I had an experience the other day that could have been all kinds of miserable, annoying, and frustrating. But it turned out to be none of those things. Instead, it was one filled with laughter and fun, and it became a happy memory that I will truly treasure forever. To explain:
We recently moved my daughter out of her apartment upon graduating from college. The last thing to remove was her bike, which had been chained to a rack outside her front door. Unfortunately, the bike lock was rusted shut so we were unable to release it from the rack, and we couldn’t just leave it there or she would have gotten charged for leaving something at the apartment.
Since we didn’t own bolt cutters, we weren’t sure what to do. We thought about buying some, but then we thought that we would first check out what other supplies we had and see if we could make something work.
The next day my daughter and I set out with a pair of tin snips, a branch lopper, and a small jigsaw that I had found in the back of the garage that I’m pretty sure had been left there by the previous house owners. On the way there we laughed about how we hoped no police officers would be in view because there was no way to prove that the bike was indeed hers since we couldn’t get the key into the lock. But when we arrived, undeterred and full of “can-do” spirit, we scooped up our tools and attempted to free her bike from its lonely and slightly rusted state.
We tried the tin snips first, which did a pretty good job of getting through the rubber of the curly cable part, but they were worthless against the steel/titanium/whatever incredibly sturdy metal the inside was made of, (noting to ourselves that this part was made expressly strong to prevent people from doing exactly what we were trying to do!). The branch loppers were even more useless, so we plugged the jigsaw into the closest outlet inside the apartment, ran the extension cord out the door, then I held the cable taut while my daughter tried cutting through nearly indestructible layers of metal with a blade about the size of a small nail file. My arms were vibrating with the motion, and just as a realized neither of us was wearing eye protection, the blade flew off of the saw, having made no impact on the metal whatsoever.
At that point, realizing that we would make the worst bike thieves on the planet, we had to go to Plan B and go to purchase bolt cutters, but luckily the hardware store was just around the corner so we gathered up our now rather dulled utensils and headed off.
Of course it was a huge store, so we spent a considerable amount of time finding the right aisle, and then we went up and down it twice, searching in vain for bolt cutters. We came across a massive assortment of hand saws (which was going to be Plan C) but then we finally found someone to help us, who sent us down the same aisle, where we finally found them, tucked away on the very bottom of a shelf. Gleefully we bought them (plus a medium-sized hand saw, just in case) and we headed back to the scene of what we hoped would be a successful crime-that-wasn’t-actually-a-crime.
As luck would have it, on the way back it started to rain. And not just a little drizzle either - big, blobby droplets that would take roughly 10 seconds to get you completely soaked. We jumped out of the car, ran over to the bike, on the second try the bolt cutters did their job, and we triumphantly wheeled the bike over to throw it in the back of the car and get it home to its new haven, the out-of-the-elements space in the garage.
The reason why I’m telling you this story is because in looking back on it I realized that the entire experience could have been very different from the one that we experienced. We had an absolute ball the entire time because throughout every ridiculous and potentially aggravating circumstance we made the choice to laugh.
We laughed as we tried each implement and failed. We giggled as we clanked around and made an inordinate amount of noise as we were trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. We chuckled as we went up and down the aisles of the store, pointing out other silly options like a hammer and chisel, a chain saw, and pliers fit for the Jolly Green Giant. We burst into titters as the rain started, and we ran through it like we were gleeful children playing in a sun shower. We whooped with joy when the bolt cutters finally worked, and got a bit teared up with gratitude and elation as all of our efforts were rewarded by a giant glorious rainbow greeting us from the sky on our way home.
It’s with this cheerful attitude that we generally approach things in life. But I know plenty of people who would have chosen to have gotten annoyed and then even more and more angry and irritated with each obstacle. When each tool didn’t work, when we couldn’t find what we needed, when the rain started, we chose to see the absurdity of it all and laughed. But aren’t there people that you know who would have taken each setback as an opportunity to get more frustrated and upset?
It also never entered our minds to give up on the situation, no matter how difficult it became. We knew that we would be able to figure out a solution, no matter how many tries it took, and I think that is a really important lesson for when we’re faced with seemingly insurmountable things in our lives. When we set our minds to “I CAN do this,” and “I WILL do this,” then it becomes a matter of just finding the right way to do it, and never “this is too hard” or “this is impossible.”
We never know what hurdles or stumbling blocks life is going to throw at us. Often times we cannot control the hardships and misfortunes that may come our way. But we can control how we deal with them. Choosing laughter over annoyance isn’t always easy, but it starts with a mindset of keeping things in perspective and consciously deciding how we are going to react to things.
A few questions to consider:
Has being angry or bothered by things outside of our control EVER made them better?
Has choosing to be irritated and annoyed by minor inconveniences EVER made someone’s life better or more satisfying?
Has seeing the bright side of a situation and laughing through difficulty EVER had a downside to someone’s daily existence?
There are people who will try to tell you that being happy is a waste of time because life will always disappoint you. These same people will go through their lives being proud of their misery and holding it up for everyone to see. They will take every opportunity to see the bad in situations, blame others and the outside world for their woes, and make the choice to get angry at the hard things rather than laugh at them.
They don’t feel like it’s a choice, but it is. It actually is. And we have the power to make that choice in every moment of our lives. Which will you choose?