I’m a natural worrier. I’m also a natural planner. Two thoughts about worrying and planning:
There is overlap: I’d guess that these two personality traits have strong Venn diagram overlap. In other words, if you’re a worrier, you’re probably a planner.
- Both worrying and planning take you out of the present moment. Worrying about a past that you can’t change is a waste of time. Worrying about future events that may not even happen is also ridiculous.
- Planning is the enemy of spontaneity. Much of the time, life is more fun if you allow for some wiggle room and let life take you along for the ride.
Worrying and planning are the enemies of living in the present and therefore, the enemies of happiness. When I find myself living too much in the past or future, I try to reset my mind through on the spot, mini-meditation sessions.
But sometimes, just like the bored primate at the zoo, life throws some shitballs at you.
I don’t want to sound like a whiny ComplainyPants, so I’ll just say that 2020 has been an interesting time for the 1500 household.
January: My father has suffered from various health issues for a long time. In January, one of these issues manifested itself in an auto accident.
March: COVID reared its ugly-ass glycoproteins (the dangly bits on the outside of the virus) and terrorized the world. Most of my projects ground to a near halt as I became a teacher. Older Daughter adapted well, but Younger Daughter fought me every day:
She was right on that last point.
April: My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on the 25th. We were supposed to be together, but the virus shut it down. Three days later, I received a frantic call stating my father was having a heart attack. It turned out to be an aortic dissection (I had to Google it too). He had 3 tears in his ascending aorta and was close to death, but survived almost 8 hours of emergency surgery.
May: Mindy and I had planned to Airbnb our previous house. It would be a fun experiment. But once again:
With vacation rentals shut down, we pivoted and decided to rent the home out. By way of MMM HQ and the awesome community that it attracts, we found a perfect couple that needed a place to live. This was great, but it also meant we’d have to get the house in perfect shape and clean out the garage pronto. We should have done this in the fall when we moved out. Instead, we left our crap in the garage, rented rooms, and punted on the deferred maintenance. No problem. we’ll have the month of May to get it done!
**queue the ominous music**
Last Tuesday, I received a text stating that my dad wasn’t doing well. A nurse told my mother that she had considered calling in the middle of the night because the situation was dire; fluid around the lungs, irregular blood pressure, and 100% oxygen on the ventilator. I rented a car and drove 800 miles to my parents’ home on Wednesday. And that’s where I sit right now in the Las Vegas heat.
My dad’s situation is precarious. He’s recovered a bit, but still on a ventilator. An attempt to take him off failed. The surgeon scheduled another surgery. And in the meantime, lots of scary words:
Three weeks earlier was his 50th wedding anniversary and he was feeling fine. Now, I may never talk to him again.
But, this is the rhythm of life. Good times and bad times.
Random Thoughts On Resilience
Here in Vegas, I’ve had some time to walk around and think. Crazy issues aside, life is as good for me as it’s ever been:
- No more worrying about money.
- Mindy and the kids are all healthy.
- I’ve had fun building stuff around the home and making new friends at the coworking space.
But, the recent chaos has shown me that I’m not nearly as stoic as I’d like to be. Spock I am not.
However, I’ve taken some hits in life and survived. I’m not a life coach, although I sometimes pretend to be one on the internet. Here are my favorite tips for building resilience.
The dictionary defines a buffer as:
A means or device used as a cushion against the shock of fluctuations in business or financial activity.
I’ll expand that definition:
A means, device, behavior, or thought process used as a cushion against the shock of fluctuations in business, financial activity, or life.
I was able to come out to Las Vegas at a moment’s notice because I’ve built buffers. FIRE is an incredibly powerful buffer. When you don’t have to work for money, you have time. Money and time can solve a lot of problems.
I’ve also discovered that just staying calm and rational when everyone else is losing their shit can take you a long way. I was rereading one of JL Collins’ posts from 2012 and noticed this:
Did you stay calm and rational during the last recession? I didn’t and am poorer for it.
Circles of control
This one has been discussed extensively, but it deserves a mention here. It’s quite simple:
- If something worries you and it’s in your control, fix the damn situation so you won’t worry about it anymore.
- If something worries you and it’s out of your control, you’re wasting valuable mental bandwidth. There is nothing you can do about it, so why give it any attention? This is why watching 24 hours news networks is toxic.
Most problems have a solution, even if it’s not the one you may have been hoping for. I get into frequent ruts with home improvement projects. Here are recent examples:
I can’t figure out how to frame around this stupid duct!
How do I build a beam that can tolerate this span and load?
How do I plumb this weird spot?
I’ve always found a solution. Sometimes, it’s not easy because I really wanted the first solution to work and when it doesn’t, I find it hard to let it go. But when I set fire to my previous idea, I’m often able to come up with another solution quickly.
