“He is able who thinks he is able.” ~Buddha
I really needed to finish up a task. I’d already spent five more days than the one I’d estimated it would take. My boss was getting edgy; my co-workers were looking at me funny.
Every day I’d come in, have my plan-of-attack all thought out. It should have progressed well—quickly even. And then something would happen.
One day, the computer hardware I was using for months suddenly stopped and wouldn’t turn on. (Motherboard bad—two days.)
Another day, the software I installed, which runs flawlessly on several other systems, randomly crashed with no strong indication of why. Google revealed that others had encountered this same problem, but with no resolution. (Rebuild entire server from scratch and pray that somehow fixes things—two days and counting.)
And that’s ignoring the myriad interruptions from co-workers needing help, the meetings, the doctor appointments, the sick kids—it just goes on and on.
And, seriously, it always seems like none of my co-workers encounter these kinds of issues (as many, as thorny, as perfect-storm-like as me). It must be that if I were a better employee/parent/human being, I wouldn’t encounter them either.
Seriously. That’s what it feels like. I am somehow flawed in this cosmic way. I am somehow causing, or at least not preventing, this stuff from happening.
I’m in a weekly men’s group. One guy there is the poster child for this issue, even more than me. He seems to encounter this type of “opposition” (from circumstances and co-workers) so much that it can actually make him unwilling to get out of bed in the morning to face the onslaught.
He’s been this way ever since he entered the group a couple years ago. Until three weeks ago.
He came in, his attitude calm and self-assured, a slight smile on his lips. Everyone in the room noticed it immediately and asked him about it. He was actually unaware of his change in demeanor and how noticeable it was to those who knew him.
As he attempted to discover an explanation for us, he recounted his week.
How one day at work he’d encountered the “usual” sudden, new demands from his boss and co-workers, which needed to be met “yesterday”; but he realized that he hadn’t failed, since they hadn’t remembered to tell him about these needs sooner, so he proceeded to address the requests without the requisite guilt feelings.
How one evening he’d decided to return to a regular social function (that had always intimidated him before). How, after showing up there, he was getting cold feet, but rather than just leave (his norm), he decided to call a friend who he knew would encourage him to stay.
And rather than sitting alone in a crowd, he reached out to people—some of whom he didn’t really hit-it-off with, but he said he just moved on to different people until he found some he did enjoy.
How another day he’d decided he should really use some of his vacation. Since he’d always wanted to stay at a cabin in the woods, he found and rented one online and headed there for a few days, armed only with directions that would get him “reasonably close.” (No agonized anticipation and preparation.)
He told us his experiences there:
He’d gone on a short hike that, without the benefit of a topography map, he discovered to be almost straight up—but he decided to do it anyway. When he got back down, he discovered he’d lost his only pair of glasses somewhere along the trail; he decided he wasn’t physically able to go back, and that he’d just manage okay without them.
But then he saw an elderly couple coming down the steep trail carrying his glasses. They had easily made it to the top—something he hadn’t been able to do. Was he just a wimp—unable to attain things that even elderly people could easily do? No—the couple was from Austria and had regularly hiked the Alps all their lives.
Later he walked onto the front porch of the cabin after a shower to get his shoes. The cabin door blow closed and locked, and he found himself locked outside his cabin, naked but for a towel, with no key or anything else.
After only a couple minutes of mildly agonized thought, he realized there was nothing to do but to grab a rock and break a window to gain entry. He’d just have to pay for the broken window. No biggie—better than spending his vacation outside naked.
He related all this matter-of-factly, concluding that, although lots of unanticipated things came up, he decided that was just par for the course, and did whatever seemed the best thing at the time to deal with it.
We all just stared at him. He was, even now, unaware of the heroic (especially for him) things he had accomplished in a self-unaware way.
I was so amazed and proud of him. And I was so inspired.
Since that day, I awake with a different attitude.
The challenges I will face this day, though unpredictable, are not unexpected. They are par for the course. They are frustrating, sometimes scary. They cause problems—some minor, some major.
But I do what seems the best thing at the time. Sometimes that’s enough to overcome the problem, sometimes not. But their occurrence does not make me a failure.
And I believe dealing with them in this way keeps me from becoming one.
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt