Have you ever just had a melt down? I mean a good old-fashioned sit on your rump and cry with your head your hands when a problem came along your way and you were absolutely stressed out about it? I have. Today in fact.
For three days, I’ve been trying to get my lawn mower to crank. I know- on the grand scale of things, it’s a lawn mower. But bear with me for a minute. For three days, I’ve charged the battery, bought a new one, installed a new battery, Googled videos and read forums on why a lawn mower won’t crank. I’ve hinted to others about my problem. I’ve asked for help. And it was a pretty day outside- perfect for mowing my grass that was starting to hide my dog when he went outside!
So today, I determined one way or another, I was going to mow my yard (Mistake #1: Setting expectations without room for flexibility). I’ve been planning on working in the yard today for over a week (thank you 10 day weather planner). And finally, I had a day off with no where to be, no rain, no cold temps, and a gorgeous day to go outside and do what I’ve been itching to do all winter: play in the dirt! I got up and did some work for an hour. I put on my grubby clothes, grabbed some water, and set off outside to hop on my mower and fire away.
But it didn’t make a sound. No cough. No sputter. No attempt to turn over. Just silence. I’d tried everything. (Mistake #2: Focusing on what I thought was trying everything. Retracing your steps can be a good start to finding an answer.) I didn’t know what else to do. And I did what any self-respecting woman does when she’s got her mind set to do something that she’s planned and tried and done everything that should make it happen (but it won’t): I sat on my lawn mower, put my head in my hands, and cried. The more I cried, I madder I got. The more I heard birds chirping and every other lawn mower within a 10 mile radius humming away, the madder I got. (Mistakes #3: Dwelling on everyone else who IS doing what you WANT to be doing at that moment just makes it worse.)
This set back in my day just wasn’t going to work. I had a plan! I was motivated! I had the time! And then some unknown teeny, tiny something was keeping me from doing it! I had done everything I knew to do! And the more helpless I felt, the more my frustration and stress grew.
Have you ever had that happen? You’ve done everything right, but then for some reason, it still doesn’t happen? You cry. You get mad. You get frustrated. You pout. You see everyone else doing it. You know it can’t be that hard if we see everyone else doing it. You try again. And still no. That’s a really awful feeling.
Though right now we’re talking about a lawn mower, it happens in some pretty serious areas of life: finding a significant other, getting hired, getting married, trying to get pregnant, finding enough money to pay the bills, dealing with sickness, trying to figure out how to help your child sleep through the night/behave/succeed in school, coping with the loss of a relationship, healing from betrayal, or moving on after someone dies are just some examples.
So, when problems happen, how do you respond?
a) Do nothing. You tried. So move on and forget about it.
b) Find new resources and ways to handle it. Learn more. Get help. Hire someone if needed.
c) Ask for help.
d) Feel defeated and give up.
e) Keep doing the same thing over and over that didn’t work before.
f) A little bit of all of the above.
That’s exactly what I did today. I sent a text to my sweetheart. He called and couldn’t believe I was crying over a lawn mower. (Smart Move #1: Don’t be ashamed of your emotions, even if others don’t get them. Own them. Be you.) Then, after he promised to look at it later, I moved on. I focused on what I could do in the yard. I discovered that I could use a weed whacker quite efficiently, even on large areas of grass (i.e. 1/5 of an acre). Then I focused on doing some other much needed lawn chores. I also had someone else offer to take a look at it later. So back-up for the help, CHECK!
I came in, showered, and decided to just relax. But I couldn’t. I got so mad all over again after searching for solutions online that I went out there and changed one tiny thing and POOF! It cranked. And even though I was showered, and even though I had hit the high spots in the yard with the weed whacker, I got on that mower and I mowed. And I kept driving around on it just to celebrate my victory (and then I found more things to do in the yard until it got completely dark outside).
When you focus on problems, you feel defeated. You feel like a failure. You feel just plain awful in every way. You walk away- even though you’re often pretty close to success. You become bitter. You wonder why everyone else can do it and you can’t. You feel stupid. You start to isolate yourself. You stop living. You quit trying. You wallow and it gets worse. It just grows bigger. And before long, you don’t recognize yourself. You don’t like what you see. And you don’t know how to get back to where you were.
Having a melt down is OK. It’s a part of life. I believe it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be perfect all of the time and to not have them. I am now laughing at how silly I must have sounded today, and I’m shocked how much time and energy I lost over what turned out to be a very simple solution. I made a very simple situation much more complicated than it needed to be. And if I had only been patient and waited two hours a few days ago for the old battery to finish recharging, none of this would have happened. So I’ve now learned more about my lawnmower, but much more about trusting myself, not getting so worked up, and focusing on the possibilities and not the problems.
Your task: Think of a stumbling block in your life. It can be as big or as little as you want it to be. List all of the reasons why it could be happening. See if you can think of a way to “fix” or address each of those reasons. Refer back to our multiple choice question earlier. Which of those reactions is best?
Now, think of some new possibilities. What things haven’t you tried yet? Are your emotions getting the best of you and keeping you from seeing what’s right in front of you? What obstacles are holding you back from trying these new possibilities?