Resentment is and always has been the hardest teacher in my life. For the most part, I am not resentful. I tend to let most personal injustices slide, preferring the stability of peace to confrontation and anger. It’s not that I forgive easily. It’s that I usually don’t reach the point where I feel there is something to forgive.
But when I do feel I’ve been treated unfairly, my reaction makes up for all those times I was able to maintain my equilibrium. Resentment blossoms like an evil flower and takes over my garden. It consumes my mind. It plagues my body. I can no longer remember the little things that make up my joyful life and keep me sane. I am instead distinctly joyless, wandering through the day with my heart locked in a sourly obsessive loop, failing to experience whatever is offered, stuck in time like a massive stone in a river. Everything flows around me. Life goes on. But I am now an obstacle to it.
My office job recently inspired a lot of resentment in me. I’ve learned a few ways to defuse resentment in myself over the years, but none of them seemed to work this time. I found myself unable to stop having angry conversations in my head. My stomach complained. My shoulders cracked every time I moved. And since I spend the majority of my week at the office I was rapidly becoming a slave to this unpleasantness. I needed help.
Unable to deal with my crippling resentment through my usual tricks, I turned to my Zen cards. These cards by Daniel Levin were given to me by my parents for Christmas one year and I find them extremely helpful. Each card has a word describing a Zen quality and a simple, sometimes poetic explanation of the word. When I feel I could use a little focus on what it means to be human and alive, I draw a random card and let the sentiment sit in my brain as I go about my normal activities. You’d be surprised how often the sentiment applies to the ups and downs of my current situation. When I feel I’ve absorbed whatever the card has to say, I put it back in the deck. Some cards stay out for a day, some for weeks.
My office job problem had to do with money so, of course, the card I drew was Prosperity. Go figure. The explanation on the card was:
“Prosperity is not in what you have attained, but rather in what you give away … For it is only when you become empty that you can be filled with something greater.”
This was an extremely difficult concept for me to accept. I had just spent a lot of time and energy trying to get something I thought I deserved and the last thing I wanted to do was be generous about it. It was all so unfair! But I tried. I tried to empty myself of my feelings of betrayal. I tried to concentrate on other areas of my life. I tried to breathe and relax and be present through yoga and music. I wanted to be filled with peace again. Filled with light and love, sated by food and liquor, fulfilled by fresh air! But I failed.
So I decided maybe I needed a little more help and drew another card. I thought this new card could be a step toward the larger goal of the Prosperity card. Maybe I was trying to accomplish too much at once. Baby steps, as the saying goes.
The new card said Contentment:
“Rejoice in whatever life gives you. Crave nothing else. Know that whatever you have been given is for your own highest good.”
Aha! The “highest good” part was the key. After a few days, I realized that my situation was exactly the thing I needed to make a change in my life that I’d been wanting to make for years. Decades, even. My husband and I are both artists (storyteller and musician respectively) and we often complain that we are too good at other things, so we never have to rely on our art to make a living. So we never spend enough time on it, instead becoming involved in those other things in the name of financial security.
Now, my office job no longer provides the financial security we need. And it’s likely that no other office job will be any better. So what does that mean? I get to leave! It might take a while, but my goal in life has suddenly switched from getting better and better at something I hate to getting the hell out of there and doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I can’t tell you what a difference that makes!
Sure, I’m still going to the office, but my focus has been radically changed. I can smile at the people who denied me because they’ve made it possible for me to escape. If they had given me what I asked for, I would have to stay on the grounds that I’d lose too much.
And so, the resentment drains away, replaced by gratitude, a much more graceful state of mind. I am free to be nice again. Free and at ease because the world is not the prison I thought it was. My resentment has taught me how to transform my anger into Prosperity. The path to my bliss awaits! Hooray resentment!