Life lessons come when we least expect them.
A sliver of a beach, hidden at the far end of Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. Considered one of the finest beaches in the US. Crystal-clear water. Few people. A serene patch of heaven on earth.
I sit in my beach chair, flip through Pico Iyer’s “The Man Inside My Head,” when they come.
Three women, three umbrellas, chairs, a gaggle of young teenage children.
The clan settles in proximity to me. The clan does not believe in speaking softly.
I feel myself getting aggravated. And I weigh my options. I can give up my little spot on the beach – the spot I so love, a little cove where the sand of the beach reaches into the dunes – and move away from the noise of the clan.
Or I can try to make peace with the presence of the clan.
As I start to gather my belongings, two of the women slide into the water with their snorkeling gear. The noise level lessens. I stay put.
When the two snorkelers return from their excursion, so does the loud-voiced communication.
I slide into the water, my aggravation in full swing again. As one of the snorkelers paddles in my direction to reach another part of the beach, I wait for the moment when her head briefly sticks out of the water.
I say “Hello.”
She says “Hi, how are you?” Paddles on.
In that quick exchange, my aggravation vanishes.
The clan continues to be loud. My aggravation is gone.
I think of all the other situations in life when circumstances may aggravate me. At work. In a close friendship. And the two simple options I always have available to myself:
Walk away. Make peace.
Walking away may mean a temporary removal. It may require a permanent rupture, when we have a clear sense that we simply cannot change a disagreeable circumstance.
Making peace requires more than merely thinking a peaceful thought while the aggravation continues to rage inside. Peace tends to show up when we forge a more human connection with the person or circumstance that aggravates us.
In the innocuous little greeting on the beach, my aggravation vanished.
Sometimes we need to walk away. Making peace is always the more powerful choice.
As you go about your week, notice situations where you may get aggravated.
If you have the power to change a circumstance that aggravates you, go ahead and change it. If you cannot, remember our two options.
Walk away. Make peace.
Whenever possible, choose peace.
Forge a human connection with the person or circumstance that aggravates you.
Human tends to win.