Realize that life is probably pretty damn good
I was listening to Jocko Willink’s interview of Rose Schindler, an Auschwitz survivor. Her family of 11 was sent to the concentration camp and 3 survived. She was sent to the gas chambers multiple times but managed to escape. And, she was a child.
Your life is always better than that.
Take care of yourself
If I let my lizard brain run life, I’d consume nothing but Lucky Charms, cheeseburgers, Cheetos, and beer. I’d also die of diabetes or a cardiac issue.
Broccoli sucks. So do green beans. But I eat them because dying of cancer or having a stroke sucks more.
If you don’t have your health, all of the time and money in the world means nothing.
Accept the bullshit
A-holes will cut you off in traffic. Crazy relatives will argue with you on Facebook. You will get stuck at the airport behind someone who goes through the metal detector with pockets of change. You will fart loudly at the library. People who you don’t like will get elected to office. Your cat will skip the catbox every once in a while and leave a tootsie roll on the new carpet. You will wear a white shirt when you eat pizza and get stains. You have to pay taxes. You will die.
Accept the bullshit and then let it go.
It’s OK to not be OK
It’s not normal and probably not healthy to feel great all of the time. Occasional fear, sadness, and anxiety are part of being a human. Please see the movie Inside Out for the best explanation I’ve ever seen.
And if nothing else
How about you? How do you keep a positive attitude when life is rough?
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Dave @ Accidental FIRE says
Sorry to hear about your Dad Carl, but as always you have a great way of looking at things and made me laugh anyway. Best to you and your family.
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I quite enjoyed this post. I too am a worrier and a planner. They definitely go hand in hand! My husband is not a worrier or planner so I figure we balance each other out that way. If you weren’t a planner, you probably wouldn’t be at FIRE now, so you have to take the good with the bad. I have been trying to focus on the circles of control a lot lately when my worrying ramps up a notch, and have been trying to get other family members to think that way too. My mom has a freak out every time Trump speaks on the news and she’s Canadian! He is not part of her circle of control and she should really turn off CNN! LOL. I have been pondering the fact that not only am I a worrier and planner, but I think I’ve become too pessimistic lately too…trying to change that part of myself more than the planning part.
Lastly, sorry to hear your father is not doing well. Hope you all come out of this stronger.
Danny the Pizza Guy says
Oh no! Sorry to read about your father, and hope he makes a full recovery.
We’ve also had a roller coaster ride of a 2020 thus far. Between job losses for us both, me getting a new job with higher pay in a deteriorating job market, COVID-19 casualties of family members, learning a completely different type of tax work (commercial real estate tax, which I know you and Mindy would appreciate), and having the Mrs. and personal pan pizza (PPP) at home while I work…it was not how we envisioned 2020 to start off. But like yourself, seeing the positives in an odd situation has made all the difference. Being in a solid financial situation, us all being healthy, and both of us having the chance to watch PPP learn and play all day while I’m working, while energy draining, has been some of the best times.
Wishing you and family all the best during this time and hoping you all have a better 2nd half of 2020.
Very sorry to hear about your father, I knew something had to be up. I look forward to your weekly posts! Stay safe with your travels. We need reminders about appreciating our situations, Good post!
Sorry to hear about your dad. Hope he’s on the mend.
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Torrie @ To Love and To Learn says
I’m sorry to hear about your dad—what a major stressor during an already stressful situation! My husband and I haven’t lost a parent yet, but we came awfully close a few years ago when my father-in-law went into septic shock and actually had to have his leg amputated. He’s thankfully fine now, but he was in the ICU for two months, and it was stress on top of stress on top of stress. I can only imagine dealing with that on top of the whole pandemic situation. Here’s hoping you gain the clarity and peace you need during this stay in Las Vegas.
I hope your dad pulls through!
With this COVID thing, I am pretty happy my parents had to cancel all their international trips this year. It’s not that I don’t want them to travel, it is more that they needed to be forced to cancel them because of the current situation. I know (thankfully) they are in good health, but they are both 75+ and don’t need to be taking a chance for a leisure trip right now. Next year? Sure probably, but this year… not so much.
Again I hope your dad pulls through, and you are a model of why it is so important to work towards financial independence, even if you do want to keep working once you hit it, it’s all about the flexibility it brings.
One of the toughest things to do is stay positive when life turns into something unexpected and negative.
Sometimes I’ll just go on a super long walk or run just to be alone and put my mind somewhere else that can be really helpful. Sharing the bad with someone I trust and letting it all out can certainly be therapeutic which is something you have done here on the website. Trusting that there is something bigger than you and whatever situation is happening at the moment will pass into a better place.
Hope everything turns out for the best my friend.
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Thank you for sharing the news about your dad. I hope he’s comfortable, and am really glad you have the flexibility and means to be there for him. We lost mom four years ago and my pop (now 72) is doing really well… for now, at least. Fortunately for us he’s local.
