It started, like many things do, with a pair of misplaced shoes.
Last weekend, our house devolved into a pit of yelling and blaming and annoyance over a pair of ripped up trainers. My usually-calm husband was attempting to hustle his kids out the door and in the manner of children everywhere, they were Taking For Actual Ever. They had to stop and talk to/about the dog. They had to argue about which jackets they were wearing. They had to look for their shoes and fail to find them.
My husband – in the manner of parents everywhere – grew increasingly annoyed and hustled them more. The boys did not appreciate said hustling and matched his annoyance tit for tat. OH YOU WANT TO YELL COOL I CAN ALSO YELL.
Cut to later that night. Kenny and I are heading to a potluck and have reached an impasse. I think we only need to bring one dish; we’re representing one household. He thinks we should bring two dishes because we’re two people. I’m annoyed at him; he’s taking too long and making this too complicated.
Shockingly enough, he’s annoyed with little ol’ me because I’m rushing him and trying to deny him his god-given right to win a potluck with his cheese dip.
Most of us probably feel annoyed more than we’d like. But in the grand scheme of negative emotions, annoyance isn’t that bad, right? It can’t hold a candle to unsupported or ignored. It’s not the same as feeling unloved, disrespected, or disappointed. It’s a low-grade, tickle-in-your-throat, chronic sort of emotion.
I think if we’re really honest with ourselves, our annoyance isn’t so much a feeling as a belief – the belief that we know better. Annoyance usually happens when things aren’t going quite how we’d like, people aren’t doing things quite the way they ‘should’, and wouldn’t life go a lot smoother if everyone just did things our way?
It’s not particularly fun to feel constantly annoyed, to regularly get angry and wound up over tiny, silly things. I like myself least when I’m annoyed about something I know is petty and unimportant. I feel like a 1950s cartoon version of a woman, complaining about something inconsequential.
“That bum of a husband! I tell you! He can’t put his shoes away to save his life!” <- imagine a drawing of me with curlers in my hair, holding a martini glass and talking on a landline telephone that has a curly cord.
Here’s the thing: Feeling annoyed is a two-way street.
If I’m annoyed that you didn’t deliver the project the way I wanted,
you’re probably annoyed that I gave you vague guidance and very little help.
If I’m annoyed that you failed to plan one aspect of our trip,
you’re probably annoyed that I’m micromanaging everything and sucking the spontaneity out of the entire country of Spain.
If I’m annoyed with you for not emptying out the dishwasher immediately,
you’re probably annoyed with me for expecting everything, ever to happen on my timeline.
If I’m annoyed with you for making the same “bad life choice” over and over again,
you’re probably annoyed with me for being a Judgey So-and-So who thinks she knows which choices you should be making.
So now I am trying (with varying degrees of success) to remember that when I’m annoyed with someone, they’re probably at least as annoyed at me. My way is, in fact, not the only way. My timeline? Not the only timeline. My approach/mindset/worldview? NOT THE ONLY WAY TO DO THINGS.
Being annoyed is probably the universal habit that unites all humans that aren’t Buddhist monks. But taking a moment to consider someone’s polar opposite perspective can give us empathy and dig us out of our tunnel-vision bad moods.
(even if they make you late for the potluck because they’re making cheese dip.)
Are you easily annoyed? How do you get out of those moods?