What Busted Elevators Taught Me about My Mind

Photo by: Gideon Tsang

Photo by: Gideon Tsang

My throbbing calves and sore thighs have prompted this post. I hope it takes less than a test of physical endurance for me to blog more.

You see, all four elevators in my apartment building broke down this weekend and residents had no choice but to use the stairs to get to their respective pads. Men, women and children – able-bodied or not – had to climb up several floors to get home and go down the same route to exit. The building has 52 floors; my flat is somewhere in the 20s. I’m luckier than some residents and some were luckier than me. That’s the way the world works.

Years ago, my default reaction to events like this would be to scream bloody murder. I’d make a scene, show everyone how pissed off I was, threaten a few people to make myself seem superior – even though there’s little to be done about the situation. I had a very active ego and it would use every opportunity to flex its nonexistent muscles. I did manage to get things done through this chest-thumping method, but it also caused undue stress to myself and the people around me. Was I able to get people to do stuff for me after that? Yes, but they probably wanted me to eat crap and drop dead while they were doing it.

So, I surprised myself yesterday when this tendency to throw a fit lasted mere seconds! Perhaps, the fact that I had a yoga class to teach within the next hour had a lot to do with it. I didn’t want to infect my students with my anger and therefore had to observe the internal dialogue I was having with myself as I put one foot in front of the other in the fire exit. I was also thinking that the technical snafu would be fixed at the end of the day, which made my mood lighten somewhat.

Of course, it didn’t get fixed that night. This time around, I was tired for various reasons and wanted badly to lie in bed and vegetate. Realizing that I had to slog through dozens of flights of stairs before I could do all of that made my blood boil. The poor security guard I asked information from probably heard me cuss between gritted teeth and began to stammer as he talked. That’s when I noticed my old cantankerous self coming back. The guard was bearing the brunt of my anger when none of this was his fault! I then took a deep breath and thanked him before starting the arduous climb. He seemed to relax after that.

Hours before, at my aunt’s place, I caught a BBC documentary of avid runners participating in a weeklong marathon in the Sahara. I was fascinated by the lengths some people would go to test their physical limits, even paying US$6,000 and traveling thousands of miles to tire themselves out and risk dehydration and serious injury in the middle of the desert somewhere in Morocco. And there I was grumbling about climbing flights of stairs.

My mind then wandered into more serious territory: My issues are laughable compared to what others throughout the world are experiencing, wherever they may be. It’s never right to try to make oneself feel better at the expense of others and that’s not what I was doing. I was putting things in perspective.

It dawned on me that I was getting better at making internal choices. I was slowly but surely becoming more and more aware of my thoughts. Although they still had the power to control me at times, that power is waning. I hope the progress continues.

After two days, technicians were able to get one of the elevators to work. By not going ballistic and keeping calm as I climbed up – even returning the building staff’s smiles when we crossed paths – I did not add tension to the already unsavory situation. I wasn’t saving the world but I sure wasn’t adding to the emotional grime that’s already going around.

Plus, I got one hell of a workout.

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