You ask your spouse to remember to pick up flowers for your mother. As it is her birthday, this is extremely important to you. He forgets, just like always. This is not unusual and yet you still feel very upset. Your response is: he makes me so A-N-G-R-Y!
Your child or niece or nephew breaks a vase that is a reminder of your late aunt. This object meant the world to you and you have told everyone to be careful. Your spouse or parent tells you to stay calm and that it is not a big deal. Your internal monologue runs along these lines: “You don’t know what that kid did! I just want to cry and rave and rant! That kid! I could just S-C-R-E-A-M!”
Your boss refuses to recognise all the effort and extra hours you’ve been putting in at work. He never acknowledges the assignments you’ve slaved on. Your mind screams, “This sucks! I should quit tomorrow. I H-A-T-E this job!”
Recognise any of these situations? In each one of them, something or someone is controlling (or trying to control) what you think or how you feel. Why would you allow yourself to become an emotional hostage to other people and their behaviour?
This past Ramazan I hosted a show on PTV called Rooh-e-Ramazan. My schedule was completely nuts. I worked 30 days straight from 1 pm to 8 pm, with no break in between. I had to stand for hours on end and the air conditioning tended to conk out every few minutes. By the seventh day, I was exhausted and cranky to a point where I had to be reminded to smile for the camera.
My friend Chef Shai was working with me on the Ramazan transmission. Despite spending her time in a hot and stuffy kitchen, she always had a smile on her face and exuded great energy. She never looked irritated or angry.
One day I mustered up the courage to ask her how she did it. Didn’t she feel the heat and the stress? Wasn’t she exhausted?
Her reply was simple but profound. “Oh I feel it,” she said. “But mind over matter, my darling! We signed up for this transmission by choice and we are professionals. So we might as well get through it with a smile on our faces.” Wow! How’s that for food for thought? I did a serious attitude adjustment that very second. No more being moody or cranky, I told myself. And you know what, it worked.
Please understand though that not being at the mercy of your emotions is very different from not feeling anything. Feelings come and go with alarming regularity. This is the reality of our existence and, by the way, perfectly normal. One day your child has received a straight As report card and you’ve gotten a much-deserved promotion. The next minute you receive a phone call saying your car has been stolen or a loved one has died. Up and down we all go, hostages stuck on an emotional roller coaster.
But while you cannot stop yourself from feeling emotions, what you can control is how you react to those emotions. The ‘real’ truth is that you and only YOU decide how you will feel and react in any given situation. So I say, carpe diem! Let’s seize the day and take control of our lives.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2014.
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