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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