Inconveniences, Problems & Disasters

man with a problem

Today was a frustrating day. You probably know the kind, where things do not go according to plan. We all have them. In my case, the day began when I came downstairs to find my husband’s tools spread over the kitchen and our beverage refrigerator half-removed from its location. We had just purchased a new one to replace this broken one, and the plan had been for my husband to simply roll out the old one before going to work. You can probably guess what happened next.

            … The refrigerator wouldn’t come out.

After another half hour of pulling, he finally dislodged it. The problem seemed to have been that the feet were set at such a height when it was initially installed that it had gotten stuck under the countertop that had been laid upon it when the kitchen was built. The good news was that these feet are adjustable, so that we shouldn’t have a hard time inserting the new one arriving in a couple of hours. You can probably guess what happened next.

…The new refrigerator wouldn’t fit back in.

It turns out that the cabinets flanking the opening are just a hair too close. Perhaps the cabinets have swollen from the recent string of humid days, or maybe the new fridge is slightly wider than the old one. It is hard to tell. I put a call in to a local handyman to see if there is anything to be done, but so far, there has been no response. What could possibly make the situation worse? Perhaps you can guess.

… We are hosting a large party here in a week.

Yep, the reason we had gone ahead and spent the money on the new refrigerator was to be ready for the party. Instead of a new and improved fridge, I now have a giant black box sitting right in the middle of my kitchen. Not quite what I had in mind!

refrigerator that doesn't fit into its space

My initial reaction was a burst of frustration. How are people going to move around? Look how ridiculous this looks! What were we thinking buying a new appliance a week before a party? Once I calmed down, I walked across the room and turned on the news. Coverage of Hurricane Florence was on every channel. As often happens, my perspective was immediately snapped back into place. I imagined the many people living in the Carolinas who would be delighted if the only problem they had to deal with over the next week was figuring out what to do with a beverage fridge.

All of this got me thinking about the different ways in which life goes wrong. It seems that troubles confront us every day. Still, not all difficulties are equal. In fact, they tend to fall into a couple of categories:

Inconveniences -> the little things that make us want to scream:

  • the driver who cuts us off
  • the alarm clock failing to go off in the morning
  • coffee that dribbles onto our shirt
  • the vending machine being out of order when we are hungry
  • our umbrella breaking during a rainstorm

out of order machine

Problems -> situations that are fixable, but will require time, money and energy:

  • a car breakdown
  • a failed job interview
  • words spoken out of anger
  • a broken limb
  • a leaking hot water heater
  • an ear infection

Disasters -> crises we can’t fix on our own:

  • a natural disaster
  • a chronic or terminal illness
  • a fire or flood
  • the death of a loved one

Unfortunately, it is impossible to live on this Earth and not face difficulties of all three kinds. Nonetheless, I have observed some habits that help us to be resilient in the face of challenges:

 1. Putting the situation in perspective

People who cope well have cultivated the ability to see their obstacles for what they are. A little self-talk can be helpful in this regard. When we feel the anxiety rising, we can ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Is this a problem or just an inconvenience?
  • Am I frustrated or devastated?
  • Is this serious enough that I should stop pretending that everything is ok?
  • Is my reaction in alignment with the severity of the situation?

 2. Aggressively protecting “breathing space” in our calendar

Everything is worse when we are pressed for time. I’ve heard it said that hurry and love are incompatible. The less margin we have in our day, the more likely we are to respond poorly in the face of issues, such as:

  • exploding verbally
  • mistreating loved ones
  • making a bad situation worse
  • failing to give deserved attention to pending serious threats
  • pretending everything is fine when it is not

 3. Nurturing of supportive communities

While independence is often needed, isolation tends to exacerbate troubles. Resilient people have:

  • someone to vent to when small irritations arise
  • a network to step in during emergencies and provide extra arms, legs, cars, financial assistance, etc.
  • mentors to provide wisdom, guidance and spiritual support
  • multi-generational relationships to offer experienced advice

 4. Regularly thinking through possible scenarios and preparing accordingly

When we have back-ups in place, we tend to handle difficulties better. For example:

  • maintaining a recent computer back-up in case of a computer meltdown
  • having a printed presentation in the briefcase in case the digital version fails
  • storing critical documents in a fire-safe box
  • leaving early to allow for traffic
  • keeping a change of clothes in the car in case the toddler soils himself on the ride to school
  • investing in the flood and homeowner’s insurance
  • making sure someone knows where we are and how to reach us at all times

Cultivating these habits won’t help us avoid rough times, but it may help us cope with them.

