I once read a story about a Zen master and his student. I can’t remember exactly, but it went something like this: They were walking and came across a very grumpy and rude woman who demanded the Zen master carry her across a puddle of mud so that she didn’t get mud on her shoes. The Zen master happily obliged and then he and his student continued on their way in silence. The student looked extremely annoyed and when the Zen master inquired his student furiously asked, “Why would you carry that awful woman across the mud? She was mean and ungrateful!” The Zen master replied, “I put her down miles ago, why haven’t you?”

I thought of this story this morning. I was rushing to get ready to leave the house on time for my physical therapy appointment when I received a text message from my daughter. She forgot a basket that she needed for a gift that her and some other students were preparing for their long-term substitute teacher. Today was his last day in their class. The text said, “I need that basket!!!!!” I replied that I would bring it later in the day after my appointment and another meeting I had scheduled. She asked, “Can you bring it soon?” At which point I felt myself getting extremely angry! “No I can’t bring it soon,” I thought. “I have an appointment and a meeting to get to. It’s not my fault she forgot it. She should be more responsible.” And on and on, but still I replied to her,”Fine I’ll just be late for my appointment.” There’s that lovely mommy martyr coming out!
After a few moments of this train of thought and the associated aggravation, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that it is rare for her to need me to bring something to school and that all-in-all she is a very responsible person and that really this was about her and her friends doing something kind for their teacher. I reminded myself that I certainly didn’t have to bring the basket right then or ever. I could say no, but I was choosing not to. So if I was choosing to run out the door with wet hair and no makeup on so that I could deliver the basket as soon as humanly possible, then it was time for me to let go of my frustration and martyrdom and all that other good stuff I was holding onto!
By breathing deeply and reminding myself that I was choosing to risk being late to my appointment because I wanted to help my daughter out, I was able to do just that! I drove calmly, I entered the school serenely, and I continued on to my appointment in peace. Believe it or not, I actually got there early and sat in the parking lot applying my makeup! I know that my morning would have gone a lot different if I had held onto my initial anger. Worst case scenario I could’ve been hurt or hurt someone else by driving around in a mad rage. Best case scenario I’d just be irritated on the inside and my stress response would activate, elevating my blood pressure, interfering with my digestion, and making me more susceptible to illness, amongst a host of other negative physical and emotional side effects. To me, it is SO not worth it! If you choose to carry a grumpy, ungrateful lady across some mud, do yourself a favor and truly put her down the moment you reach the other side.