It’s an inconvenience, not a catastrophe

The love for my fellow man was stolen from me earlier this week. The affectionate heart that warmly embraced friends and strangers alike was slammed shut. My genial smile was gone, replaced with a cynical sneer.

I was having lunch with my wife at a restaurant in the loop. Her stylish, leather backpack was on the chair next to her and I was seated across the table. A man came in and sat at the adjoining table. I took notice of him because he did not seem particularly interested in ordering anything. A few minutes passed. Arlene and I were enjoying lunch, chatting away. I saw the man hurrying out the door of the restaurant. Again, it was unusual but I had only a fleeting moment of curiosity rather than suspicion. A minute later Arlene, startled and perturbed, blurted “My backpack, where’s my backpack?”

I was beside myself for not having the foresight to put two and two together. Fuming, I ran out to the street looking for the perp. But he was gone. Of course we sprang into action and called the police (a big ho hum), the bank and the credit card companies - only minutes had passed but already he had charged $700 at a nearby Macy’s.

Arlene was angry but stoic. She put things in perspective. “It’s an inconvenience, not a catastrophe.”

My brain agreed. The house was not burned down and we were not harmed.

But I still was seething. I wanted revenge, a gruesome Tomás de Torquemada revenge, Spanish Inquisition style, lashing the thief to the strappado and hanging him by his wrists until his arms dislocated.
Now that is one crazy rant from a supposedly civilized adult. But I can’t deny the angry feelings that overtook me. And I better look closely at them so I can leave them behind.
I’m sufficiently self-aware to recognize that the event by itself was more of a trigger than tragedy. My assignment is to get past the wild-eyed indignation that resulted.
I start by refusing to be a victim. Otherwise the thief gets a lot more than cash and credit cards; he steals my power; thwarts my capacity to come down on the side of love when it is desperately needed in a world where cruelty often commandeers compassion. Having the backpack swiped was an unpleasant occurrence, but it happened; I can’t change the outcome. And I won’t let it change my outlook on life.
I allow myself to fully acknowledge my feelings, the frustration and anger. Then I let the feelings go (not easy, but ultimately doable). I accept the reality of what happened. Otherwise my happiness is controlled by the event!
Then I make a list of what’s needed to restore normalcy and I get busy doing it: practical chores such as making new keys and changing credit cards on seemingly a zillion web sites; breathing exercises to connect with my spiritual wellspring; meditation to guide me back to being calm, rational and loving.

And grateful - the house was not burned down and we were not harmed.

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