When my husband and I were at a concert last month, the couple in front of us could NOT stop kissing and leaning in to whisper to each other. This was unfortunate for me, because my only view of the stage was through the little space that SHOULD have been open between them. Their little black silhouettes would lean in together, whisper, then straighten (but only for a moment!) before leaning in to whisper something else. Then straighten. Then turn to gaze at each other, then lean in to kiss some more. I spent WAY more time than I care to admit having an inner dialogue about how ridiculous they were. How could they POSSIBLY have that much they needed to talk about? And if they really did have that many urgent things they had to discuss, maybe a dinner out rather than a concert – would have been a better choice. I mean, does it not even occur to them that there are people behind them? And that, quite possibly, those people might actually be there to see the concert, not them kissing?

Unfortunately, I find myself in this trap all too frequently. I make a choice (not consciously, but aren’t most choices we make not the conscious intentional kind?) to focus on the distraction, which leads me down a path of negativity that I really didn’t want to be on. Sure, I didn’t consciously decide before the concert, “I am going to search out something really annoying to focus on so that a miss the whole show and leave angry and disappointed.” But regardless, it was still my choice. Because I believe most of our choices are not the conscious, intentional kind. Most of them are the day-to-day, in the moment kind, not the carefully-considered-ahead-of-time kind. So when the concert was almost over and I realized I had chosen to be increasingly annoyed at every whisper, kiss, or loving gaze, I decided that if I wanted to get out of my negative spiral, it would be up to me. I couldn’t wait for the situation to change or improve, because clearly it wasn’t. It would have to be my change of attitude, not their change of behavior.

Over the years I’ve had to work hard to not fall into the trap of finding joy ONLY IF my situation improves. “If my headache gets better, THEN I can enjoy playing with my kids.” “If my coworkers are nice to me, THEN I can have a good day.” “If my fellow drivers are considerate, THEN I can have a peaceful drive.” “If I am treated respectfully and fairly by those around me, THEN I’ll be happy.”

That’s a lot of “ifs”! Do I really want my happiness to depend on outside circumstances over which I have no control? No. It’s not easy. But if it’s important enough to me to find happiness despite those things, I have to change me. I cannot change them.

So when I decided I wanted to enjoy what was left of the concert, I realized I would have to work for it. Yes, I had to strain my neck. Yes, I had to constantly shift my position to the left and the right and back again. But then, I was actually able to see the show! And it was great! And I would have missed it if all I’d chosen to stare begrudgingly at was the back of two inconsiderate people’s heads. It certainly wouldn’t have happened without a lot of effort on my part. But I got to see what really mattered – the show – it was tremendous, and it was worth it.

If we wait for the distractions to disappear before we can see past them, then the distractions end up not just being a deviation from the path, they end up being the destination. And we will realize in the end that the time we were given was spent focusing entirely on things that stole our joy.

We are going to another concert tonight at the Symphony. And if that stupid babblemouth kissing concert-ruining (I mean, loving) couple, is there…. Well… I’ll just kick the backs of their seats in an irritating fashion throughout the entire 2 hour show so that they can get the same inspiring “work-hard-to-fight-for-your-happiness” lesson that they so graciously gave me. 🙂