There’s Always Something You Can Do

The other day, I was griping about a situation in my life which continually annoys me. Feeling exasperated, I worked myself into quite a swivet. (Yes, me, the author of this sensational re-booting blog, the champion of finding a more serene and mature perspective about the human coil, I, too have been known to whine.) My friend listened to this monologue and gently observed, “There’s always something you can do to make things better.” Her words caught my attention. And, of course, she is right. The question then becomes, what do we do about it? We may not want to make that extra effort; we may feel passionately that the other person should change; we may wish for a whole host of developments that will never occur; but no matter how futile and fixed a problem may seem, we are not without options.


Sometimes, improvements come in the form of discontinuing a behavior: we stop bitching, we stop allowing it to bug us so much, we stop assuming responsibility for the outcome, we stop being surprised that this person repeatedly behaves the way they’ve always behaved. Because the truth of the matter is, they’re probably not going to stop—even when they assure you they will—so, unless you’re willing to leave altogether, you’ve got to find a way to coexist. Easier said than done, I know.


It’s funny about life, certain sensitivities we outgrow and some we don’t. Nearly all teenagers are embarrassed by their relatives for one reason or another, but somewhere in our twenties or thirties they don’t mortify us quite so much. We learn to see their foibles as about them and not about us. They didn’t change, we did. Of course, there will always be certain individuals whose narcissism, mannerisms, or neuroses make it impossible for us to deal with them without losing our minds, but they aren’t the norm, so we needn’t bother ourselves with such cases for purposes of this post.


But back to my wise friend’s counsel and how we might apply this today. Take a moment and reflect on some situation or person in your life who’s a continual source of stress or unhappiness for you. Can you specify what it is that bothers you so much? Assuming that they will continue to behave like this, what is one thing you can change to improve the situation?


Take me, for instance. My dad likes to run a Holiday Inn at our house. An ongoing stream of travelers stop by for, oh say, a weekend, two weeks, three months, eleven years (ahem), and settle themselves in for a long winter’s nap. (They are perfectly content to sleep on lumpy twin beds, using threadbare towels and bathrooms which are so ancient that a plumber recently informed me he now refuses to tackle such antiquities.) I, however, do not enjoy this parade of visitors. I do not embrace the Canterbury Tales combo pack of characters who sit in the kitchen, waiting to be fed and entertained. I do not like it, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. Well, I recently discovered that yet another of these types is landing on our doorstep—for an indeterminate stay.


This knowledge has made me most distressed. I am highly particular about my personal space and feel affronted by this non-stop Tavern on the Green bit. But, at this point, I choose not to move, for a number of reasons; it’s my own, personal Hotel California. You can check in, but you can never check out. Since my dad refuses to heed any of my pleas to take a break from Hospitality Row, the only thing I can do is to try out a variety of strategies not to let his actions bother or impact me. So, my first attempt has been to change how I think about myself in relation to these guests—perhaps I no longer need to think its vital that I behave as the consummate hostess. These people are not my guests. Whatever trouble my dad does or doesn’t take to accommodate them is not my problem. I don’t care. While the trade off in an attitude like this is that some visitors may come away with the impression that I am less than congenial, I won’t worry about that, anymore. I won’t be rude, but I needn’t engage with them in the manner I have up to this point. No longer assuming a sense of responsibility for how the visit goes is a way to ameliorate a situation that drives me nuts. Do you see what I’ve done? I’m changing how I see myself in relation to this guest-host dynamic. I’ve removed myself from the equation. The thing about it is, freeing myself up from this need to play hostess and this need to be approved of, it’s like a door has opened; I’ve found an escape hatch. Wow! This will take some getting used to…


So, now, back to you. Considering your situation, what can you do to make it better? What action can you take to decrease your irritation? Can you change the way you think about it? Can you redefine your role in this particular play? Are you ok with people thinking less of you than optimal? Test out something different, live with it for awhile, endure the awkwardness that accompanies new approaches. You might just climb out of that hole. There’s always something you can do.




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One Response to “There’s Always Something You Can Do”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good writing.

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