Reframing Saves the Day or, How I’m Trying to Keep My Shit Together


Problem: Sometimes it feels like the world is conspiring against you, and everywhere you turn you’re met by more challenges and disappointment.

Solution: You’re looking at it wrong. An attitude adjustment may be in order.


I’m looking at the clock on my brand new MacBook Air, and it’s reporting 1:43 A.M.  Brand new because the one I’m supposed to be working on blew up yesterday. 1:43 because my flight for Africa leaves in a few hours, and I’m not ready.

Anyway, my eyes are bleary and I’m pretty sure it’s 1:43 in the morning and I’m pulling an all-nighter just a few days before flying across the world and running a marathon. This could have gone better.

It could have gone better if my computer hadn’t blown up yesterday. It could have gone better if one of my connecting flights hadn’t gotten cancelled the day before, forcing me to spend the day finding a new one. It could have gone better if I hadn’t recently learned that Mt. Elbrus is closed because terrorists keep shooting each other. It could have gone better if a water line in my house didn’t burst in the middle of all this mayhem.

Over the last week, nearly each day has been a new opportunity to spend $500 or more on something I hadn’t planned for. In case it’s not abundantly clear, this whole operation could have gone better.

But it didn’t.

Perhaps you can relate to something similar in your life.

So what am I to do? I can’t really say that I have the answer, but I know what I’m doing anyway—slapping a smile on this fucking face and getting on an airplane. Despite the overwhelming evidence for a fully justified pity party, it only takes a moment’s reflection to realize just how great my life actually is.

I’m not going to sleep tonight, but I have a 15-hour flight across the Atlantic that will fix that in a jiffy.

I’ve spent $2,000 in the last week to make sure this big trip keeps happening and things keep going “smoothly,” but I have enough saved to do that without going into debt or worrying too much about it.

Terrorists are trying to ruin some of my fun, but if they do, I can hop back on a plane and come have fun at home, where I can do as I like every day without worrying that someone might hurt me or that the police will knock down my door to look for all the insurgents I’m hiding.

Every problem that arises in your life, every hurdle you must jump, is an opportunity to interpret the world, and the way that you do is up to you.

You can look at your problems and say, “Woes me! The universe is telling me to give up. I’m not cut out for this.” Or you can look at them and say, “Thanks, Universe, for kicking me in the balls. I guess I’m going to put on a cup and try again.”

I’ve had at least two mental breakdowns this week, I’m on the verge of one right now, and I’m fully anticipating a few more before this journey is over.

I have big plans. That’s the cost of admission. If you have big plans too, get ready for trials and tribulations. As Tara nicely put it in the comments the other day, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”

That’s what you do when you love something, but the world conspires to stop you from doing it. You keep doing it anyway. And then you remember that if it feels like the world is conspiring against you, it’s probably because you need to fix your attitude, and life is actually pretty awesome.

Life is hell. Life is awesome. Those two ideas can coexist quite nicely if you let them. All it takes is a little reframing.

See you soon. I’ve got a plane to catch.


Thanks to Jonathan Fields for all the help in learning how to look at a disappointing situation from a different angle. Image by: Stuck in Customs