Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Three Stooges and first world problems

I read somewhere recently on the Interwebs some poor soul complaining of her (or his) distress over hearing the term first world problem applied to their complaint about someone cutting in line at the Starbucks, ending up in a bad seat at the movie, or rage over a poorly executed haircut. They felt as if the depth of their gut-wrenching waiting-too-long-for-my-latte tragedy was somehow demeaned by referring to it as a "first world problem". As if their pain wasn't real and important.

I'll tell you a secret. Although these situations may very well cause pain they are not "problems", first world or otherwise, they are irritations. If we always expect and even anticipate rudeness, the "hateful" look, the snarly service, we'll find it, but in reality what we are seeing is our own irritation reflected back to us. The biggest "first world problem" is that we are so self-centered that we can't see anything in the people around us except what is in us

Lots of people in the so-called "first world" have problems, but those named above are not among them. If you have terminal cancer, you have a problem. Life becomes very precious when you are told you have a limited time left with those you love.

If your nine-year-old has been hit by a drunken driver and is lying in an ICU on life support, you have a problem. Or, if you are like a young couple here, blessed with beautiful identical triplets, and all three diagnosed at two weeks with neuroblastoma, cancer of the retina. How do you cope with making the decision to have your babies' eyes removed? And how does a three-month-old baby cope with radiation and chemotherapy? That family has a problem.

If you're a single mother with two small kids who has just lost her job and has no money for next month's rent or this week's groceries, you have a problem.

The difference between an irritation and a problem is that you can choose not to be irritated, and your choice will make all the difference in your day, and your life.

When someone steps in front of you in line you can step back and quietly practice a random act of kindness. You can smile and check your inner ninja before it kicks you in the indignation. A two minute delay is not worth ruining a day for.

Larry, Curly and Moe
There are no really horrible seats in theatres anymore, unless you're sitting behind a Sasquatch. If you are, find another seat.

And hair grows. Although hair's a double-edged sword. When it looks exactly the way you want it could quit growing, but when someone has made you look like one of the Three Stooges you would sacrifice a chicken to make it grow an inch an hour.

Dealing with a real life-and-death problem requires courage and deep reserves of inner strength. Indulging in the habit of irritation turns you into a victim, at the mercy of your own bad temper. A moment's exchange can leave you stewing for days, weeks even, and can leave you a very unhappy person.

Rising indignantly to every snub, imagined or deliberate, is like turning your life into a rudderless dory floating on the tide. It gives control of your emotions over to circumstance, and relinquishes your power to others, even perfect strangers. Strength comes from choosing not to respond to trivial irritations.

And the day after I wrote this, this article was published in the New Yorker: Missed Connections for Assholes - Be sure and read the comments, which includes this little gem;

"Anyone who spends his day critiquing strangers, worrying about slight slights,
getting pissed about small talk and being bothered by other peoples clothing
or devices should gaze deeply into his own inner A-hole, you will find a mirror there.
I think that's what I just said, but with with less acid. 

"Do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace." ~ Dalai Lama


smm said...

Totally agree.

oklhdan said...

So well said.......I loved it!