Lucky Charms aren’t my bag but if my lizard brain had its way I could seriously eat Cheetos, cheeseburgers, and beer every day of the week. I’ve gotten back into running earlier this month; I keep it to a cheeseburger or two per month and two or three beers a week. Tonight it’s tofu and carrots and rice, which at least forces me to be a better cook in order to make that sort of thing less unpalatable.
The frameworks and appreciation and perspective you’ve provided in this post are fantastic. Take care, and know that people are thinking of you.
Helen & Jon says
We just read your blog post about your dad. We are so sorry to hear that times are getting tough. Your post already touched on all the things to do but we know it can be hard to follow the advice regardless of how fortunate our lives are.
Thinking of you and your family and sending you all a big virtual hug. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if there’s something we can help with.
Helen & Jon
Cathleen Cooks Stuff says
Wow, you have had a very busy and eventful (sometimes not in a good way) year so far. I am sorry your dad is not doing well- hopefully he recovers well and quickly so you can have some time with him while you are there. We are doing fine (god, when does school start up again?!), but I am going to take a break from blogging for a while to recapture some time back.
Mr. Tako says
I always like to tell myself that if all that bad stuff didn’t happen, then the good moments in life wouldn’t feel so great when they do happen. Yin and yang. The good and the bad have to happen to keep us balanced individuals.
Sorry to hear about your Dad though. I hope things improve soon!
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Sorry to hear about your father, I’m with you on that difficulty.
Your notion of buffers made me think of Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism”. Matt D’Avella did a good interview with him here, talking about buffer: https://youtu.be/h8u4clhDHvQ – thought you might enjoy it (they talk about buffer specifically around 14:45).
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Frogdancer Jones says
I can’t tell you how much I like this post!
(Well, except for the news about your Dad. I hope things improve quickly for you all.)
When I was a sole parent of 4 very young boys, I used to worry a lot. To the point of tears. I had no money and precarious security to bring them up with.
I learned very quickly to do what you advised – to let anything out of my control go – and to shore up the things I can control.
Life became much happier when that realisation dawned!
I’m a planner who likes to have lots of buffer-space. In fact, my first name for an emergency fund was a ‘buffer zone.’ I never want me or mine to be in a position of such financial insecurity ever again.
I’m looking forward to having the time that FIRE affords. I’m working now to pay for all the big renovations I want to have in place for when I retire. Having financial security + time is as good as life gets.
I’m sorry to hear that your dad isn’t doing so well. I, unfortunately and unexpectedly, lost my dad when I was 14 (I’m 35 now), and it’s a scary time, but then you add all of this to it and hell.
As a side note, and on topic with your post (minus the parts about your dad), this whole thing has also completely destroyed our plans as well. We were supposed to leave on May 6th for a second trip to Germany. Yeah, didn’t happen. We’re hunkered down in Indiana. I lost my job, husband is working from home, and we’re missing our family and friends. It’s rough, but we’ll get through it.
Praying things turn around for your dad.
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life says
That’s a lot of serious words. I hope your dad pulls through this surgery and recovers. I’m sorry about all the stress in the meantime though.
We’re looking at something similar (dear family are going through THINGS: cancer, trying to escape an abuser, burnout) and all I can do is be support and try to do whatever I can to help them hold on to their physical health and mental health. I can’t control any outcome at all and for a planner, this is a special kind of hell. But it’s teaching me how to actually take a step back in a way that nothing else ever has, emotionally. There’s no room for me to take in everyone’s pain anymore, not with the way this year has been, and that’s an old bad habit I have long needed to shed. So I can feel for them and care about them without destroying myself.
And yeah I remember stories of my parents and family living in refugee camp, and my friend was born in internment camp. Nothing we are going through compares to those experiences, we’re pretty lucky all told.
I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I’m glad you are able to be there with him and wish you all the best. Also, 50 years. Wow. That just amazes me when I hear those stories, what an amazing accomplishment; congratulations to both your parents!
I’m slowly getting better at not being a worrier and a lot of that comes from the point you made – looking at what I can control and accepting what I cannot (the accepting part is often the most difficult for a control freak like myself!) Work in progress, but I am definitely finding a lot of benefits in just letting things be sometimes.
As for COVID life, I’m one of “those people’ who are loving it. The roads are clearer for long bike rides in new areas to explore, the popular hiking spots are full so it’s “forced” Kim & I to find new places and I had no idea some of the areas and peaks we have so close to us. There is a “Grand Slam” consisting of 4 peaks that we are 1 away from completing!, and while I know we’ll return to eating and drinking out because important people in my life love it, I’ve saved additional money in not even having the option of going out!
