“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bad mood and everyone has noticed. I have had a tough time maintaining a good poker face – both at work and at home.
On the work front, things have been quite stressful as I try to balance the needs of the people at my plant with the expectations laid out by senior management.
On the home front, things haven’t been quite as stressful, but living in a home with three young daughters who think they are teenagers presents its own set of challenges – especially as the start of the school year gets closer and closer.
As I write this post, I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me or to be overly concerned about my emotional well-being. Most of my stress is self-imposed, and I am managing it just fine. There are many people in my life both near and far that are dealing with far more adversity than myself.
Over the past few weeks, I have had many friends and co-workers deal with things like serious injury of a love one, a family member with a severe illness , or even the death of a loved one. I have had three friends who have recently lost their fathers to various illnesses. Another friend’s mother is seriously ill, and the doctors aren’t 100 percent sure of her diagnosis or prognosis, and on top of that, she was notified she would no longer be employed once she is well again.
I also have a co-worker whose mother-in-law may have had a stroke today. I have another friend whose elderly mother had surgery to repair a broken leg after a fall. And finally, I have three friends and co-workers who are dealing with the loss of a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law. All of these people are dealing with more pain, stress, and sadness than myself. That’s for sure.
On the family front, my brother-in-law and his family are dealing with a much more emotionally draining and stressful issue – the return of their adopted son who doesn’t want to be part of the family. It’s a long story, but it’s one that involves mental illness caused by neglect at a very young age – long before the family adopted him and his older sister. Fortunately, she has adapted well, but she still has a ways to go.
So, there are lots of things going on and lots of stuff to think about. And that’s one of my problems.
I can’t stop thinking!
My mind is constantly churning – trying to figure out the right thing to do at work, trying to think of the right things to say to my friends, family, and co-workers or what I can do for them in their time of need.
On the work front, I have what author Jim Collins calls in his book Great by Choice – “productive paranoia.” When things are going fairly well, I’m never happy with the status quo. I live in fear of missing something – not anticipating the next challenge. I’m always planning for that next step. I don’t like surprises. I also worry a great deal about the well-being of my people. According to people who study leadership, this is what I’m supposed to do.
On the home front, I think about other things. With school approaching and Carrie returning to work, I think about how we will manage all of our activities while still having some time for each other. Family time is very important, but the way things are shaping up, it looks like we’ll have something going on every night of the week. I am going to try to play softball again (Carrie says I’m too old), and the girls have soccer and dance and band and and and….
Again, there are people with bigger problems than me, and I admire them for how they handle their respective situations. I also try to learn from them. Is it their faith that helps them get through it? Is it their friends or their family that help them? Are they just so mentally and emotionally strong that they deal with it on their own and in their own way?
For me, I stop and eat ice cream!
I know. It sounds crazy, but almost every night, I immerse myself in a bowl of ice cream. Some nights it’s Ben & Jerry’s Cake Batter or Americone Dream. Other nights it’s Breyers or Mayfield Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Some nights it’s just plain old Vanilla Bean ice cream with butterscotch sauce.
It’s my way to escape. It’s my way to focus on something that’s good and sweet and tastes great. It’s kind of like a reward for myself for a hard day’s work, and it’s great stress relief.
When people are stressed, they sometimes eat pizza or chocolate cake or if you’re like my wife, Carrie, anything chocolate will do. Others read books or write blogs. Others like to cry. Others listen to music. Others call their friends to vent. Many people use exercise as a way to relieve stress.
Right now, I eat ice cream. And yes, I just ate a bowl before I started writing this post.
Now, I don’t recommend my ice cream habit to everyone. It hasn’t been particularly good for my waistline. I’ve recently had to loosen my belt a little, and I’ve noticed my shirts feel a little tighter (I think that’s because Carrie leaves them in the dryer too long, but I won’t dwell on that too long…). But now that I’m going to play softball again, I hope it will start to disappear.
It should disappear, right?
Either way, if you look at what Mr. Roosevelt said in his quote above, life isn’t always going to be easy, and those who deal with adversity well are often times some of the most admired. How a person handles a stressful situation can have a huge impact on those around him/her. There have been many leaders through the years that come to mind. Abraham Lincoln. Moses. Herb Kelleher (CEO of Southwest Airlines). All have handled adversity in different ways and succeeded – even in the face of imminent disaster.
So, when things get tough, turn your mind off for a few minutes and escape to a happier place. If it’s reading your Bible – read your Bible. If it’s playing video games, play video games for a little while.
For now, I’m going to keep eating ice cream. I just bought a new flavor to try – Mayfield Snickerdoodle. Cinnamon cookie flavored ice cream with cinnamon cookie pieces.
Sounds awesome to me. How about you?