Happiness: problems vs. PROBLEMS

How to cope with your problems | The Champagne Supernova

We all have difficult days and need to be reminded that what we consider problems are not problems.

At all.

Or even close.

My husband was out of town traveling for work (and leisure) for the last week and I’ve been on my own with my two young daughters, ages 2 and 4. Sure they are (overall) good and sure I’ve transitioned from full-time to part-time employment, but dealing with getting lunch made, everyone dressed and out of the house in the morning, driving the kids to school and myself to work, doing pickup and attending extracurricular activities, then returning home and making dinner and getting everyone bathed and in the sack are exhausting.

Not to mention that on the mornings I have to wash and blow-dry my hair, it’s like the world has been turned upside down.

(Curly haired people, you know what I’m talking about!)

Pepper all of this with occasional tantrums, backtalk, and refusal to put on their socks and allow you to brush their hair in the mornings. Now add dealing with demanding clients at work, getting stuck at lengthy stop lights when you’re in a hurry, and a rude toll booth lady (this happened to me two weeks ago at the Tampa Airport, but that’s a blog post for another day.)

It can be worse. Way worse.

You or your spouse got laid off at work and you can’t pay the mortgage. Your parents got divorced or you’re going through one yourself. Your child consistently gets bad reports at school and was recommended to undergo behavioral therapy. A loved one is dabbling with illegal drugs. Your cousin was caught plagiarizing and might be kicked out of school.

You likely know people who are going through these things.

It can still be worse.

Much worse.

In my career as an attorney, I’ve seen incomprehensible tragedy.

Children who have been sexually abused by their own parents.

Young kids who accidentally drowned in the family swimming school while their parents were upstairs napping.

People whose lives were cut short in car accidents by other drivers who simply weren’t paying attention to the road.

I’ve had to review thousands of photographs of murder scenes, motor vehicle accidents, and autopsy reports. While doing so, I’ve thought about the people in those photographs and about how they had lives with dreams, goals, and other people who loved them.

Those are real problems. Not the “problems” you have. Those aren’t real problems.

Because here’s the thing to remember when you’re feeling frustrated.

There are problems and then there are PROBLEMS.

It all comes down to perspective.

God is amazing at giving reality checks.

I was recently stressed about something meaningless and stupid. Sure, to me it was a problem, but it really wasn’t a PROBLEM. Sometimes you need to take a step back and focus, do some meditation, have some CBD oil (don’t worry, CBD isn’t psychoactive if you were worried about that), or even just go to bed early to get things into perspective.

That same day, I met a man who was suffering late stage colon cancer. Having been through chemotherapy and radiation several years before, he thoughtfully decided to let the disease make its natural progression after it returned from being in remission. The man told me he had no purpose to live because, twenty years ago, his daughter was murdered by her husband in a domestic violence dispute, and he felt he had no reason to fight for his life.

As he told me his story, I sat in my chair and wondered if I would have the mental capacity to survive something so horrific. If and how I could continue if someone I loved so deeply was taken away from me. How I would cope if I had a terminal illness. How my current “problems” will pass, but how this guy deals with ongoing torment.

Those are real problems.

I was going through problems and this man had PROBLEMS.

So did the people I described in my cases above.

Sure, our lives aren’t perfect and sometimes it’s difficult getting through the tribulations of everyday life.

It’s easy to get stressed out about deadlines at the office, but at least you have a job.

Sure, you can get upset when your child gets a bad report card, but at least your child is healthy.

It’s annoying when your spouse doesn’t clean up after himself, but at least you have an overall good sense of partnership.

Waiting in the carpool line is monotonous, but at least you have a car and your kids are able to attend school.

One or both of your parents is still alive. You have friends and people in your life who love and support you. You have the cognitive ability to read books, watch movies, and carry a conversation. You don’t need help performing standard activities of daily living. You live in a country that isn’t torn by war and aren’t afraid to go to sleep each night. You have food and clean water.

You’ve got it pretty dang good.

This is not to say that I don’t have bad days and that I don’t get frustrated.

I’m not Polyanna, I promise.

But when the hard times are happening and I’m in the middle of a super stressful moment that I know will eventually pass, I try my hardest to remember that my problems aren’t PROBLEMS.

And that makes me grateful for my problems.

But if you’re reading this and you do have PROBLEMS, then drop me a note. I will pray for you (promise!) and I hope you have people who can support you and see you through them.