*     *     *     *     *

What do you do to help you overcome difficult times?

24 thoughts on “Inconveniences, Problems & Disasters”

    1. You are lucky, Janine. Often, simply being able to feel heard and affirmed in our frustration is enough to deflate the balloon of emotions and enable us to carry on!

  1. Wow! I can totally relate to everything you said here…from being “caught” in a situation right before a big party to having a meltdown to putting things in perspective, to enlisting help from your support system, to figuring out plan B…or C. What I’ve noticed is that when that “thing” happens to us, even if things could be a lot worse, it’s still happening to us. And that part is hard. So we have to figure out how to cope without blowing things way out of proportion. But our initial reaction (at least it’s often that way for me) tends to be momentary panic. Once I settle down, humor goes a long way AND…talking it through with someone else to figure out a few options for resolving the situation. Or at least accepting a temporary situation. And when something happens out of our control (like loss,) respecting the emotions and feelings that arise and giving myself the gift of kindness and patience helps.

    So you didn’t finish your story. I’m guessing that’s because it’s not resolved yet. I hope that you’ll find a workable resolution in time for your party. And if not, I’m sure your guests will be understanding and that your party will still be wonderful. We’ve done a lot of entertaining over the years, and we have many great “mishap” stories that are now part of the party lore.

    1. I’ve had more “party mishaps” than I care to remember. We seem to specialize in having a party during a major storm. We’ve had trees fall on the garage and the power go out and gushers where roads were closed and guests couldn’t get home. I love your point about humor. That is SO TRUE! In the end, I find most people actually appreciate being invited into a home where everything isn’t perfect. If we can’t get the fridge into it’s space by the party, I think I’ll put a sign of explanation and tray of drinks on top of it LOL!

  2. There’s always been a bit of perspective in our home. We are looking at our blessings on a daily basis. Our communty flooded severaly last year. Seeing the daily frustrations of this natural disaster took it’s toll. It was truly life threatening. In our home we have prioritized seeing the bright side. It’s made a difference.

    The positive perspective helps you in so many ways. It’s about wellness since there’s less stress. It’s about being together and relationships. Most relationships thrive with less drama and negativity. It’s about our work. We both love what we do and who we work with. You will find that positivity and perspective have more benefits than you can imagine.

    Albert Einstein says, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

    1. Living through something like the severe flooding Houston endured changes us, perhaps in a way that is similar to a near-death experience. Not only can it alter the way we view our own lives, but also our compassion for others. I know for me, my lowest times have helped me to be less judgmental and simply desire to encourage others. Positivity means everything! I just heard an acronym yesterday for HOPE: Hang On, Pain Ends.

  3. I love this post – especially the way you broke down the various categories of challenges. I’ve been thinking about the perspective on “problems” a lot lately, mostly because of the news, and your breakdown makes so much sense in the face of what many people are going through right now. I also love your phrase “aggressively protecting breathing space”. In our society most of us DO have some luxury with time, and we squander it with busyness that doesn’t really serve us. So much to think about here…

    1. My husband and I were discussing the squandering of time last night. Devices have become almost a repository for wasted moments. It is so simple to pick up the phone and surf around, and we think there is not cost to this, but there is. I am frequently impressed by people like Thomas Jefferson, who accomplished so much in his life. I wonder if he would have fared so well if he had a phone in his hand to distract him…

  4. The distinction between these becomes obvious when a group of people get together for the first time in a while. One tells their story about being stuck in a traffic jam, then feels like a fool when the next one talks about a family member who was in a serious car accident. It’s all relative, isn’t it?

