You know those moments that come along every once in a while and unexpectedly throw us for a loop? I’m embarrassed to report that I recently had one that pissed me off so much I went into a major rage, screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs and banging on the steering wheel of my van – I know, I know; this kind of behaviour is both ridiculous and pathetic, but at the time it’s all I could do to let off the steam from the frustration I was feeling… it’s a good thing I was all alone at the time. Since I always promise full disclosure, here’s what trivial annoyance set me off:
I was getting in to the Death Star (our wheelchair converted van) when the latch on the driver’s side door suddenly broke, leaving the handle all limp to the touch, you know, kind of like a steamed noodle. As you can imagine, this was pretty frustrating on it’s own, but wait; this one incident set in motion a chain-reaction of stupid crap with such ninja-like precision I swear the Universe was conspiring against me. Since I was unable to get in the drivers side, I had to enter the van through the passenger side, which entails climbing over the worlds biggest and most cumbersome seat; and to no big surprise, this NAVY SEALS style covert operation didn’t go well either, since in the process I stumbled and bumped my arm, resulted in spilling my (HOT!) coffee all over me AND my seat, which in turn caused me to wind up with a burned hand AND wet ass, when I was finally able to sit down… AYFKM?! All this stress and grief just to get into the damn drivers seat? But wait a moment, because it gets worse – MUCH worse…
While this chain of events alone was enough to have set me off, it’s not the real reason for my rage; for you see, just a couple weeks before this happened I’d had that EXACT DOOR HANDLE repaired (at a cost of $93.45) in order to avoid this exact scenario from repeating itself! This particular episode seemed like life was taunting me, rubbing salt into my already tender wound, just to see how much I could take; which at the time is seems not so much, so I unceramonously lost it, and raged in the manner described above. Looking, I’m glad my freak-out occurred while I was alone in a closed vehicle – other than one raccoon, a couple of crows and a squirrel, nobody else heard my embarrassing, pathetic wrath – although I belie e the squirrel had to be medicated and in now in therapy. Anyway, once I finally calmed down and sheepishly composed myself, I did what I knew I had to do: I drove back to the garage to find out why this “so-called” repair had gone wrong, which it turned out, was actually something entirely different, just in the same area! When I heard this, I felt pretty stupid and ashamed for my earlier behaviour. Anyways, they repaired the handle, tested it, and then handed me a bill for $112.74. after which (after entering the van through the drivers side) I quietly drove off with my tail between my legs, wondering to myself: Are my theatrical reactions and overblown frustration levels to such minor things making me look (and feel) like an idiot, and do I need to re-think this bad behaviour? As it turns out, the answer to both questions was a resounding “YES”!
How Not to Handle Stressful Situations
Here’s the deal: I’m not mechanically-minded (I cook, I don’t fix or repair stuff – get used to it) and really hate whenever something – anything – breaks in my vehicles; and my overwhelming ignorance about such masculine tasks is the reason why my body freaks out at any sign kind car trouble – you know, like that weird “knock” or “ping” from under the hood, or when I touch the breaks and it makes “that sound”. Yep, these are all noises that sends my blood pressure into the stratosphere! Anytime this happens, I experience an overwhelming feeling of fear and panic, and the same old familiar (and totally unreasonable) thoughts of “What’s wrong? What’s that sound? What if I break down? What if I break down on the highway? What if I break down on the highway and get eaten by zombies?! It’s the beginning of the Apocalypse!! Arrgggh!!” flood over me. I know, I know: All this drama over a frickin’ “ping” under the hood… I admit it – I’m can be kind of a loser at times! The bottom line is that BECAUSE I’M NOT MECHANICALLY-INCLINED, whenever shit does break down in my car, my mind goes all crazy with “what if” scenarios, and I begin to panic, all while this stupid theatre plays through my head over and over again. And here’s the clincher: These episodes always end with me bellowing out “We can’t afford this right now!” before I crumple into a mass of frustration, anger and self pity, all over a friggin’ “ping” under the hood. It would be truly sad if it weren’t so pathetic, and unfortunately… true.
