I record “note-worthy” things on the calendar hanging on my fridge.
A couple Fridays ago, I wrote “super-duper hot”. The next Friday, I wrote “super-duper windy”. I glanced at the following Friday and asked myself, “If this “super-duper” theme continues, what will I be writing on that calendar date? What super-duper thing will I experience next Friday?”
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked.
For most of the week, I had been sanding and preparing my deck for stain. On Thursday, I stained the deck railing. It went well, but unfortunately, it used more stain than I anticipated. I was pretty sure I needed more stain.
I woke up early on Friday to check the weather forecast; it’s recommended that stain has 24 hours without rain. There was a slight chance of rain in the early afternoon. I decided to wait and not risk it. An hour later, the chance of rain decreased. I changed my mind and decided to stain the deck after all.
As I predicted, I did not have enough stain to finish the job. 5 boards and the 4 stairs left. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll quickly go buy another can and be back before I know it.”
After driving 30 minutes to the store where I had purchased the first can, I was told that the product I was using was discontinued and there was none left in the store. There was nothing there for me.
What?! I bought the first can only 2 weeks before! I can’t change what stain I am using now! That would look absolutely ridiculous.
Luckily, the store in the bigger city still had a few cans available.
After driving another hour and a half, I finally had the can of stain in my hand. But I still had another hour drive home (so much for a quick trip!).
I checked the weather. The chance of rain had gone up, but it had been jumping up and down all morning; the forecasters couldn’t make up their minds.
So, hours after running out of stain from the first can, I was busy working again. Things were going very well: the colour matched the first stuff, and the sun was behind some clouds (also recommended for staining).
I was 99.8% done the job, finishing the last stair, when I felt the first raindrop.
I attempted to comfort myself. “It’ll just be a couple drops. It’ll be fine.” But when the drops didn’t stop, the comforting didn’t work.
Alas, I went inside and watched the rain wash away the stain I had just applied. I could do nothing about it. I felt helpless, sad, angry, stupid.
Serendipitously, I had been reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, and author. In the book, he discusses his experiences in the concentration camps in WWII, and how it affected him and the other prisoners. He says that the events of life are your opportunities to prove to yourself what kind of person you are. When things get tough and you have no control over the situation, you always have control over the kind of person you choose to be.
I could not control the situation. I could not stop the rain. I would have to re-sand and re-stain those boards and stairs when they dried off again.
But now, standing watching the rain on the wood, I could see that life had just presented me an opportunity. It was giving me the chance to choose how I respond in this situation. It was giving me the chance to prove to myself the kind of person I choose to be.
Am I the kind of person who lets a frustrating day ruin their week? Am I the kind of person who beats themselves up for taking a risk and losing? Am I the kind of person who turns into a rage monster when things don’t go as I planned? Or am I the kind of person who recognizes the difficulty but takes it in stride and continues to see challenges as more opportunities to prove to myself who I am?
The choice is mine.
My “Friday Fiasco” presented me the opportunity to prove to myself that I am the kind of person that takes it in stride and moves on. Because that’s who I choose to be.
I am grateful, as I write “super-duper frustrating” on the calendar.
What challenges are you facing?
How can you see the opportunities they present?
Who do you choose to be?
Here’s to conquering stress.
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Practical Strategies to Deal with Daily Stressors
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