Recently, I experienced a conversation that was unexpected, but turned out to be just what I needed. These types of experiences invoke such a feeling of gratitude, as they somehow feel purposeful to my personal development. Often, their aftermath simmers for days, as I soak in the appreciation of being given an opportunity to practice perspective shifting. And I am humbled by the reminder, that when I remain open, the opportunities for clarification are limitless.
His name was, “Rajesh,” otherwise known as “Chris,” during the hours of employment at AT&T. Interestingly enough, we didn’t exchange names until the close of our conversation. But at that point, topics were covered that created an understanding where our names were irrelevant. This wasn’t an interaction that was flirtatious or pacified anyone’s ego. This was a brief gratuitous moment that reinforced my faith in the world and reminded me, I’m not alone. Wow, all that from a AT&T Uverse tech call? If you know me, that won’t be surprising. If you don’t, let me introduce myself… My name is Iman, I’m a thinker, at times, an overthinker. But more relatedly, I am a seeker, finding meaning and purpose in the most uncommon of places.
Our conversation began, as most calls of this nature usually do, after an extended period of waiting. This time it was about 15 minutes of hold time. Yes, in the grand scheme of life, the annoyance of waiting 15 minutes to speak to someone about recurrent digital TV issues, seems entitled and trivial. O.K., maybe it more than “seems,” entitled and trivial! 12 But, passing judgment on our emotional experiences, regardless of how trivial they may be, encourages feelings to hang around; long after the situation has passed. I often reference the poem, “The Guesthouse,” by the great Sufi poet Rumi, in my work with clients. He presents the metaphor of “The Guesthouse” in referencing our emotional human experience. Our emotions are like guests. Some come in sweeping the house into a frenzy, while others are less intrusive during their stay. Rumi’s poem sets the framework for understanding equanimity in our emotional experience. When we allow ourselves to experience all emotions with neutrality and non-judgment, our Guesthouse thrives, and we are free to make choices that allow our emotional guests to come and go efficiently. When we judge, resist or deny any emotion, they linger and wreak havoc in our home. Now, who wants a guest like that in their house? When we can experience our emotions freely, without judgment or attachment, we can be empowered by choice, rather than controlled by repression or reaction.
Ok, back to the call… Rajesh, the AT&T tech, said hello and asked how my day was going. I politely replied, and he continued with what I assumed was the standard troubleshooting script; one, I was all too familiar with. I could feel my annoyance simmering under the surface, so I respectfully acknowledged this feeling to Rajesh, so as not to project my annoyance towards him. I said I understood the importance of scripts in service compliance, but I also believed they leave out the common-sense element in human communication. There was a brief pause; and then I heard Rajesh chuckle. He assured me he wasn’t following a script, but rather the logical steps in technical problem solving. I told him I recognized my annoyance was reflective of a first world problem, but that I’ve called many times before and I become frustrated at how much time seems wasted by rote communication. Rajesh once again paused and chuckled a bit before he spoke, and said, “Yes, sometimes we get caught in a conditioned way of responding and once we are aware of it, we have taken the first step towards changing it.” Whoa, I thought to myself, this is exactly what I say to my clients! Who is this Rajesh?
Rajesh continued to search for the problem. He asked how long I’ve been experiencing the problem and I mentioned on and off for a couple of weeks, but it could be longer. I said I don’t watch a lot of TV, it’s mainly for my kids, so unless they bring it to my attention, I don’t always know. Rajesh said he hadn’t watched TV for almost seven years and still feels he isn’t missing a thing. Instead, he said, he reads a lot of books and many of his favorite ones, he reads multiple times, with the intention of discovering something new. He said, he once was asked by an irate customer at 2:30 am, what they were supposed to do now that their digital TV and internet weren’t working. Rajesh replied, “I don’t know sir, perhaps read a book?” To which the irate customer shouted, “A book! Are you kidding me?!” Rajesh confessed, “I’m a bit odd. When I feel like I need to search for something to fill me up, I look within myself first.” It then it became very clear, Rajesh was not the typical technician I was used to dealing with. And this was not the typical conversation. Maybe Rajesh was Yoda?
The call continued another 5-10 minutes; Rajesh trouble shooting and offering his personal insight on a variety of topics, while we waited for diagnostics. He spoke of his views on the human nature of duality and his fascination with cognitive dissonance; the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. Admittedly, the very nature of our call was causing my own form of cognitive dissonance!
I’m a geek when it comes to human behavior and higher consciousness thinking. So, although I enjoyed the subject matter of this conversation, I spent most of the time listening. I did offer about mid-conversation, that it was interesting he was speaking about these things. I asked if he ever felt isolated from people, thinking so deeply? And although I didn’t mention it to him, I sometimes feel that way. I’ve been told most of my life by people, that I think way too deeply. So, it’s an aspect of who I am that has made me feel different, and at times isolated.
Rajesh answered my question by offering, “I don’t look at being different in that way as isolating. I’ve learned to enjoy my own company. But, it’s also who you surround yourself with.” Another insightful response…
Rajesh put me on a final hold as he had exhausted all troubleshooting avenues and my resolution required a tech visit to my home. In past calls, this is usually what has ended up happening, but this time, I felt less annoyed. And it was then, I started to smile… Life sure has a funny way of providing us the lessons we need to learn when we’re ready to learn them. Sometimes we’re open and aware of the opportunity and other times we’re closed. But when we can stay present; curious and detached from a fixed outcome, the flood gates open and the opportunities to grow rush in.
My intended outcome of calling AT&T was not achieved. And call it what you may, overthinking or intentional thinking; my being open, just being who I am, inspired me to receive something far more valuable. The gentle reminder that what we need can come in the most unexpected of places. The days leading up to that call, I was feeling a bit of self-pity and disconnect because I was resisting being comfortable with all aspects of who I am. I was listening again, to the opinions of others and taking them on as facts. Who I am and how I derive meaning is this world is to seek understanding and look for the learning in all experiences. And though it can be exhausting at times if I don’t manage it, it also aligns me with my purpose and makes my life experiences richer and more meaningful. I was reminded during this AT&T service call that I’m not the only one out there seeking to understand myself and derive a deeper meaning of the world. In fact, Rajesh, a.k.a. Chris, reminded me of this as we ended our call, “Thank you for calling AT&T and being a valued customer. And Iman, just remember, you are not alone.” Thank you Yoda…