Have you ever had a setback where the thing itself has been discouraging but your ungraceful, arms flailing response to it has taken you even further down the rabbit hole? Where you thought you were engaged in an interior practice to prepare you for moments like these only to discover that freaking out comes more naturally to you than breathing in?
That was my week. It started in Paris of all places. At the UK Visa office. It’s a long and complicated story and not worth rehashing here except to say that we’ve had a major setback with my Visa after weeks of preparation and a 70 page application because I didn’t have one extra page in my passport. My husband tried to problem solve. I freaked out and only freaked out. Significantly enough for the woman at the Visa office to offer me a cup of water while a room full of people looked on. [Here’s where I’ve written and deleted the rehashing I promised not to do.]
Suffice it to say it was (and is) a legit setback that comes with a lot of rework, time, trains, money and risk to our scheduled move date. Plus cancellations of good things like my Going Away Brunch next Friday which I was so looking forward to. But here’s the thing: in the end, my problem is a paperwork problem. Chances are good that a few of the people who watched my freak out will have more than a paperwork problem. And yet.
Knowing that you’d think I wouldn’t have to move through the stages of grumbling but there I’ve been on the lookout tower waiting for strike two, three, four … finding them (of course!) and counting very loudly. For example, we were called to present ourselves at the Local Police Station at 2pm yesterday for an unpaid speeding fine that we never actually received … but that’s a story for another time.
We like to think we are sufficiently geared up to weather a storm so when we find ourselves unsteady in a rain shower it can be really discouraging. The discouragement can be strong enough to keep you sloshing around in sandals or hidden in your lookout tower. We seem to think if we didn’t have our big girl rain boots on when the rain started our lack of preparation has ruined us until this shower has passed.
It’s still drizzling over here but I’ve traded my sandals for big girl rain boots by doing a few things. I remembered how certain life events – the birth of a child, a marriage, a new job, a health crisis, a MOVE (ding, ding!) – are natural stressors and so our responses to big and small events around them will be understandably exaggerated. These are the stretches in life where it’s best to keep your rain boots on at all times and double down on your commitment to give yourself grace. Telling myself I’ve already made one international move and so this one should be “no big deal” or telling yourself the second kid should be easier because you’ve already had one is like trying to claim immunity from life.
I’ve also experienced how when we unload our frustrations (and failures in dealing with our frustrations) to our friends it’s like coming under their umbrella for a brief respite. Not only are they happy to share their umbrellas with you but many will offer to go puddle jumping with you. It is reason enough to get down from your lookout tower. Friends also are the best spotters of silver linings. We need each other all the time but especially when we are uncertain and discouraged.
Finally, I’m thinking we put too much stock in our first response and that we should be less surprised when we don’t live up to our unrealistic mantras. Our raw, sometimes profane littered reactions may need improvement but if life is about growing in maturity then we can narrow the gap by recovering more quickly. Opps goes a long way. Sorry opens the door you just slammed and others you didn’t even know were closed. If you believe (as I do) that we are a work in progress until our last breathe then we should really expect an imperfect response to every problem. We might be 80% on target but there is always room for improvement. So rather than looking for the next strike we could choose instead to look for the next opening.
It’s only been 24 hours since my visit to the Local Police Station and already I’m seeing the story in new light.