How to diffuse drama and get on with your day

Photo by  Hailey Kean

Photo by Hailey Kean

Last week, I was about 30 minutes into a morning commute when I got a frantic text from my 13-yo daughter.

Ummmm I need my uniform!! For choir today! Mom is there any way you could bring it to me??!

Since I was on the way to a meeting that was about to start, there actually was no way I could bring it to her.

And since I was driving, I couldn’t even text her back.

Luckily, she’d included her dad on the text. He suggested that perhaps we could send Grandpa to our house to get the uniform.

Great idea.

However.

Inside my daughter’s closet festers one of the world’s biggest piles of dirty laundry. Her choir uniform was somewhere in that stack of sarcastic T-shirts, sequined sweaters, leggings, patterned socks, and tiny bras.

Sending a 73-year-old man in there to retrieve that uniform seemed as insane as shaving my cat and taking him on a date to the prom.

It was at this point in the program, despite the flurry of texts that was making my iPhone whistle like a particularly uninventive songbird, I got a little slap happy. I giggled at my husband earnestly trying to solve a logistical problem from 30 miles away. At my complete inability to do anything about it. At the image of Grandpa sorting through those clothes.

Not that long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to find the humor in any of this. I would have been irritated that she didn’t remember the uniform, annoyed that we’d have to ask for help from my father-in-law, and pissed that people would be texting me with their emergencies when I was on my way to my important meeting. It would have set a shitty tone for my entire day.

I laughed at that, too. At how much nicer things are with a little perspective, and with no hangover to turn an innocuous situation into a disaster. I was thinking that I liked the me that chuckles in the face of junior high catastrophes.

Here’s what I ask myself now, to help me stay positive and handle unexpected glitches in the schedule.

What’s really the worst that could happen?

Of course, sometimes what’s going on is a big deal. (In that case, go ahead and start freaking out. You might also want to remain calm. Up to you.) But mostly, we tend to see problems as bigger than they really are. Think through the worst possible outcome. It’s probably not that bad, i.e. if it doesn’t cause physical harm, it’s likely something you can handle.

In this case, the worst thing that would happen is my daughter having to perform in a concert for the school in clothes different than everyone else’s on stage. Definitely humiliating. But also doable. And she’d probably never forget to bring her uniform to school ever again.

How many solutions can you come up with?

Challenge yourself to think through a number of ways to approach the problem. We often default to black and white thinking. We come up with one way to solve something and when that won’t work, we stop there.

I can’t turn my car around and go get the uniform, so there’s no way to get it there.

can become

I can’t turn my car around and go get the uniform. Could her brother get it on his lunch hour? Does the school have an extra uniform shirt around she could wear for this? Could she ask the teacher if she could stand in the back so it’s less noticeable?

Ultimately, my husband came through with a solution. Grandpa picked her up from school, ran her home to get the uniform, ran her back to school. NBD.

Can you find something funny in this?

Lighten up. God really has a sense of humor.

Can you find the lesson in this?

Everything that happens is teaching you something. You can get mad or you can learn the lesson. You can also do both, if the situation warrants.

Can you find something to be grateful for in this situation?

There’s real live research that supports the power of gratitude. It’s especially useful to release tension when it’s building up in your head (and probably your shoulders or jaw).

In this case, I was grateful for a daughter who depends on me, a husband who cares enough to stop his job and figure things out, a father-in-law who is happy to act as cab driver to an 8th grader, the inability to answer texts which means I have a car to drive and a phone to receive them, a trip to Columbus which means I have gainful employment, a clear head to think of those things.

To gain even more perspective on your thoughts, I’d recommend meditation, a gratitude practice, or some other contemplative activity (download my ebook to get 13 ideas).