William Liao

December 22, 2021

Arriving verus being

I spent about four hours on and off the phone with my new internet service provider this afternoon to get my service set up. 

After about an hour into the setup process, perhaps unsurprisingly, I became frustrated by how long things were taking. 

I began to narrate in my head, “this is ridiculous; I can’t wait to do something else and relax after this.”

On the surface, this way of thinking probably wouldn’t strike anyone as particularly strange. It’s certainly not unusual to find ourselves anxiously awaiting for certain dreadful —in this case, very annoying — experiences to end. 

The more I reflect on this seemingly normal response though, the more peculiar it seems. 

There were two ways for me to respond to the situation. I could a) accept that the speed with which I could set up my internet service was largely out of my control and that it was going to take precisely however long it was going to take, or b) I could continue to entertain feelings of frustration and annoyance with the rather unpromising belief that this response will somehow make the situation better.

One set of circumstances; two very different ways of responding. 

Framed in this way, option a) is the undeniably better choice for my mental well-being. So why, then, would I — or anyone for that matter — choose option b) as I did earlier? 

One reason might be because it’s easy to tell yourself a narrative about how happiness and equanimity are states of mind that you arrive at under very particular circumstances. Under this line of thinking, you let any number of less-than-ideal circumstances hold these feelings hostage. 

What if happiness and equanimity were not places you arrived though, but simply things you opted to be? 

What if, in light of a frustrating or challenging situation, you decided to accept what you can and cannot control and be happy or at peace anyways? 

Is that so strange? 

What, if anything, would fundamentally prevent you from doing this?

The more I think about it: nothing.