Rick - Blacklick, Ohio
Entered on March 22, 2015
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I believe in the power that all of our combined experiences provide to us. We tend to live in the moment, to stress over the challenging things that are happening, to anguish over loss. I spent my twenties and much of my thirties in perpetual stress, unable to walk myself through a tough situation to see an outcome that might not be so bad. There were certainly some difficult times; divorce, job layoffs, working with a miniscule budget that left no room for unexpected issues, even when those issues seemed to arise all the time.

A car that wouldn’t start would send my world into a tailspin. A call from the principal’s office about one of my kids would ruin the rest of my day. I took every problem personally, as though I had to wrestle with it until it disappeared.

But the more things I went through, the more experiences I accumulated, the easier they were to deal with. The dead car battery is never a good experience, but when I think back on times like that, they seem so miniscule. I remember losing my mind when it happened, but how did it affect the rest of my day, or week? I really can’t say, because it ended up requiring only temporary adjustments in my overall schedule. That unexpected moment of stress came and went, and if anything, the stress I caused myself was probably worse for me than the event itself.

There wasn’t a single moment where I had an epiphany and suddenly felt care-free about everything. It took a very gradual wearing-down of my hard shell of anxiety to make me realize that, like it or not, tough things were going to happen for the rest of my life. I’ll have car trouble again, I may go through more layoffs, and loved ones may pass away. It’s not like you can prepare for these unique instances ahead of time. It’s more an acceptance of taking the bad with the good and knowing that no matter how difficult something is, chances are, it will get better over time.

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily take age or experience to gain perspective. I started seeing others do the same thing I was, even worse in some cases. If I saw what I perceived as an overreaction to a seemingly trivial event, I would think, “Good grief, he needs to calm down”. At some point, I noticed that I was reacting the same way, and also saw how it affected others. I was certainly no prize to be around when I was in a furious rage. I wanted to be less stressed for the sake of others, if not myself.

Today, I can let most things slide off my back. What used to be frustration is now bemusement. The little things don’t bother me as much, and that feels good. I sometimes wish that I’d been able to learn this earlier in life, but then, I wouldn’t appreciate it as much now.