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Finding Joy in Frustrating, Routine Activities

“The greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment.” ~Pema Chodron

Today, I hopped in the company van for a trip I make once a week with one of two primary clients. In the mental health division of my company, driving is a requirement. Most of the clients don’t drive, and they need coordinated transportation to and from their appointments and leisure activities.

This particular woman goes to visit her husband weekly because she hopes to live with him when recovering from her mental health diagnosis. I’ve been taking her on this trip for several months now, and it’s a two-hour round trip ride.

I usually fill this trip with aggressive, speedy driving and impatience at every red light. I pass the time with work-related conversations, both to ensure I drive safely and to address work-related issues with this client.

This time, however, I chose a different route, and I’m not referring to the roads.

First, I thought of a recent conversation I had about hating driving. I enjoy all other aspects of my job, but work-related driving bothers me because the clientele controls everything about it. They choose the radio stations, the route to drive, and the time to leave; and they frequently make impromptu requests to other locations, sometimes in a dangerous way.

Next, although somber sounding, I started thinking about people who have passed away.

I began thinking about the things they might have complained about at one time. But now, they’re gone; and I’m willing to bet they’d give anything to be doing these simple things that we often write off as annoyances.

So I decided to spend the rest of the drive channeling only positive thoughts.

I figured the drive was a manageable way to practice this mentality rather than assuming I could do it for an entire day right off the bat. (Here’s hoping a day’s worth of positive vibes will become easier for me!)

For the next leg of my routine trip with this client, I internally channeled positive thoughts about what the trip meant for her. Here I am, assumingly just the means to an end—she needs a ride, so I drive her—but not necessarily!

I was driving this woman thirty years my senior to visit with her husband at his home and her potential home-to-be. I had the opportunity to see first-hand how she was blatantly in a more optimistic space after her visit.

In a small way, she had me to thank for that.

She spends just one hour a week with her husband, and I provide that opportunity to her.

The best part is that sometimes she invites me in when I return to pick her up. Momentarily, she allows me to share in this special time in her day and probably her life. She’s always more social with me on the way home. Also, she seems to smile more, which is just such a beautiful reflection of her joy.

I get to have substantial conversation with an insightful woman about her thoughts and emotions after just one simple hour. She shares her feelings about the visit, the topics of conversations, and the food they ate, and gushes about her gratitude for their relationship.

So sure—I’m just her driver in this scenario. But there’s so much more to the experience if I choose to see it in a different light.

After I realized this, the atmosphere and conversation were more lighthearted and warm. I’m really grateful for channeling this perspective today. It allowed me to spend the rest of my eight-hour shift with an affirmative approach toward my career.

I hope this perspective has a lasting impact on my time in the car with her from every week from now on. I imagine I can channel this way of being whenever I’m driving a client around.

I started thinking of the drives where this would be hard. For as many situations as I could think of (hospital visits, a drive to a job the client doesn’t like, an apprehensive doctor’s visit) I thought of positive twists for them all.

Driving to the hospital might mean a smiling patient waiting with anticipation for a friendly face. Or maybe a trip to the hospital means someone’s receiving necessary treatment.

By simply changing your perspective toward work or an activity you don’t want to do, you’re able to minimize stress and even enjoy the experience.

Your drive to work is a chance to reflect on ways to make the most of your shift. Your drive to the doctor’s office doesn’t have to increase your anxiety; instead, it can be a chance to appreciate that you have access to healthcare, and you will get the help you need.

When you focus on what’s going right, you gain more from your experiences, even the simple activities, like a trip to the bank or gas station.

Assume there is joy in every errand and task, and then use that time to reflect on the meaningfulness of what it is you are doing. What are you accomplishing? Or what are you learning?

Consciously channel a positive mindset, even if you think you should be annoyed. There’s often a lot to enjoy in the moments you think you’re supposed to resent.

Photo by Horia Varlan

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About Stephanie Camille

Stephanie Camille lives in New England and blogs at Camsblog. She love animals and the environment and has an unquenchable thirst for adventure. Follow her on Twitter @smcamille.

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  • Kathy Byrd

    I appreciate this post so much. Am about to start very painful physical therapy following a surgery… it will be grueling and long and inconvenient, and I’m not looking forward to it. Yet, the therapist is marvelously positive, and the drive, although inconvenient, affords me some silent time (no radio!) to reflect on what I need to do to get back to normal. Thanks. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

  • @cecilyw

    I hear you! I really disliked taking my 2 year old son to the hospital for chemo. They have shared rooms and the nurses take the vitals every four hours. Not very restful. After a while, I decided that I would be thankful that we were still seeking treatment and that it is available to us. The hospital time became a great time for me to connect with my son and other parents and staff. After all, if something is driving you crazy, at the end of the day, YOU are the one who is crazy.

  • http://twitter.com/smcamille Stephanie Camille

    Me either, until that moment! Glad my realization can be helpful for you as well Kathy :)

    Good luck with the rest of your PT!

  • Tee Fimmano

    Perspective is an awesome wakeup when you’ve spent your whole life complaining about the small stuff. I haven’t been able to drive in 6 years because I’m disabled. What I’d give to drive anywhere with anybody, anytime!!

  • Hanny

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve drive alot for my internship and for the past year I have started to dislike or i would hate driving. I’ve become a road rager driver, i am impatient in traffics, i get irritated and stressed out so easily that i sometimes don’t even like going to work anymore.

    Now that I’ve read this article i am going to try a few things from it.

  • Mindfulsearcher

    Stephanie, Thank you so much for this post. it was very helpful to me today and reminded me of a post I made on my own blog about my faith journey. The link to my post is http://mindfulsearcher.blogspot.com/2010/09/joyful-offerings.html. If we change our perspective, the things we enjoy least often become great blessings in our lives.

  • Lsusmann

    Very Nice, Steph! Thanks for sharing this with me!

  • Brianna G

    I have the same type of job as you, and it can become very stressful and frustrating. I am a supervisor for a house with 10 residents and I find myself doing the same thing from time to time. Some days I can do it for the entire day other days not so much. Its even more stressfull because not only am i doing mundane things, but I am also having to deal with everybody’s issues and a lot is expected out of me. I don’t know if i am coming or going! So I just breathe and take it moment by moment. I joined a gym and that has helped me stay energized and positive. I love my drive home from work because i live in the country and I get to see the most beautiful mountain views.