How to Keep Calm and Be Practical When Clusters of Smaller Problems Befall You

I just finished a challenging day. It was the kind of day that can make a person feel defensive and small, and it did make me feel that way for a while. I let myself wallow. I ate popcorn for supper. I yelled at the cats for being the rambunctious jerks they sometimes like to be.

And then, just before I wrote this entry, I heard Onion and Lula murmuring back and forth at each other. I checked in to see what was making them so pleased with everything, and there they were, Onion snuffling through a pile of packing paper and Lula revelling in the joy of a box. They were so damn happy to have found their favourite things.

Five minutes earlier they had been hitting and biting and hissing at each other, but when faced with the simple greatness of packing materials, they gave in to joy. Their happiness reminded me that life is often simpler than I think it is. I tend to turn difficult events and thoughts over and over in my head until they seem like larger, tangled messes than they actually are. I forget that I can stop, gather myself, and break things back down into smaller, more manageable pieces before I knit a complicated ball of huge something out of littler bits of really very small near-nothings:

How to Keep Calm and Be Practical When Clusters of Smaller Problems Befall You:

  1. Take a deep breath in.
  2. Exhale slowly. Release with your breath the need, or sense of obligation, to understand and/or fix all of the problems.
  3. Break it down. Locate one small thing within each problem that you have the power to fix and/or apologize about now or in the near future.
  4. Make concrete plans to fix those smaller things and/or apologize about them in the near future, but not right now, because rushing into solutions tends to make extra problems that genuinely are more complicated, and no one wants those.
  5. Take another deep breath in, acknowledging that you have met at least a part of each problem head on and have taken responsibility for what you can or must. You have behaved like a grown up, and that is respectable.
  6. Exhale slowly. Again, release with your breath the need, or sense of obligation, to understand and/or fix all of the problems, because everything is not yours to fix, and worrying over them as though they are will be detrimental to a solution now and over the long term.
  7. Get in the bath and don't get out for at least an hour.

Sometimes I add an extra step in the middle where I march into another room to rant at Aidan about injustice for a while — it helps to burn off the adrenalin — but these are the steps I generally follow when I remember and if I haven't already wound myself up too much. It's a comfort to have a loose template to follow on the hard days. A bit of external sanity tucked into your pocket, even if it doesn't always make everything right all at once, helps knock the huge somethings back into littler bits of really very small near-nothings when you're off balance. 

Slow exhale. And now I am going to get into the bath, and I'm not getting out again for at least an hour.

Say happy birthday to me and make the world a better place at the same time! Heifer International "…links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income…" This year, I am raising $1764 ($42x42) to celebrate my 42nd birthday on December 29th.