Want to test your emotional maturity? Look no further than your household printer.
This rant turned into a more profound reflection on mindfulness than expected.
I’m convinced that my household printer’s primary purpose is not transferring words and images from my laptop onto paper. Like the return label for my awful new sports bra. I bought it while sipping too many margaritas and binge-watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills compare Hermes bags and Kathy Hilton’s sincere confusion about who is Hunky Dory, which made me snort my margarita right out of my nose.
This was the Hermes bag of sports bras. The most tricked-out garment I’ve purchased in my 15,330-day quest for something that provides support without compressing me to the extent that I can’t feel my feet. A far cry from the 1977 “jockstrap for women’s breasts,” it had three adjustable Velcro straps for a custom fit. On the downside, it was heavy-duty material. Heavy and scratchy like a bulletproof vest, and sounded like a diaper when I took it off. If it didn’t cost 528 million dollars, I’d let it rest forever in my drawer or donate it. Anything other than trying to produce an (expletive) return label via my home printing device.
Marketers make these fancy home printers sound convenient. Touting fancy modern, sophisticated innovations such as wireless Bluetooth connectivity and ink transfer at the literal speed of light.
However, these attributes don’t excuse some pretty fundamental issues that make every other useful attribute as irrelevant as my passport was in 2020. I spent 30 minutes begging it to perform as advertised. I pressed buttons to clear error reports. Reverse-engineered the damn thing in order to locate an elusive paper jam while vaporizing every ounce of emotional regulation I possess. It ended with a full-on tantrum that included hissing and stomping and gnashing of teeth.
In fact, here’s some brand new marketing messaging for this device, highlighting its very best qualities:
We offer growth opportunities for the end-user via malfunctions to the degree of absolute absurdity.
Under the guise of “printing materials,” this product’s true value is in its ability to reveal to humans that they are not as evolved as they consider themselves to be. We provoke users to rage, resignation, and post-meltdown shame.
Those on a spiritual path with a sadistic wish to test the tenets of their sacred practices. Including but not limited to:
- Yoga practitioners and teachers
- Voracious self help consumers
- People in or out of therapy
- Budding or mature students of Buddhism, Zen, Islam, Christianity, and more (because all advertising copy includes “and more”).
Gift givers and receivers:
- A passive-aggressive gift for sanctimonious friends from the list above
- A passive-aggressive gift for the worst enemy in one’s life
- Serves up a dose of humility for those who require a reminder that their inner child is alive and well
- Exposure treatment for those who wish to face their suppressed anger issues
- Lies about paper being stuck in the feeder.
- Crazy-making and gaslighting. Great practice for dealing with the narcissists in your life. First, it wants paper fed from its primary tray, then denies there is paper in the tray. Then wants paper in the secondary tray, and denies you loaded the paper there. Then refuses to acknowledge that ALL TRAYS NOW CONTAIN PAPER.
- When error messages fail, and the elusive printing function actually works, the device ensures a real, proper paper jam with 100 percent reliability.
- Poorly performing Bluetooth function- sure to come in handy to disrupt things in the rare occurrence that printing function is otherwise working ok.
Patience > judgement
I’ve resigned to print my return label at work. My diabolical printer/spiritual teacher is partially dissembled on the floor where it will remain for months until the next occasion I require a spiritual cold shower. Realizing that I was ignited so big by something so small may have even caused me some “who do I think I am to…” (help other mortals do anything at all, claim that meditation has changed my life (it has), or do very adult things like put spinach leaves into a smoothie). But self-judgment didn’t well up like it used to. By not trying to push my humanness away and instead allowing my emotions to take their course, a rush of humility and amused laughter replaced my anger.
“Is there a difference between happiness and inner peace? Yes. Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive; inner peace does not.” Eckhart Tolle.
I don’t judge my outburst because I know that allowing my life and emotions to be disrupted, and observing how I react in those moments is insight. It’s where I learn to practice patience with myself, the world, and diabolical home printers. Patience is a practice. So the next time something hooks me, maybe I can take two more breaths before I react, then the next time three, then four. I create space and awareness around life’s disruptions. Then, I can react peacefully. Not always, but increasingly.
Acceptance & Curiosity > perfection
But if I ask perfection of myself (and my printer) and try to push away emotions that are deemed “negative,” it comes out in many other ways and there’s no growth, just denial. We’re more likely to judge others as harshly as we do ourselves. So instead of denial, it’s useful to take a curious stance, turning it over in my mind objectively, like I would if I were examining a stone or a shell. I wonder where it came from and what its purpose is.
Being curious about my red, passionate fury of emotions over an inconvenience revealed that the printer malfunctions were just kerosene poured over kindling that was already smoldering. Like the exasperation and grief I’m experiencing because of a prolonged pandemic (hi fellow Floridians). My feelings needed awareness, acknowledgment, acceptance and to be metabolized. So I’ve been practicing fiery yoga classes ala Haus of Phoenix, which helps me focus my inner burn more productively than raging at my household electronics.
“As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion.” Pema Chödrön.
Resist nothing > positive vibes only
By refusing to shut down, I give my emotions — and myself a voice. Therefore, I hardcore loathe the “positive vibes only” message that I’ve seen everywhere from t-shirts to household plaques (basically the recent version of live, laugh, love). It’s the word “only” that is so offensive. It promotes an unhealthy idea that forces us to deny our vast array of daily emotions for an unrealistic pursuit of emotional perfection. Instead, I think a better mindset is “resist nothing.”
With this perspective, we can embrace curiosity, be present with what’s happening, and nurture all parts of ourselves. The result is a more fluid, lighthearted life experience than we get by forcing the breadth of our emotions away.
“Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists. Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.” Eckhart Tolle.
Being gentle with ourselves also helps keep us off of a high horse because we don’t have to reject in others what we reject in ourselves. Instead, we can increasingly accept in others what we acknowledge and accept in ourselves. And I believe we can all benefit from giving and receiving more compassion these days.
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well, can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” Pema Chödrön.