My life is perfect. I am blessed in so many ways. And yet I focus so much and so unnecessarily on the one thing that is not so perfect in my life. My neighbors smoke. A lot. All the time. Constantly. Which is their business, and they have a right to. But every time they smoke it comes into my house. I choose not to smoke. I don’t want it in my house. I don’t want it in my lungs.
Lately I have become obsessed with their smoking. I was as addicted to the irritation of them smoking as much as they are addicted to the nicotine. I was making myself very unhappy by constantly retelling myself about the injustice of them affecting my life negatively. I told myself I could not be happy until they stopped smoking. All day long I work in my home office and have to deal with their smoking. I felt justified in being angry. My wake-up call was when I came home after a beautiful walk with my dog through the local mountain trails and my husband saw the anger and upset on my face. When asked what was wrong, I talked about the smokers. Their smoke may be in my house, but I took my indignation about their smoking on my walk. I was making my life unpleasant even when I was not being directly affected. It was time to choose differently.
We have a responsibility to speak up
Much of my anger came from the belief that they were doing this purposefully to me. I assumed that my life and my experience should be the first thing on their minds. False. Most of the time people hurt us, they have no idea they are hurting us and feel justified themselves in their actions because they are doing what they need for themselves. We all go through life this way. Even though I pride myself in thinking of how my actions may affect others, and sometimes see this belief going too far into the role of martyr, I still do not really know how my actions affect others. I am using my own filter, my own perception. We can never know how another is affected unless they tell us.
My first mistake was waiting way too long to tell my neighbors that their actions were affecting me. We can not expect change unless we make a change. If I don’t admit to others how their actions affect me, nothing will change. If we don’t speak up about injustice, injustice will still happen. If we don’t make a change, change can not happen. Look at your resentments, discomforts, and how you may be harmed right now. Have you shared this with anyone? Have you shared it with the other party affected? Have you changed how you act or react in the situation? If you have not, then expect the same scenario to play again and again. It did for me until I spoke up.
We can’t change others
Speaking up does not mean that our needs will be met. The other person may not be capable or willing to provide us with what we want. We can not demand that others will act or be differently. We can not make anyone do what we want them to do. What we can do is change ourselves. We can change how we act and react to others and the situation. In my case, the smokers still smoke but I have placed a fan in my window to keep the smoke from coming into my house. It has not solved the entire problem, but it has definitely made it better.
We can choose our experience
Whether my neighbors stop smoking, whether my fan works or not, none of this matters. What changes the experience most for me is how I think about it. If I continue to dwell on the inconsideration and injustice of the situation, I will continue to feel victimized and filled with self-righteous anger. Instead, I have chosen to embrace my power in my voice and in my actions. I have made my needs know. I have made changes to my circumstances in buying a fan and may invest in an air purifier. I consciously choose to celebrate and enjoy the clean air available to me when I am not at home. Most importantly, I embrace the calm and peace I want to experience, and as much as I can, I keep my anger at bay.
Where in your life do you need to acknowledge that your needs are not being met? Where do you need to use your voice to make your needs known? Can you stop expecting someone else to change and instead make changes to your actions and reactions? Can you embrace your ability to experience different?