’s had a long wait in the doctor’s office, instead of growling at the clock, she imagines the healer is tending to the wounds of a patient near death. Her charity kicks in and her impatience evaporates. Over time, she assures her readers, “this practice trains your mind to switch from a pessimistic-explanatory style to an opportunistic one.” (Ibid pg.100)
Cassity’s suggestion strikes me as a teensy bit simplistic but reframing a situation in the mind’s eye is advice not entirely wasted on me, because it marshals me in a direction I’ve already taken. The next time I and the uffish librarian meet, I shall imagine a horde of sticky-fingered children rampaging through all the pages of all his books while he stands, helpless, chained to a book cart. Yes, that’s a scenario I’m sure will paint a smile on my lips.