Yesterday turned out to be one of those longer days at work than expected for several reasons. Some of these were within my control and some not (how easy it is for us to act as if all our delays are outside our control and share our anger with the world!) But all told I was a little frustrated that I was leaving the office so much later than I wanted. To top it all off I had to stop at the shops to buy food and fuel on my journey home. Often I will try and put this off after a long day but yesterday I really had to: the car simply would not have got me home!
Why is it that whenever you really, really want to be somewhere it feels that everything is working against you to keep you from getting there? So it was that I joined the inevitable queue of ten people at the checkout and was doing well on the “keeping calm” stakes for the first few customers, but (and I am ashamed to admit this) my limited peace reserves slowly started to drain away as all the things I could have been doing with this time flooded my thoughts, dragging my emotions away with it. Even before I had time to notice what was going on I had allowed myself to spiral into a state of complete irritation with the checkout guy (so sorry if this was you and had to watch my grumpy face at the counter) and everyone in front of me. Why couldn’t they have paid in cash, without store-cards, without vouchers? Why are they all so incapable of packing their shopping away quickly? Why do I have to be stuck at the back of this enormous queue anyway?
Of course I had to show them how it was done and proceeded to pack my shopping at a ridiculous rate of knots, flick my cards through the machine as fast as possible (failing miserably as I was then ahead of the checkout guy so only had to repeat the exercise) and practically flounced out of the store. I will just stop to caveat that I was outwardly very polite and smiled just enough to not be rude to those around me. Inside however was a different story – just under the surface I was heading towards boiling point.
I played at dodging every person trying to come into the store and barely minutes later made it across to the petrol pumps – thankfully managing to find a free space without queuing at all. Standing next to my car it suddenly dawned on me that I had completely isolated myself from everyone around me. I had tuned out the sounds, turned off my “people radar” and was so absorbed in my own irritations and frustrations of the day that I was totally incapable of noticing the real world. I was so not in a place to be able to keep up my resolution of sorts to live in the moment. Something needed to change.
It sounds very clichéd but I really did just begin to notice the breeze on my skin, the noise of the car doors opening and closing and the chatter around the pumps. As I did so I became aware of a man and his family filling up at the pump next to me. I have no idea how I had failed to notice them before – they were all smiles and full of enthusiasm for life. The young boy was so thrilled to be helping the man fill up their car and they were good-naturedly joking constantly as they filled the tank. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as they continued and eventually the jokes were being made in part for my benefit and to see if they could keep making me laugh. The banter and chat carried on as we talked in the payment queue and the whole exchange ended with the broad-smiling boy waving to me as I drove away.
What a wonderful moment I would have missed if I had focussed solely on my task of getting home. Without taking note of the reminder to make the most of living RIGHT NOW, I would never have noticed their family and never have had the chance of sharing that wonderfully touching exchange.
My challenge to you today is to try and be aware of sounds, smells, sights, people and things around you – don’t let your focus on tasks drag you down so far that you can’t stop and savour the little moments that life sends our way. There are so many more of these moments just waiting for us to stop and notice.
Oh, and next time I go shopping – maybe I will put a book in my bag to read, just in case.