Last week, I had arranged to meet three friends after work at Bleu, a French bistro in Mashpee Commons. It had been a stressful day, and the restaurant was a rushed half-hour drive away. When I pulled into the parking lot, my nerves were so jangly that I had to take a couple of slow breaths before getting out of the car in order to ready myself for an evening of high-octane sisterhood.

I was the first to arrive. I took a booth with a view of the door, ordered a glass of red wine and perused the menu. 6:00 turned to 6:15, then 6:25. Where the heck were they?

The waitress checked in with me periodically with a look of sympathy. Clearly something had happened. (My cell phone batteries were dead so I didn’t have an immediate way of contacting anyone.)

When it became undeniable that my friends weren’t coming, I toyed with the idea of feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been stood up! Why didn’t they let me know if the plans had changed? But to my credit, I didn’t go there. I knew there had to be a perfectly good explanation, even if I didn’t know what it was.

Meanwhile, what to do? Well, I was hungry and sitting in a restaurant, so I decided to order dinner. I got the day boat haddock with lime buerre blanc and asparagus risotto and another glass of wine. As I sat there, I began to relax into a wonderfully mellow mood. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was cozy, and it had been ages since I’d treated myself to a meal alone in a nice restaurant.

Sitting there, I remembered another time, years earlier, when I’d driven a long way to sit in a restaurant waiting for a no-show friend. She’s simply forgotten. That time I’d been upset. I was looking forward to seeing you! How could you just forget me…I didn’t forget you!

And there have been times when I’ve been disappointed by friends and I’ve slapped a bandaid of false equanimity over my hurt feelings. Because to want or expect something from a friend and not get it can feel so un-cool, so borderline pathetic.

Sometimes Buddhist practice seems to encourage this kind of distancing maneuver. Try not to expect anything, it says on a plaque in the retreat center, and in this way everything will open up to you. But it would be a mistake to think this means we should cover up feelings that are arising in the moment with a Buddhist-y shrug. If something hurts, it hurts. Just watch out for the mind’s tendency to spin a momentary upset into a whole elaborate story.

What I do find as I get older (and practice helps this) is that I move much more quickly through the self-centered ouch phase of a situation into a wider mind. I more readily see that there are things going on in the lives of others that have absolutely nothing to do with I/my/me. My afore-mentioned friend, for example, was experiencing a major depressive episode at the time that made it very difficult for her to keep track of much of anything. When I recognize this bigger world, I genuinely don’t take things so personally.

After finishing my meal at Bleu (berry creme brulee for dessert) I drove home, checked the phone (no messages) and then checked the calendar. DUH! (Smack on the forehead!) Meet at Bleu…next week! So there was a perfectly good explanation. And now I knew what it was.