The goodness of suffering is something real. Without suffering, there cannot be happiness. Without mud there cannot be any lotus flower. So if you know how to suffer, suffering is OK. And the moment you have that attitude, you don’t suffer much anymore. And out of suffering, a lotus flower of happiness can open.— Thich Nhat Hahn
Days before the year ended in 2016, Lee Heng was tidying his office and saw a picture of Bodhisattva in a photo frame. Knowing that I am a Buddhist, he asked whether would I like to have it. I was surprised with his gesture, and although I thought that the Bodhisattva’s picture is not the usual figure that we commonly see, I decided to accept his kind gesture.
In the back of my mind, I did ever wondered how would Elaine feel if I bring this picture back. I put the frame in my drawer till Thursday which I brought home.
When Elaine saw it, she wasn’t happy and questioned me about this. I told her the whole incident and she displayed a look of unhappiness and kind of told me off that I have brought such weird stuff home. I was instantly agitated at that very moment, thinking that we shouldn’t be superstitious and feel that this will bring bad omen to us, especially if it’s a picture of Bodhisattva and our religion is Buddhism.
I raised my voice a little bit with slight disbelief and told her that it’s just a picture of a Bodhisattva and if she’s not feeling good, I will throw it away. She walked away grumbling.
I pondered over the matter and looked within myself. Have I let me emotion get the better of me again? Do I really want that picture? Have I accepted it because I didn’t know how to reject Lee Heng in the first place? Does it make a difference to me whether I have or do not have the picture? Obviously, it made a big difference to Elaine and I should respect her.
Next, I thought of what I should do to the picture. Should I throw it away (It is funny that I do not feel disrespectful for throwing it away, for I have Buddha and Bodhisattva in my heart and furthermore, the picture was printed from the internet by Lee Heng)? Or should I return to Lee Heng? How should I tell him?
I mocked at myself for being so silly and pondering so much over such a trivial matter and finally decided I shall just be honest and upfront with Lee Heng, even if he feels offended or unhappy about it.
It was Friday, the 10th.
I am the Project Manager to integrate with our customers’ system for EDI billing.
In one of my projects, we were supposed to trigger some EDI files to our customer for testing, but we had some internal issues where we couldn’t find any file. We had no idea what has happened and were looking for the root cause. The key to the root cause sits in Europe which is of different time zone as us.
In the backend, many issues have happened and everyone was busy resolving multiple issues at the same time. And our testing was not as critical as production issues.
It was only in the late afternoon that we found the root cause of it, but our customer was impatient and upset over the slow response from me.
During the daily conference call, Shirley said: “Francis, we would appreciate it very much if you could just let us know earlier in advance that you had some with your backend and that you couldn’t trigger the files to us…”
“Oh yes, I was not even aware that there was a system issue… “ I thought.
“We are working as a team, and we should be upfront with each other, instead of hiding the facts from us and allowed the whole team to wait fruitlessly for all of you, just to hear from you now that there was an issue in your system. Now we have wasted another day.” Shirley continued.
“Umm…so that’s my fault again.” I smiled to myself and sent Julia this message in another chat window.
Shirley paused and Suresh took over: “Yes, we are getting very close to our timeline, and yet we have not had a successful transaction and today we waited for nothing for the whole day. We hope you guys can focus more on this project, so that we can sign off the testing and deploy on the agreed date…. I have called you in the earlier and you told me that you have been out of office and will update us once you are back to office, but I didn’t hear from you….”
“Umm… Maybe I should have updated you with nothing and we are still trying to check. Will you accept it?” I thought to myself.
Then Shirley and Suresh put in a few more unpleasant remarks which I listened with a smile and took it with a pinch of salt. I was amazed at how I have accepted those remarks. I would have voiced out and tried to explain or defend myself in the past, but instead, I kept in silence throughout this part of the conversation.
However, my mind was having flashback of all the events that have happened throughout the User Acceptance Test (UAT). Both parties have had their faults (aren’t human always making mistakes but can only see the other party’s fault?) and the delay was also caused by their slow response time when we needed more information.
The lack in partnership was mutual, at least that’s how I look at it, although I wanted to say very much that my team members have put in their very best to accommodate the customers’ expectations.
When they have finally finished “venting” their frustrations, I closed off the conversation by saying: “Noted. What we will do next is this……”
And the call ended with some action items on both parties.
I have silently accepted all the remarks from Shirley and Suresh without much thought of rebuking. I stood in their shoe and tried to understand that they were under tremendous stress to make things happen. Their anxiety are forgivable.
However, I am not responsible for anybody’s emotion or happiness. I am only responsible for my own happiness and do what I think is the right thing to do. I have decided to return the picture to Lee Heng out of respect for him, respect for Elaine and of course respect for myself, for I think I have done absolutely nothing wrong in doing so.
I can see that I am transforming to a better person through the search for my inner peace and making friends with my inner soul. I continue to think that all things happen for a reason, and they are all lessons for me to learn. While these 2 incidents may not cause huge sufferings to me, I believe they could have if these have happened in the past, but now, I have learned how to “suffer” and understood that “suffering” is ok, I don’t suffer that much now.
And through these lessons, my lotus flower of happiness is slowly blossoming…