First World Problems

Have you ever seen those “First World Problems” online?  They tend to go a little something like this:

 “Someone didn’t refill the Brita pitcher . . .  and now I have to wait 30 seconds for water.”

 “I can’t find the right balance between my fan and my electric blanket.”

As Louisville makes the switch between Insight to Time Warner Cable, many residents are experiencing their own version of first world problems as we work to upgrade our services, cancel services, or begin services all together. I recently decided to upgrade from standard internet to internet and digital cable. Ten days three service appointments, and four technicians later, I finally had cable. I also got the bonus of having cords run all over the floor and dealing with the challenge of hiding the cables to create a safe living space. THEN the day after cable was finally installed the cable and internet went out all together. Lovely. My initial reaction was to throw something out the window. I was so frustrated, so I dial up Time Warner and ask them to sort things out.

Not only had I been very patient throughout the whole process, rearranging my work schedule and being as polite as possible on the phone, but I have been a loyal customer for years. A situation like this can go one of two ways. You can blow up at the person on the other end of the phone just for breathing because you are so mad at a situation they had no part in creating or you can be as nice as humanly possible, get your services fixed and maybe, just maybe get some kind of credit towards your next bill. The initial reaction is to blast the first person you speak with – this is a problem and it needs to be fixed. Now! But does that really serve you? Does that fix your problem or make you feel better? And really – this is a luxurious problem to have. This was my first world problem and while it was legitimately frustrating, it is just cable.

When presented with challenges it is difficult to take time to process and to have a reaction that is both positive and productive. However, giving ourselves time and space to constructively handle situations in a way that is not only serving us well but also serves those around us well makes for a better way of living. These first world problems will pop up all the time and we can’t control that but we can control how we let that affect us.

(I did get my services fixed – and the phone representatives were very gracious in giving me a small credit to my next bill!)1


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Flight Status: Standby

I don’t know how many of you have flown “standby” before, but the process goes something like this:

You register for the flight you are hoping to get on. The screen that shows the number of seated passengers that have checked in continues to fill in seats. As boarding begins everyone gets on the plane but you, even though you have been at the airport for hours and have been checking and double checking the numbers. If, and only if, there is an empty seat on the plane you are able to board and get closer to your destination. If the plane checks in full, you stay where you are and scramble to find a new flight.

This method of travel can be one of the most stressful ways of getting from point A to point B or it can be an adventure, a problem-solver’s paradise. It all depends on how you come in to the situation. If you have only one option, only one flight that will get you where you want to go you can be pulling your hair out worrying if you are going to make it on board or if your plans will fall through. For those of us who are problem-solvers, looking at the flight schedules and visualizing all of the possible flight connections can be an exciting puzzle! How can you work the system to arrive where you need to be and maybe hop into an unexpected city along the way?

Do you see how different these two perspectives are? When we are rigid with only one option, a black or white scenario, we can worry ourselves silly and stress over circumstances that we have little control over. The other side of this scenario is that we come to the platform with a flexible outlook. From that perspective success is more likely and you may even enjoy the experience. Regardless of the situation, strive to have an open mind and enjoy the possibilities that present themselves.1


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Who Cries to the Radio?

I find that I spend more time in my car getting from here to there than nearly any other place. It’s a sad fact but one that I find is becoming more commonplace in today’s fast-paced culture.

I love to listen to NPR. There is always a piece of news I have missed or a personal story that I need to hear, and the ridiculous game shows on the weekends are truly a guilty pleasure. I was driving home the other day and there was a short radio documentary about cochlear implants, following one young woman who was making the decision to get one. This young woman wasn’t born deaf, she had a condition where her hearing steadily got worse and worse until she finally lost all hearing at age 22. She tried to learn how to read lips and started to investigate ASL, but she and her family struggled to pick up this new way of communicating after two decades of regular speech.

She finally went in to look at cochlear implants and made the decision to go for it. Her experience was so frustrating and isolating. The words that kept flowing from my radio were “I feel so alone.” Her family did the best they could to help her keep up with conversations but she was isolated and solitary. She didn’t fit into the world of sound she had once been apart of.