I also recognize that I am lucky. I kept my job, my family and friends are healthy, my favorite hobbies weren’t impacted, I really didn’t have much to adjust to. In addition, it’s given me the space to really reflect on what’s important and how my lifestyle fits with what I claim my values are….and whether or not I’m going to make changes to actually align those.
Enjoy your time with your parents, celebrate with you mom, and love your dad so hard.
So sorry to hear about your dad and what your family is going through. I wish you all the best. I agree with your thoughts on the here and now, and not focusing on what could have been or what may be. For COVID, we can only hold our collective breaths so long and so we all adapt to the new rhythms of life as we live them. If there is anything I can do, let me know.
Oh Carl – I can relate to that horrible phone call and the long drive of worry and fear knowing that you can’t do anything to help. A terrible, yet universal experience that few ever talk about. I am so glad you can be there now and that you are applying hardwon lessons and tools to manage the stress. Sending all my best to you and your family. You will be in my thoughts.
Financial Freedom Countdown says
Sorry to hear about your dad and hope he is on the path to recovery. Sending good wishes your way!
Agree life is unpredictable and there is only so much we can control. Also FI eliminates one of our worries (financial) but we still have to deal with the rest. And most of folks who achieved FI have done so with meticulous planning and considering various scenarios. So worrying is natural but counting blessings helps sometimes.
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Mr Crazy Kicks says
Sorry to hear about your dad ☹️ At least you were able to go help your parents as soon as needed.
I’m a worrier too, sometimes I can’t even pin down exactly what it is that I’m worried about, or it’s something I should stop worrying about. Meanwhile, the wife is rarely afflicted by this.
Wishing the best for you during this difficult time.
John Massie says
On December 26th 2007 my father told me he did not feel well. January 8th, 2008 he died. I have been in your shoes and I wish you and your father the best.
I once saw a quote that said If you have anxiety you care about everything and having depression is not caring about anything and having both is pure hell. I have both but I have learned to let go of the things I cannot control and do the best you can in whatever you are doing.
I may not be the best triathlete but I do the best I can. You are trying to be the best father and educator to your children, spouse, and son. You are doing great and just realize that some things are out of your control. Keep up the good work.
Dividend Power says
Sorry to hear about your father. I hope that he gets better soon. It’s a challenging time.
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Me too. I’m the same. I agree! worrying and planning do overlap and those two are very toxic. Gave me dark circles and underweight. I’m working my way through and meditation is the only thing that helps me.
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Sorry to hear about your dad Carl. That’s really tough especially considering what’s happening in the world right now. Hope he will get better soon. We went through something similar last year with my wife’s grandparents. It was especially tough considering they were all the way in Denmark and we were half across the world in Vancouver.
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Never made that anxiety + planning connection before. That’s awesome insight there; I’ll be pondering that one the next few days.
So lame about your dad. Hang in there.
As for resilience, cue the bad Youtube music: About a year ago I stumbled on ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy). It was popularized by The Happiness Trap, although it didn’t resonate with me through that writing. Basic idea: Anxiety, that phobia, your depression? Those aren’t the problem. The problem is you thinking they are problems that need fixing. The alternative is owning that you feel sad, worried, mad, etc. and just staying rooted in the moment with mindfulness.
And here’s where someone way more qualified than me jumps in to correct that description, but botched psychology theory or not, it’s been a deceptively simple mind trick that’s bought me a lot of satisfaction.
Mr. 1500 Days says
No, I think you said it very well and it’s a topic that I’ve thought about before.
If you haven’t already, see the Pixar film Inside Out.
“…it’s been a deceptively simple mind trick that’s bought me a lot of satisfaction.”
Agreed! Just telling yourself that it’s OK to not be OK can go a long way.
I haven’t seen Inside Out but I will!
I am sorry to here about your such loss.
A great content on recent pandemic, it’s crucial time for each of us to survive the job’s and to find a new job.
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The Crusher says
Just catching up. So very sorry to hear about your father. I sincerely hope that he is recovering.
There is a quote on how to handle tough overwhelming times in “It Isn’t Easy Being Green” by Jim Henson. I dug it out on my copy to share. I think it very sound advice:
“At some point in my life I decided, rightly or wrongly, that there are many situations in this life that I can’t do much about: acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, cold war, etc. So what I should do is concentrate on the situations that my energy can affect.”
Pretty smart guy, Jim Henson.
Mr. 1500 Days says
My dad isn’t doing so well, but I’ve time to think about it and accept it. His life was tumultuous at times, but at the core, he was a good person. Thanks for asking.
That’s a great quote. I’m adding that book to my list.
Jorma J Tontti says
Thanks, good article.
I do agree, that when we meet a big misfortune in life it is important to keep calm and rational. Emotion control is needed.
Some years back I learnt a 5 step action plan:
2. Analyze the situation
3. If immediate actions is not needed, dont do anything.
4. Make a decision.
5. Go on!
Problems are always at their worst, when they have just happened.