But here’s the thing: It’s all bullshit! All these theatrics and yelling and arms flailing and noise are bullshit! Because the truth is that we CAN afford it, and I’m an idiot for thinking we CAN’T afford it when I clearly know we CAN afford it! Oh, sure, we MIGHT NOT want to afford fixing these random pings and knocks from under the hood, but the absolute, 100% truth is that we CAN afford to fix them… So why the ongoing freak-fest anytime there’s a murmur under the hood? I think it’s 2 things really: First, because of our commitment and focus on certain goals (mortgage, investments, etc.) money always seems tight for us, so whenever unexpected expenses (like a broken door handle) show up it’s a challenge to find out how we are going to pay for them. But secondly, why do I behave this way whenever this situation occurs? What’s the root of this behaviour? While we aren’t rich, we certainly aren’t poor, so why does the thought of spending a few hundred dollars on my vehicle send me over the edge – you know, other than cutting into our beer and wine funds? (Who am I kidding? Busted vehicle or not, we STILL have priorities!) I think I’ve finally figured out why, and better yet, found a solution to this annoying trait. If I’m right, then I can say “good-bye” to my days of turning into a whiny, slobbering freak show every time something breaks down in our vehicles. Here’s my epiphany:
Time For Me to Face Facts
Looking back, I believe this behaviour started in my 20’s or even my early 30’s, when cash was tight and I was broke and always living paycheque to paycheque; back then whenever I noticed a problem in my car I’d tend to ignore it, and “hope” it would go away because I didn’t have the cash to fix it, a seemingly intelligent approach that always yielded me the same two (predictable) results: First, it kept me anxious and stressed out anytime I drove since I’d become obsessed listening for (and hearing) pings, grunts and groans (real and imagined) to come from my car, imagining them getting worse and worse, edging me closer and closer to the zombie apocalypse I so desperately feared; and secondly – and more realistically – I knew the problem usually was getting worse, and whenever it did finally give (whatever “it” was at the time) the repair bill would cost way more than of I’d dealt with it when the problem first came to my attention, and then I was really screwed! You know that“ounce of prevention” our grandparents told us about? At this point of my life I couldn’t see the benefits of it (i.e. Fixing the car when I first discover the problem) and ultimately paid the price in fear and angst, which, I now think is a thought process that has stayed with me all these years; hence is the reason why I still get stressed out anytime I hear a ping under the hood! Like Pavlov’s dog, (minus the drool) I have an automated response to these sounds, which, unfortunately, is not pretty or flattering – just ask the raccoon or the crows; at this point, I don’t think the squirrel even remembers.
But wait – that was then, and this is now, and in may ways I’m not the same person anymore, which means it’s time to update my thoughts about certain situations – case in point. As noted, I actually CAN afford to fix these things when they come along, and so far, have been able to do so without taking away from my other financial commitments; I always just find a way to make it work, (First technique: Buy cheaper wine!) tough through a few weeks of penny-pinching, then one day – just like magic – life gets back to normal. So enough is enough; it’s time make a change and put the “Freak-out” part of the process away, once and for all. Experience has taught me that if I think my vehicle needs a repair (in this case: Busted Door Handles for $112.74, please Alex!) to just “get ‘er done” – regardless of the cost – and here’s why: It needs to be fixed. Period. Because here’s what I’ve really learned; I wasn’t actually paying for a new door handle, or paying to get one repaired, but was actually buying “insurance” against being stuck in a broken down vehicle with my blinkers flashing at the side of the road sometime, (maybe even during a possible zombie invasion, real or imagined) because that’s what minor car repairs really are – they are insurance to make sure we take care of whatever we need to, all so that we (and our families) can travel safely in the future.
BTW, the cost for this “insurance” to keep me (and my family) safe on the road this time was a measly amount of $206.19 ($93.45 + $112.74) which not surprisingly it turned out that I could actually afford, despite my historic whinging that said I couldn’t. In fact, this incident made me wonder how much I’ve actually shelled out in unexpected repairs, so I tallied up all the “surprise” bills from over the year and they were just over $1,000, and guess what? Each and every time I miraculously was able to pay for them and still honour our financial commitments… So I had to ask myself: What’s the lesson here?
Simply this: The reactions I’ve had to these situations in the past are no longer valid; at least not for any mature, self-respecting adult, something I’m striving to become one day. Oh sure, when I was 20 years old and my vehicle would break down, maybe I couldn’t afford to repair it, and so the frustration level would be more understandable, (but not necessarily valid – but don’t judge!) however that was a long time ago… Today I have (a) people who count on me to make sure my vehicle(s) are in good shape, and (b) I can afford to fix them whenever needed, despite what my” temporary insanity” brain likes to think; so there is no excuse not to keep either of my vehicles in tip top shape, regardless of what noises randomly appear from under the hood. Now all I have to do is remember this and keep my cool when those noises do appear. Besides, if this tactic will help keep me calm, collected, and out of possible zombie-infested territories, why the heck wouldn’t I want to? Unless of course, there’s no such thing as zombies… but who am I kidding? I’ve been to Wal Mart and seen the proof they exist.
Readers, Do you have any old methods of thinking or life long habits that you’ve come to realize don’t serve you any longer? If so, How did you change these beliefs, and was it as hard for you as it was for me? Please tell us your stories in the comments below!