We are often making choices in the face of inaccurate perceptions, making it all the more important to choose wisely. The frequent temptation is to give in to the knee jerk reaction that we think will make us feel better in the short term, without calculating the long-term repercussions.
My personal weakness is to argue with my husband. The other day he was watchingNarcos on full blast. The deafening noises of violence came pulsing from the living room across the whole apartment. It felt like a personal affront to be subjected to that racket. How could he be so selfish? To make matters worse, he had turned on the television before the children were in bed. We have a strict no-weekday TV policy for our children, so I thought the very least he could do was wait until after bedtime. I was ready to yell at him, but I needed to tuck the children in first. As I entered my son's bedroom, I rolled my eyes from the indignation that I felt we were suffering together. I threw up my hands and proclaimed that my husband was deaf. My son looked at me with a knowing smile, as if to say, "He's not doing that to annoy you." I had expected him to commiserate with me and chime in with my complaints. But he gently defended his father, pointing out that he watches TV like that because he really is unable to hear.
I felt sheepish that my son saw my misperception so clearly. He illuminated the absurdity of the situation. My husband is obviously not hatching a grand scheme to annoy me by turning up the volume of the television set. He just loves to watch a show, unwind from a long day at work, and be immersed in the make-believe world on the screen. No matter that the show is not in English, that he follows it by reading subtitles, and that he could have watched it on mute. The viewing experience is enhanced when he turns up the volume and drops into that surround-sound feel of the menacing special effects. I can now admit that I should not feel offended that he cannot hear. The simple facts are that we each have our own myopic view. He is focused around not hearing, while I am focused around the volume being too loud.
Almost nothing is intended as a personal insult or slight against us because we are all primarily preoccupied with our own troubles and joys. In this light, it is easier to live and let live. The practice of observing instead of acting is softened with a smile or outright laughter. Is it ridiculous to let the sounds of murderous drug dealers boom across the living room? Why not? Who cares? Let him be lost in the show. I am free to choose, to escape to my office and enjoy a quiet activity behind closed doors. I determine to let this be something that is like water running off my back.
We can accomplish this habit of compassionate detachment with regular exercise. Like simply noticing your thoughts in meditation, you can also let the things you see and hear pass by. Feeling connected becomes increasingly possible when fewer and fewer things are bothersome. Go deeply inside to tap into your source of wisdom and calm. Let the blaring TV recede into the background.
Mila Atmos is a columnist whose work has been featured by The Huffington Post, Quartz, and Medium.
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