    1. Yes, that is so true. A good friend recently (and very suddenly) lost her husband, and it shook me up. How many times do we hear people tell us to hug those close to us and make the most of every moment, and yet, it seems to be human nature to fall short on this front. I’ve had that experience you mention, and it feels awful.

  5. You are so right – putting things into perspective changes most things. I am a glass half-full kind of gal. I tend to see the positive in just about everything. There are some things, though, that are just tough. Time, patience and baby steps are helping to get me through. I like to think that everyone has something – usually something that doesn’t show on the outside.

    1. I definitely believe that all of us are walking around with invisible loads. Even in settings where we should feel the freedom to let down the masks, we struggle to do so. Being able to have a positive outlook is a gift, but it doesn’t remove the pain of hardship. We all have to walk through valleys, but hopefully knowing that there will at some point be an exit. I’m a big fan of baby steps!!

  6. This post is powerful stuff, Seana. Thank you for sharing. I find that breathing deeply several times throughout the process helps me calm down and move through easily. I also like to tell myself, this too shall pass. Looking at the big picture comes for me after the situation has been resolved. Then I can look back and be grateful.

    1. Hindsight can be a helpful way to see how things do tend to resolve. That doesn’t mean there won’t be tough times, but it can help us keep moving forward through them. I like to try breathing as well… I should do it more!

  7. Excellent post. Perspective is everything. It’s so easy to get stuck in what’s wrong instead of what’s right. Counting our blessings is always a good way to get perspective. Good luck with you fridge.

  8. It is nice to put it into perspective, and also to think about how the inconveniences can feel like problems, and the problems can feel like crises, but they really are all what they are.
    Our fridge died last year and we couldn’t get the new one in. We had a contractor there at the time anyway, unrelated, and he had to sand some of our cabinets. Yikes!

    1. Lucky that the contractor was there to sand the cabinets and get it in. Fridges seem to be the worst for fitting into an existing space!! I figure if we don’t get it into the space by the party, I’ll put a note of explanation on top and a tray of drinks!

  9. This is so good Seana and so true. What I find is that you imagine it will be great and easy and then…….. Life is really full of these ups and downs, frustrations and day to day mishaps and it really is a matter of perspective. In the moment it can feel so terrible and even devastating. We just had to spend over $2000. on a leaky pipe owned by the city but on our property so it was our responsibility. geez. However, I do feel grateful that I have a house and I did get back 1500. on my income tax lol which really helped.
    We will be in the market sometime soon for a new fridge too – yikes, hope it goes well (there is only one size that will fit the space for sure)

    1. Well I certainly hope you have better luck with your new fridge… they seem to be particularly tough to get into an existing spot! I told my husband if our main fridge ever goes, we might need a new kitchen:) I also have a story about a pipe. It is a long story wrapped up with a renovation, a very flooded basement, and me hiring the kind of company that cities usually hire. #ugly

  10. Keeping things in perspective keeps me in line. I learned the term “first-world problem” and it has helped me deal with many frustrations. For example our air conditioning has been broken for two weeks (long story of multiple frustrating developments). It’s been hot here, but the worst was when three days of rain came and we couldn’t even open our windows. Then I stepped back and invoked my first-world problems reality check. 1. I have air conditioning when most of the world does not. 2. I have a home when thousands of people are losing theirs in a storm. 3. We are healthy and safe (just a little sweaty).

    I am adding your post here to my tool kit of dealing with the hassles of life and keeping a positive and thankful outlook.

    1. Sorry about your air conditioner. When we are used to something, it can be very frustrating to suddenly be without it. It is an interruption to the way we live, which is a different kind of stress from not having something. That said, I totally agree with your perspective. Gratitude can be very helpful when things go wrong. At any given moment, even when something is going wrong, finding something positive to cling onto can be helpful. I hope the AC gets fixed soon!!!

    1. Sending you hugs as you continue to mourn the loss of your mother. That is so terribly hard, especially when you (and she) are so young, and when you were so close. I pray for comfort for you and for new mercies each day as you continue to walk through this difficult time.

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