Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I’ve been awake for less than six hours today and I’ve so far complained about:
1. Having to wake the boys up for school
2. Reprimanding the boys for goofing off instead of packing up their backpacks
3. Traffic on the way to school
4. Not finding a seat at the coffee shop near an outlet so I can plug in my lap top
5. It being too cold in said coffee shop
Rough life, huh? Poor me.
I went to a ladies’ lunch yesterday and the speaker reminded me that we all have problems, and if we think we don’t have problems, THAT is a problem.
I currently have friends who are going through some serious things:
1. A beautiful and spirited 26 year old battling breast cancer
2. A loving and devoted father fighting for his children with an ex-wife who is making his life extremely difficult
3. An exhausted couple keeping up with their very ill baby
4. Three friends caring for their ailing parents
5. Several friends with recurring and chronic health issues
6. A couple of friends fighting for their marriages
7. Two families facing the loss of their businesses
8. Two families dealing with serious legal battles
These are real problems. I have nothing worth complaining about.
This doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I need to keep perspective.
When I first moved here I worked for the customer service department of a large home builder. I was overworked and dealt with angry homeowners and their complaints all day, every day. I came home and vented to Jayson, annoyed and frustrated and edgy with negativity. He listened and listened and, one day, he’d had enough.
“Stop complaining,” he said. “It’s not getting you anywhere. If you’re this unhappy, do something about it or find another job.”
Do something about it. So I did. I wrote out a three-page business plan outlining my concerns, with suggestions for improvements. I met with my boss, and then with her boss. What resulted was that we hired two additional employees to alleviate my workload and I received a raise.
Gaining perspective can be difficult when you’re mired in your problems. Sometimes it takes a loved one to throw you a rope, pull you out, and help you step back to see the situation clearly and take stock of the good and bad of it all.
But perspective is not always enough. Yes, it can change your attitude and redirect your outlook, and that’s a helpful thing. It can make a real difference in how you deal with your situation. But it may not be enough.
Perspective should also impel you toward action. Things don’t just get better on their own. Problems don’t magically disappear by wishing them away.
1. Face the problem. This can be hard. Sometimes we’re in denial about the severity of our situation. Seek a trusted friend to talk things out and don’t be afraid to get dirty and vulnerable. Call it what it is and get it out there, as scary as that may be.
2. Form a plan. How can you deal with this problem? What can you do right now to chip away at the mountain that seems to be in front of you? What tiny steps can you take to move toward a solution instead of running away from (or around) the problem?
3. Find experts. Seek out people who can guide you through the problem, especially those who may have experienced the same situation and come out stronger. Ask for help; get advice; solicit tips, contacts, web sites – anything that will help you navigate the reality of what you are dealing with. Being informed can help you become less frightened of the unknown.
4. Fellowship with friends. Surround yourself with support. Friends can encourage you and hold you accountable. They will be there to lift you up, cheer you on, and hold you up. They will check in with you, pray for you, and help you in practical ways (meals, pick up your kids, go to appointments with you, review your resume, etc.). They will help you keep going when you’re tired, frustrated and discouraged.
5. Fortify your faith. Our problems tend to swallow us whole. They are scary and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a solution. Sometimes the reality of the situation is that it will end badly. But our thoughts and views and projections are so limited by our finite minds. Our Savior knows our deepest fears. He has been right where we are. He understands our situation, and He knows how it will end. He can see beyond what we can see, and He is using our problems to draw us closer to Him.
6. Find joy. This one is hard. Problems aren’t joyful. That perpetual pit in your stomach is not joyful. Your insomnia, ulcers, eczema, hair falling out, bills piling up, unemployment, sick parents or children, bankruptcy, broken marriage, totaled car, and burned down house are not joyful. But if you can still take a breath – there is hope. And in hope, joy can be found.
Life is not easy nor is it fair. Difficulties are a constant part of life and happy endings are not guaranteed. I encourage you to find perspective and take action toward tackling your problems. I want to help. May I pray for you? Meet with you? Listen to and encourage you? Help you find joy and gratitude? How about a hug? Or all of the above?
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.