The Hidden Value of Irritation

A pearl is the reward for enduring an irritation.

A pearl is the reward for enduring an irritation.

When I was growing up, I was told the story that a pearl forms when a speck of sand gets into an oyster. Because of this story, I looked at pearls differently than most young women. Instead of jewelry, I saw them as nuggets of beauty created from the fire of patience. In other words, I thought that if I endured even the smallest irritations with grace, there would be a happy ending.

Unraveling The Muse

In my life, I make an effort to pay attention to what life shows me. I’m constantly looking at the events and circumstances of my life as a learning laboratory. If something surprising or unpleasant happens, I’m like a detective tracing it back to its source. It’s not about blame for me. It’s about understanding the cause and effect relationships in my life. If you think that life is a card game, I’m trying to play the best game I can by learning from every hand, especially the losing hands.

Recently, I’ve been writing more content on my blog. And in typical Charlene fashion, I’ve been observing myself writing, and wondering how this writing process happens. One thing that has amazed me is the abundance of new ideas for new blog posts that flow through me. Last week, I had a major breakthrough in understanding my own creative process. It was quite a surprise, something I would never have guessed was true before I saw it.

Sometimes, I get the greatest inspiration from people and events that get under my skin, that irritate me in the most annoying, dull pain way. In the midst of my reaction to something, I find a vein of truth that I hadn’t understood before, or that had never seemed so important before. The ah-ha moments come on the heels of wanting to wring a neck (metaphorically) or having to fight the urge to let loose a swarm of stinging words.

In other words, sometimes my muse is a real bitch.

Weeding Out Irritations

In another path of my life lessons, I’ve learned the value of maintaining a calm and restful space around me. There’s nothing like peace to help me see what’s going on with my own emotions and thoughts. Sometimes, however, I take this a bit too far and I try to weed out all of the sources of irritation in my daily life. I figured out a system for filing the mail and shredding the trash at the door so I didn’t get a backlog. I created a drawer that is my mailing station so getting things out the door is easy instead of frustrating.

But recently, I’ve found myself daydreaming about removing people from my life because they irritate me. I must admit, the thought is tempting. A week without a not-so-friendly challenge from a co-worker sounds nice. So does a week without having to explain myself in response to a knee-jerk email. In my fantasy, I start to imagine a world where I extracate all sources of irriation and simply live a wonderful, peaceful experience.

And then I realize that it is often through contrast that I really figure things out for myself. Sometimes, it takes the stark contrast between what I don’t want (and have) and what I want (and don’t have) to really get my life in focus, and get me moving along a path. Thankfully, I’m pretty open, so I do learn a lot through other methods. But when I get stuck or stubborn, or I just have a big blind spot, there is nothing like irritation to snap me back to attention, and help me figure it all out.

That’s when my muse bitch slaps me. And if I’m lucky, I find a gift pearl waiting for me.

By the way, it turns out, that story was not completely true. A pearl never forms around a speck of sand, but forms around a piece of organic matter. But the rest of the story is true.

About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

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