What can we learn from each and every situation? This was something I asked myself yesterday, after I took a call from a disgruntled reader – I’ll call her crazy Russian lady (though she may not have been Russian, as I am terrible at discerning accents – so no offense to Russian people!). Anyway, she was complaining about the fact that the month on the front of the magazine does not match up the actual month it is, i.e. the October issue, out now, is out in September. I told her all magazines do this but she was having none of it, and proceeded to complain about how disruptive this was to her life as it confused her for some reason.
After about five minutes her voice started to sound familiar – it was very distinctive – and I realised she had called about six months ago to moan about the magazine then, when she had told me in no uncertain terms that Soul&Spirit would only be successful if I followed her advice: to take away most of the pictures, to make the text all huge, reduce the number of pages as most of it was “rubbish” and make it cheaper. And yet again, she launched into a tirade of insults about the magazine, telling me the exact same thing she told me last time!
Now, I consider myself to be a pretty placid, easy going type of person, so I listened politely though my heart was racing and my blood was boiling and I wanted to tell her to p**s off. This anonymous woman is one of only two or three people who have ever managed to really rile me and make me angry in my entire life. And boy did she do a good job. My colleagues, who were by now all intently listening to this conversation – well, my replies at least – were telling me to put the phone down, and I did try on one occasion to say I was very busy and really didn’t have time to chat right now, but I let her get her rant out of the way, while I held the phone away from my ear but about half a metre – like I thought they only did in the movies – until she had got it all our of her system.
God grant me the serenity…
When she finally did let me go, I had the usual conversation with my colleagues about how mad she was and how irritating. But later I got to thinking: what was the lesson for me here? Everything is an opportunity for us to learn, or so people say. This is my conclusion: this poor old lady, in her seventies, and who used to work in publishing apparently, so she delighted in telling me, was clearly upset about the magazine; so irritated in fact, that she saw fit to call me and tell me how much she hated it. Once I can understand, perhaps, and it’s not like she is the first to complain about something: we’ve had similar people moaning about the size and type of images used (apparently they are not ‘spiritual’) and about the small font especially when it is on a dark background (people who can’t read so well find it hard to see it – and I take their comments on board). But this lady was in a league of her own, issuing forth a string of complaints without letting up. And I realised what my lesson was, and was reminded of that famous saying, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference’. For anything else is madness. OK, firstly you could say she was courageous in her actions to call me and tell me her point of view and try and get the magazine changed, but having done so, and then seeing the magazine not change to her specifications (which quite frankly were ridiculous) she was infuriated and saw fit to tell me – again. She was clearly not serene about it! And wisdom was clearly lacking too, as she could not understand why on Earth I would not agree with her suggestion.
If she calls again, I will do something I never normally do, which is to suggest she stops buying the magazine, as it is clearly causing her distress. After all, if you are unhappy with someone or something, the only sensible thing to do – if trying to change it has failed – is to remove yourself from the situation so the irritation is no longer there. Or accept things as they are. But if you won’t accept things, and then continue to get annoyed about them, well, that is just causing yourself to suffer, as the Buddhists would say.
And then I thought perhaps this was a reminder for me in my own life. I had been in a personal situation that, while wonderful on many accounts, was not in line with one of my life goals. And I tried to change the situation many times the only way I knew how, through logic and rational reasoning, but to no avail. So in the end, I physically removed myself from the situation, as much as it hurt.
So thank you, ‘crazy Russian lady’ for reminding me of this important teaching. You may have gotten me worked up and angry, but you are also a reminder to me, and everyone, that if we can’t change things, we must accept them or let them go.
I hope my ‘Russian’ reader will learn to find peace with the magazine, or just stop buying it. But to keep buying it when clearly you hate it? That is madness. She obviously gets some enjoyment, even if from criticising it; I just hope she doesn’t call to tell me anymore!