Fast forward to getting her implant – a few weeks after the initial surgery the young woman was able to have her implant turned on for the first time. At first she heard only buzzing and odd “robot” sounds coming from the specialist. After tweaking some settings and a few minutes of intense neurological processing this woman was able to hear words!

All of a sudden I’m sitting in my car crying with her. She is just sobbing saying “I haven’t heard anyone say a word in so long.” And the specialist says “its ok to cry honey, everyone cries in here. Heck, I cry with them,” and she WAS crying. Here we were, three people experiencing completely different things, and I’m just hearing this on the radio. I felt silly for a minute and then I decided it was ok for me to cry with the women in the story. Throughout the show I really felt pain for the young woman as she struggled with the loss of communication and then I felt so much joy when she was able to hear a few simple words. I was also moved by the specialist for her empathy, she embodied the idea of feeling with someone and letting them know you understand.

These moments are so small but they can be such a powerful way to shake us out of our stupor or give us a little piece of goodness to carry through our day. The radio documentary was a gift to me, a way to remind me that sometimes the little things, like hearing words, are an incredible point of connection to the people and places we love.1


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TomAto, TOmato.

Caveat: Please take agriculture advice with caution.  This therapist is not a licensed horticulturist or approved by the Commission on Agriculture. 

My husband and mother-in-law taught me an interesting lesson over mother’s day. As we walked in to my mother-in-law’s house, proudly with our gift of tomato plants grown from seed, we anxiously awaited her review of our newly-found farming techniques.  Through the early part of the year, we had converted our small “mud-room” into a make-shift greenhouse, carefully tending our little seedlings.  They received plenty of light, water & attention in a well-tended environment, they grew tall and were the perfect leafy green.  In other words, we provided a lot of nurture to our young seedlings in a well controlled environment.

My mother-in-law thanked us and was ecstatic about our attempt.  She and her husband had farmed much of their lives, as had their parents before them, and our interest showed perhaps we were not a total lost cause in agricultural ventures.  After awhile she asked how often we were watering the plants and when we were planning on planting them outside.

Becoming instantly protective over our little seedlings we said that it was too soon to let them outside, there was no way to know when the next frost may be, that, as she knew, we had had an unusual spring, with surprising frosts and windy storms and we gave them water regularly every day, etc. etc.

She looked at us and shook her head, telling us that we should water them right when they started to look “sad” and droopy, that they would tell us when they needed to be watered and that they needed to be outside where the wind made their stocks strong and their leaves “bunchier” and full.  WHAT?? We were supposed to wait until our plants looked dead before they gave them what they needed, put them outside against the wind and expose them to the elements so they could thrive? WHAT??  She smiled and said, “Exactly.”

As we took her advice, I began to think about how we do this in our own lives, protecting ourselves, our lives and our families from the elements in a perfectly controlled environment.  When the elements come to us; elements of change, stress, and life events that alter how we see the world and see ourselves in the world we get frustrated and yell to the winds of change to stop so we can get back to the business of growing and enjoying the sunshine from the windowsill and cool drinks of water.   However, the funny thing is, that those are the times that shape us, make us “bushier” (as my mother-in-law would say) also make us stronger.   The most important thing is that those are the times that create us to be capable of holding the “fruit” that we are able to bring to the world.  My mother-in-law had said that with our perfectly nurtured tomato plants would do fine, until it tried to grow a tomato.  Then, under the weight of the fruit, (what the tomato plant is supposed to produce!) the branch would just break off before the fruit was even developed.

In this I learned a lesson about the relationship between change, growth and purpose.  Change provides challenge which causes us to grow so that we will be able to hold our purpose.  And, bring what we were always supposed to produce (whatever kind of tomato that may be!) to the world to make it better and to give to others so that they may grow too.

If the winds of change are blowing in your life, it may be the development of strength inside of you to be able to hold your purpose.  This doesn’t mean it is not difficult, but it does mean that you will get through it, and on the other side you will be able to see how those times shaped you to be able to support the meaning and purpose in your life.