We’re having plumbing problems at home. I am so grateful that my husband is willing and able to get the snake, clear the clog and he cleans up the messy aftermath.The problem may be bigger than a snake or pipe cleaning solutions. I’m not sure, but I do know that my primal reaction to this situation is fear. A bubble of angst lodges in my gut when I walk down the hallway and into the bathroom. I fear flushing, never knowing if that will be the time the toilet refuses to work. When it works, I breathe a sigh of relief, feeling like I got away with something. And every few weeks, when I hear the all-to-familiar gurgle of the toilet, my heart sinks. Clogged again. Fear wells up and I feel out of control, helpless, unsure of what this all means for my immediate future. I can easily catastrophize the whole event.
Given that I had catastrophe happen to me at a relatively young age, moving straight to The Worst That Can Happen is understandable. But it’s exhausting and, I’ve learned, doesn’t serve me. In fact, it often makes matters worse. While I’m busy preparing for The Worst That Can Happen, reality is still going on around me and I’m not paying attention.
Over the past five years, there’s a newer voice speaking to me, one besides Fear. If there’s one thing that growing older has given me, it’s perspective. So while my default mode is to drive straight to fear, perspective actually throws a curve in the road, giving me a choice about where I go. That choice has actually always been there, but fear does blind. I didn’t used to see that road, or any of the others for that matter.
Perspective has taught not only taught me that I have choice in how I react to a situation, it’s taught me that I don’t have to react. I can take the time to respond. I can hold back and instead of freaking out with my husband about the damn clogged toilet, I can take a deep breath, put this in perspective, understand that the walls won’t become infused with backed up water and come crushing down around us (yes, I go there).
Perspective also allows me to stay present in the moment, in reality, to what’s actually happening, not what I’m afraid will happen.
The trick is, I actually have to choose to take a different road, to not drive on autopilot. So, the next time the toilet clogs, if there’s a next time , I’ll take that deep breath and focus on reality, not just my fears. And maybe call a plumber.