Thursday, May 18, 2006

Breathe in, breathe out

I'm more controlling than I like to admit. I was faced with this ugly truth after my car’s unfortunate oil incident, in which my two-year old car lost its essential fluids one night as I drove home after work. On the highway. In the dark.

Just that morning I’d had a routine oil change at a local shop.

Did I mention that this pissed me off in an extreme kind of way?

My husband is nice and calm in most stressful situations, and I remember trying to pretend I was him that night.

“What would M do?” I asked myself.

Would he be filled with rage at the mechanic who changed the oil that morning? No. He would just think, “Mistakes happen. We’ll work it out.”

Would he throw the cell phone across the car because he’d tried to reach five different people and none of them were answering? No. He would say, “There’s no point in getting upset. I’ll keep dialing.”

Would he get a spooky feeling that a serial killer was lurking behind those shadowy trees over there, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting break-down victim?

I’m the one with the overactive imagination.

So I played at being M for a while. This helped me get through the night and the adventures at the shop the next day with a modicum of poise.

But even greater than my anger was the undeniable hurt inside. It was personal to me. If I drove my last car faithfully for 12 years, then thoroughly researched my choices before buying a new one, took the new car in for every single oil change and maintenance requirement, and was only ONCE busted for flipping the bird at an undercover cop (which is really nothing in this area), then DING DING DING!

You've done everything right! You may advance to GO! And on the way, you will encounter zero problems because you are such an OUSTANDING HUMAN BEING.

That night, as I lay sprawled on the couch in alternating fits of anger and self-pity, M said simply: “These are just the problems of life. Everyone has them, every single day. No one is immune. It’s just the problems of life.”

Just the problems of life.

I rolled this around in my head for a moment, studying it from every angle.

Holy cow. Light bulbs shot on in every room of the house, even the ones that weren't screwed into any sockets!

Suddenly I felt free, emancipated from the lessons that had been unconsciously passed on to me as I grew up, those which decreed that if I worked hard enough, and planned enough, and was vigilant enough, bad things would not happen to me.

Imagine! There are things I can’t control! And if I don't get that, one could conclude that I think I'm smarter and more powerful than all my fellow humans. And nothing would make me feel worse than to be a person who would have those thoughts.

I can breathe so much easier now.

I generally consider myself to be a happy, optimistic person. But now I can be a happy, optimistic person who repeats her new mantra when her mother is hospitalized, when the sewage line backs up into her garage, when she puts the car in DRIVE instead of REVERSE, or spills salad dressing on her pants at work.

Say it with me: It’s just the problems of life.

And if this is all it is, it ain’t so bad.


Blogger Carolyn said...

My version of that is "Life isn't fair." :D

9:55 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

I can totally relate...tonight I went to Brooklyn to teach 2 classes. I got there early because the train was running correctly (no construction detours, etc. which there always are on this line on the weekend). So I got there 50 minutes early. Went to sit in the park, it started to rain. The band-aid on my toe fell off. Worried that it would get infected. Sat in gazebo with guy who offered me a tangerine. Weird homeless man came in and tried to sell the tangerine guy Red Bull. I went to the yoga center in the rain, only to be soaked within minutes. The toe hurts every time I did upward dog. Got my "friend" right before class and had NOTHING to deal with it. Had just met the front desk girl and didn't feel comfortable asking her. Am running on 6 hours sleep, 4 hours the night before.

I had the same feelings - why is everything so CRAPPY today?!? then i chose to view it as some kind of lesson i was being taught, to learn to deal with adversity or something.

oh, and a girl in the advanced class didn't belong there...she couldn't do downward dog or child's i had to make the choice of teaching her alone or the other 12 people in the class. she got hopelessly behind and eventually left, apologizing. i felt terrible but there was nothing i could do. still, the first person to leave one of my classes...i felt really bad.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

oh, and i'm sick too. i have a scratchy sore throat that made it hard to teach during class. so yes, c, life is definitely not fair ;)

10:37 PM  
Blogger Reighnie said...

Great post... I'll have to remember this. I have the same attitude as you. If something doesn't work out and I've done everything right, I get upset. Not just a little, but a lot. To the point where every little thing that goes wrong drives me off the edge some days.

2:11 AM  
Blogger His suzy said...

Welcome to the club, Liz! I'm sure you'll be happy here. :)

1:08 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

Don't worry, be happy :)

(I just heard that song in my water exercise class,so it was on my mind)

3:53 PM  
Blogger Elsa said...

Great insight. Your husband is wise and so are you to see it. It's a great mantra “These are just the problems of life. Everyone has them, every single day. No one is immune. It’s just the problems of life.” I will have to remember it!

6:39 PM  
Blogger verniciousknids said...

Liz, you are an outstanding human being :)

I've morphed your brilliant Pictionary into Photoionary on my blog...come and play :D

8:54 AM  

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