    15 Comments on Happiness: problems vs. PROBLEMS

    1. Laura Barber
      May 9, 2018 at 8:11 pm (4 years ago)

      Please, please, please do not stop writing these posts! I cannot WAIT to read them when I’m in my 70s (and you’re my age now)! This is just wonderful. Keep it up!

    2. Shelly
      March 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm (5 years ago)

      Such a great reminder. I think now that I’m older and have witnessed, like you, so many more real PROBLEMS in life it’s definitely easier to remind myself when I’m about to lose it over my every day issues.

    3. Karla
      March 2, 2017 at 11:53 pm (5 years ago)

      I understand the perspective thing, I get it… but in my head it’s just another form of comparison and can lead to guilt and other bad stuff.

      I often have, yes, “problems.” But I also remember that what might be hard for me might be easy (easier/not-so-hard) for someone else. And vice versa!

      March 1st could have been baby #4’s birthday… but, sadly, I miscarried at three months. I was devastated. You know what though? There was so much “perspective”… other people have it worse, people have lost “real babies,” children who have already been born.

      These thoughts (and others) diminished a real pain I was experiencing and made the whole thing worse.

      I now have baby #5, an almost-6-month-old. I’ve always struggled with keeping things in perspective, looking on “the bright side,” even more so after my loss. Yes, it could be worse… I could have lost this one too, I could be without children entirely… but where does it end?

      Just my two cents’ worth of perspective.

      • jenniferdaku
        March 3, 2017 at 12:52 pm (5 years ago)

        Thanks so much for your input, Karla. I never intended for this to minimize what other people are going through, and it doesn’t seem you took it that way. We all have personal struggles, whether it’s infertility, miscarriage, loss of a job, not making enough money, marriage troubles, addiction, etc. Anyone who approached your situation as “it could always be worse” wasn’t going about it the right way. However, we need to often be reminded of all of the blessings in our own lives that so many people simply don’t have. When I feel like my world is falling apart (and I absolutely have days like this!) I remember that I’m lucky enough to call my parents and that they’re around and we have a good relationship. And that I have friends to lean on and a job to go to. Yesterday I went through autopsy photos of a young mom who was killed on the interstate by a guy who just wasn’t paying attention. I can’t imagine that. But thanks for reaching out and I am so sorry for your struggles. Congratulations on Baby #5- seems you are a caring mom and your kids are lucky to have you!

    4. Wanda
      March 2, 2017 at 7:34 pm (5 years ago)

      Love, love the post. I have had problems but after I had PROBLEMS, I realized how trivial the problems were. I I always find if I focus in helping others, however I can I usually don’t have time to worry about my problems. I recently read something that went “people worry is the glass half empty or half full when all that matters is it is refillable”, I love that! Life is indeed like a box of chocolate! Cheers to you Jennifer, lovely lady. ?

    5. Stefanie
      March 2, 2017 at 10:03 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks for the reminder. This is so true.

    6. Ashley
      March 2, 2017 at 9:03 am (5 years ago)

      This is such a great reminder, thank you so much for posting!

    7. Patti
      March 1, 2017 at 11:28 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you for this great post.

    8. Aja
      March 1, 2017 at 10:39 am (5 years ago)

      Great post, Jen! My mom always says, “if you and a bunch of other people took your problems and laid them out on a table, you’d likely not trade yours for theirs.” We’ve used that philosophy when we’ve had problems like a bad month in business or PROBLEMS like my dad’s Stage 4 cancer a few years ago. Focusing on the good things in life always gives perspective because there’s (usually) always things to be thankful for.

    9. LIVIE
      March 1, 2017 at 10:32 am (5 years ago)


    10. Jessica Rybicki
      March 1, 2017 at 10:31 am (5 years ago)

      Such a great reminder to us all! Thank you for speaking the TRUTH, as always!!

    11. americanlamboard.com
      March 1, 2017 at 6:49 am (5 years ago)

      Seriously, though, you really should make a list. Go on, give it a try. Take five minutes and write down all your problems, it will be useful for this next part.

    12. Julie Borm
      March 1, 2017 at 5:12 am (5 years ago)

      This is an important reminder. So many things aren’t real problems (even if they are annoying). You are really strong to be able to handle the things you work with sometimes!

    13. SB
      February 28, 2017 at 10:09 pm (5 years ago)

      This is so true and such a great reminder. Whenever I really start feeling sorry for myself or stressing, I try to think, ‘If this is the worst thing that happens in my life, it’s not that bad at all.’

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