Don’t you just hate when things go wrong. No question mark needed on the end of that sentence. Because as humans, we hate when it happens. At least initially.
And while I’m a proponent of feeling the hurt, pain, anger—whatever emotion—I know I can’t stay there.
You know it too.
And whether you had a career setback, a romance foiled, a friendship gotten prickly, the car won’t start or the carpet came up, most times you’re left with having to do something about it. Talk about adding insult to injury! I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at a flat tire and said, “Fix your ownself.”
Of course, said tire never did. And not much else does either.
Isn’t it just a truth of this life that we have to spend the effort to take care of the stuff that’s broken in whatever way, whether looking for a new job, working through that friendship problem, calling the carpet folks, or soothing our own broken hearts.
For me, anyway, it’s easy to get caught up in the pity pot if I’m not careful. Real careful. I do give myself a set time to wallow, but it’s not a long time. And then the focus has to turn to going forward.
And don’t’cha know that’s easier said than done!
So here’s a list of what to I do when things go wrong. It’s a short list, but then, when I’m upset, I need to cut to the chase.
Although we all know that asking some kinds of ‘why’ questions is fruitless—why did this happen to me?—the understanding of what went wrong and how that came about sure helps me to see my own part.
I do believe we create our own realities, so I always have a part in the problem. Even if it was simply that my attitude stunk.
Then, I can go on to what I can do differently in the future. I find that comforting. For God’s sake, the last thing I want to do is repeat mistakes!
That part, I just gotta do. Otherwise, I replay the transgressions over and over in my head, and the pain and suffering (no matter how the emotion comes out) remains. And this is especially a tough one for me if I’m more than a little at fault. Takes me longer to forgive myself than to forgive you! But that’s a topic for another day.
Something that’s come up for me quite often of late is not to judge. I’ve been re-watching The Power of Myth (so love Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers!) and Campbell has a long segment of how myths from all cultures have the same motif of non-judgment and forgiveness. About how even in the face of mass killings, starvations, whatever horror faces us today, our job isn’t to judge. That doesn’t mean we don’t take action to correct said horror, but just that we don’t attach judgment to it.
I’m still working on this one. Especially in light of Charlottesville, but again, another topic for another day . . . .
And of course, I take more consolation from the words of writers, as in Oscar Wilde’s take on this: “Everyone may not be good, but there’s always something good in everyone. Never judge anyone shortly because every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”
And I have to laugh—this is something I tell my writers all the time about creating multi-faceted characters!
Once I go through that process (although both of those are often ongoing until I dig it all out), I get to the one that actually shoots me forward:
That speaks to ‘how important is it,’ but I can’t think of it that way yet.
At first, my ego shouts, “This is vital! If x doesn’t happen we die!”
Now, your ego might not be as dramatic as mine, but that’s where I usually go.
But by looking at the occurrence in the harsh light of day, I can almost always discern whether I’ll even think about it months or even weeks from now. And if I won’t, well, shoot! Why am I stressing over it today? Call the stinking plumber and get on with it!
Yep, the old 12-step motto (I learned an awfully lot in the Al-anon groups). Maybe I shouldn’t have driven the Mini Cooper down that dirt road. Or, maybe it picked up the nail in a paved parking lot. Who knows. The thing is, the tire’s flat, so again, fix it!
Course, that sentiment’s easier with something as simple as a tire. Matters of the heart, in all fashions, are different indeed.
But if Viktor Frankl, who had things far worse than I can ever imagine, can do this, than so can I: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
How do you get over setbacks?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.