Inconvenience. Everyone resists it, whether a large or small matter. Your computer is down, the phone is broken, you miss the bus, or someone sends you an important file you can’t open. You know how it feels; the frustration that arises. You sense that things are not going your way and it puts you in a bad mood. Stack up enough inconvenience and you might even have the desire to quit whatever you’re doing to throw a fit or go have a good cry. People offering suggestions or telling you you’re overreacting often just makes it worse. Ironically, if you can gain a different perspective, it is in these very moments of natural frustration and angst that you can easily triumph over mundane problems that are almost certainly temporary.
This past week has been one of inconvenience for me and those around me. From computers breaking, to being locked out, to tedious errands and public transportation woes, this week was particularly inconvenient. One such frustration was the monthly trek to Costco to get allergy medicine for Warren. We take two trains and bus to get there, since taking an Uber would essentially cancel out the savings and thus a large chunk of the purpose of the trip itself. Although I voluntarily go on this monthly adventure, for some reason, it irritates me beyond what I know is reasonable. I somehow forget that we buy other necessary items besides allergy medicine and the savings and time spent with Warren is always good. Every month, I do everything I can to talk myself out of feeling crabby and inconvenienced on this trip, but it gets me every time.
This past week, I tried really hard to watch my thoughts and take in the experiences of the trip. I started people watching, noticing unfamiliar stores and buildings, and I also put a smile on my face for good measure. Sure enough, at some point, the usual tension subsided and I was genuinely enjoying the day and the trip. (I hope I can remember this next time!)
When I locked myself out of our apartment a few days ago, I caught myself before my mind went too deep into the familiar downward cycle of inconvenience and irritation. Immediately, I could feel the blame start to arise—Why hadn’t I grabbed the keys? Why hadn’t Warren given them to me?—and then somehow, I was able to pause for a moment, and I started to laugh. In this particular instance, I was able to watch my thoughts and pull myself back. I came up with a few options to enjoy the time locked out, and smiled at the irony of being upset when it was a beautiful day outside. (Worst case scenario, I would be “forced” to take a walk along the lakeshore.) Yes, there were things I had been planning to do when I got home that would still need to be done, and yet, thankfully, a couple of hours wouldn’t throw me that much off track. However, it didn’t even come to that level of inconvenience since, as good fortune would have it, building maintenance was able to let me in.
This event made me think of how many times I have mentally gone to the furthest reaches of what outcomes could have been, instead of stopping, taking a deep breath, smiling about the situation, and thinking through my options. I realized that I have spent a lot of time getting mentally stuck in unpleasant moments when things didn’t go the way I planned, as if my misfortune was going to last forever. I have nothing to show for all that wasted time and emotion, except the desire to do better.
In reality, inconvenience is part of life. Dealing with life’s hiccups, both logistically and emotionally, is a skill that can be hard to master, but serves everyone well. Although the human mind tends to focus in proportionality and recalls the negative over the positive, it’s possible to reprogram your thinking. The next time you find yourself inconvenienced, try to pause, assess the situation, figure out a few options, and maybe even smile at how lucky you are to have an inconvenience rather than a tragedy.
That’s another big takeaway from this past week—perspective. Several of my friends were impacted by the hurricanes, and they are now dealing with relocation, damage to their homes, not being able to leave their neighborhoods, and coping with the inevitably long, hard work of rebuilding. Thankfully, they are all safe. What has struck me the most is hearing them talk about their good fortune, how people have come together, how even those who have been devastated are taking things in stride and are helping each other out.
When I put that in perspective and think about all of the small inconveniences I face, my problems do seem much less, well, inconvenient. As yet another hurricane sweeps through the Caribbean, I will certainly keep this in mind.
Here are some ways you can help people impacted by the hurricanes.