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