Letting Go of Frustration

by on 06 May


When the nurse told me I couldn’t donate blood, after all I’d gone through, I felt the frustration expanding in my chest.

     I’d been donating blood for years, but this year I’d had to cancel my appointment 3 times in a row because of various conflicts. Since I hadn’t donated for 5 months, I was determined to make it happen today.
     After breakfast, I went on-line to complete the questionnaire that the Canadian Blood Service (CBS) requires of all donors to determine their eligibility to donate – e.g., “Are you in good health today?” Doing it at home meant I wouldn’t have to wait for a computer at the CBS. I’d done it online before but every time I logged on today, it sent me back to the start of the questionnaire. I’d have to do it at the CBS.
     As I glanced out the window, I saw the freezing rain and remembered the forecast. Oh well. Nothing for it but to push on.
     There was a quarter-inch of ice on the car, which took quite a while to vigorously scrape off. Once finished, I slid onto the driver’s seat, a bit out of breath and sat there. That’s when I felt my backside getting wet from the rain on my coat. I jumped out, pulled my coat above my waist and got back in the car. While the seat of my pants wouldn’t get any worse, now my back was getting wet – but only slowly, mind you.
     The Queensway was foggy, so I drove quite slowly. When I finally arrived at the CSB, I was glad to see that the lousy weather at least meant there were no line-ups there.
     There was one query that gave me pause on the online questionnaire - “Have you consulted a doctor recently with a health problem?” I had visited the doctor about a sore shoulder two week before, had gone for an ultrasound, and would learn the results the next day. But a sore shoulder couldn’t affect my blood. I answered “yes” and carried on.
     The next step was to meet with the nurse to review my answers. Today, however, there were two women in the tiny office. Would I mind if a trainee technician reviewed my answers today? “No problem”, I said. This meant, of course, a slower process in part because she kept consulting a 4-page binder. I figured this step would take about twice the usual time.
     It all went well until we came to the “doctor visit” question. When I told them why I’d visited the doctor, the nurse paused and said they couldn’t proceed. I explained that my problem was a sore shoulder, which had nothing to do with my blood. She said they couldn’t be sure without the diagnosis, so they couldn’t accept my donation.
     As I sat there, I felt my determination all morning to make it happen this time despite all the obstacles – the online problems, the icy car, my wet pants, the slow traffic, and the slow registration process. And I felt the frustration expanding in my chest, with my inner voice wanting to say things like:
          “Four attempts without success!”
                   “After all the problems I overcame!”
                              “It’s a shoulder problem, not a blood problem!
And, then, an image actually came to my mind of a door slowly opening, showing a different way . . . a way of accepting the frustrating situation I was in. I felt myself turning toward that opening almost intuitively, letting go of the impulse to complain or vent and just focus on the reality of the situation. I calmly said, “OK. What are the next steps?”
     This choice of just focusing on the here and now felt liberating and empowering. I was in charge, not my automatic, reactive negative impulse. I was calm rather than overwhelmed. I could deal with this unpleasant situation, and not create a negative feeling that might last for some time.
     I left the Blood Service feeling pleased with what had happened, and feeling gratitude for this practice of mindfulness at “my fingertips”. I reflected on how often it had enabled me to avoid stress and unhappy experiences in my life.
     Everyone's life offers opportunities to practice mindfulness rather than stress. Each time we can remain mindful, we can avoid or decrease  a disturbing experience. And each time this happens increases our confidence in meeting inevitable problems and failures with greater calmness and stability.
     There’s a lovely statement by Sharon Salzberg – an American meditation teacher and writer – who said


                                “Our deepest happiness Is borne from letting go of what is unnecessary”


By letting go of my rising frustration in the nurse’s office, I’d let go of a negative emotion that “wasn’t necessary”, that didn’t help me live my life right there at the CBS.
      I also like these two statements by Andrew Olendzki , a major Buddhist scholar:

 

                                      “The difference between suffering and the end of suffering

                                         lies entirely in an internal adjustment of our attitudes”

 

                                             “Mindfulness is an attitude of confident equanimity,

                                       in which the object [e.g. the situation you find yourself in] is 

                                                        neither favoured nor opposed”

 

An attitude of confident equanimity – no matter what the situation - is a very lofty objective, but it’s an attitude I like to aim at. 

 

P.S. After contacting my doctor, with my permission, soon after the Blood Service visit, the CBS sent me a letter requesting that I make an appointment to donate. Let's hope all goes well next time.

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