When I was working at the domestic violence shelter, the staff break-room doubled as the crisis call center. This room was occupied 24-hours a day—by volunteers in the daytime and by a staff person at night. It was furnished with a daybed with a yellow floral print comforter, matching pillows, and dust ruffle because no one expected the overnight staff to just stay awake staring at the phone. It also had a refrigerator and microwave where staff could keep and heat their meals separate from the shelter’s kitchen, two desks—each with a phone and a binder for recording the details of crisis calls, and a cabinet filled with various supplies so that the night-time staff person could dispense emergency tooth paste and towels as needed.
The only décor I remember—besides the yellow floral bed-set and coordinating curtains—was a Far Side poster of a plain, gray building on fire and going over a waterfall. The sign on top of the building read, “Crisis Clinic.” Gary Larson, the Far Side genius, must have worked in the emergency services industry at some point because that cartoon captured what it was like to deal with the life-or-death, constant-crisis environment of shelter life. I believe every organization with a hot line must have had that poster in their call center.
Lately, I have been feeling like someone set fire to my life as it tumbles over a waterfall. Here’s just the latest example:
On Friday, I discovered that some of our car’s electrical gizmos had stopped working. The key set off the car alarm and the automatic windows and trunk release weren’t working. As I sat in the car quietly pondering this situation, I heard rustling. Aha! I knew what was causing this problem because it happened to me years ago—different car, different state, a lifetime ago: Rodent infestation. I was certain that some critter had gotten under the hood of the car and eaten the wires.
I called my mechanic. I told him what was going on with the car and what I suspected. He said, “You are probably right. It’s more common than you know. The bad news is that electrical repairs on a Mercedes are going to cost a small fortune. The good news is that your insurance will cover it.”
“My insurance? Really?” Oh, sing Hallelujah!
“Oh, yeah. If not your auto, your homeowners.”
Okay, this is the best news I have had in weeks: the expensive repair will be paid for by the insurance company. I did a happy-dance as I called my husband at work.
He, too, was relieved. You see, we are in a bit of a cash-crunch. Getting my mother-in-law’s house ready to rent has been more expensive than we had anticipated. Keeping her here with us has been more expensive, too—our electric bill last month was 44% higher than it was a year ago. One of our rental properties is vacant and the former occupant is suing us. Another one is about to be vacant. Oh, and that property had a sink-hole issue earlier this year. Fun, fun. We are tapped out. No way can we afford a car repair. That the insurance would cover it had my guy doing a happy dance, too.
Today, however, we learned that NO, our insurance won’t cover it. Motor vehicles are exempt from our homeowner’s policy and our auto insurance is collision only. So, we either find a way to pay for it or we just continue driving the car as is—windows stuck in an up-position (which is better than having them stuck in a down-position provided that the air conditioning still works).
“AAAAAGHHHH!” That’s the sound of me with my hair on fire going over a waterfall. What? There are hungry sharks at the bottom of the waterfall? “AAAAAAAAGGGHHHHHHHH!”
But here’s the thing: I am NOT worried. I don’t worry. Period. I don’t buy into this silly lie that people are always spreading—”It’s only natural to worry. Of course, you are worried. You would be a fool not to worry. Worry is a part of life. Everyone worries…blah, blah, blah.”
When I was a child, my aunt told me that “to worry is to slap God in the face.” I believe that. So, you are faced with the uncertainties that life brings? You have a choice: You can pray about it or you can sit there wringing your hands and getting ulcers. It’s your choice. I choose the former.
And even if you aren’t a particularly religious person, you can view the nonsense of worry from a more pragmatic point-of-view: Has worrying about anything ever helped the situation? Prevented something bad from happening? No. A more proactive approach is to ask yourself, “Can I do anything about this situation?” If the answer is yes, do it—NOW! If the answer is no, then, it is completely out of your control. You need to just let it go.
As a pragmatic Believer, I do both. I pray and I ask myself if I can do anything else to impact the outcome, improve my lot or that of others. And if I’m not sure if there is anything I can do, I pray about that, too.
Worry is not my demon. I’ve never experienced hopelessness either.
I do, however, get very angry and impatient. Those are my demons. I know it. They are every bit as mean and nasty as worry.
I combat my demons with prayer and humor. God knows, if I couldn’t laugh, I might start crying and never, ever stop. I’d let the sharks at the bottom of the waterfall chomp me to bits if I couldn’t knock them out with a good belly-laugh.
So, I envision myself trapped in a Far Side cartoon—and I sing that Hee Haw song. “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep down depression. Excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, agony on me.”
Eventually, I do stop laughing and start counting my blessings. That’s where I am today.