What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

We’ve likely all looked at a Snellen chart, that familiar pyramid of random letters that gradually get smaller and more difficult to read. I can remember back to my grade school days when we had to line up and read off the letters to the travelling optometrist who had the power to tell us whether we needed glasses or not.

For me, the experience was comparable to waiting in line for confession with the travelling priest who had the power to tell me whether I was going to Hell or not, or at least that’s what I was told his super power was.

My responses to both authority figures was to make up some fantastical response when summoned to speak. The interesting thing was nothing seemed to shock either man. I think the priest may have turned off his hearing aids because if I had really done what I said, I should have prayed a few more Hail Mary’s at the very least. And as hard as I tried to be blind, the eye doctor never bought it. He must have had the super power of lie detection. He spoiled my plans to make a spectacle of myself. So, for years I had 20/20 vision despite my attempts to thwart that. Little did I know I should have appreciated it while it lasted .

Most of us go through our days on autopilot. We can clearly read the bottom line on the Snellen chart of our to-do items. We make the assumption that life will go fairly smoothly, but we know realistically that minor blips can happen. We can handle those minor blips. But most of us are not prepared for the unexpected events that fee insurmountable at the time. It’s only aferr these events that we say: hindsight is 20/20.

Last Monday started out like any routine Monday. I actually like Monday’s. I feel prepared after the weekend and ready to go. I’ve got a great group of students to start off the day which makes it even better. I’m excited to train the next generation and they are eager to learn. I arrive at my regular 7:45 a.m., gather my materials, and post my notes to my internal drive before heading down for the 8:30 class.

So at 8:00 am last Monday, I went to retrieve my notes from my USB only to discover that I could not open any files. No matter what I tried, I could not retrieve anything from the stick. Thinking it may be an issue with my desktop, I went down to the classroom and went through the same motions there. No success. I had a 2 hour class with no notes. So I told the class, I was going to model for them how you carry on with the task in front of you when you’re in panic mode in your mind. And that’s what I did.

I compartmentalized my stress until I could try and work the problem. There was nothing I could do about it at the time. That ability to focus on what’s in front of us is a skill we all need to work on.

When I took the stick to the IT department later that day, the technician told me that they hadn’t seen this issue in years. He said he’d have to wipe the USB and then try and recover the files. He wasn’t hopeful. So my new reality was that everything I had worked on since September was likely gone. The ironic thing is that I had told myself that weekend that I should back up my files.

Hindsight is 20/20. If only I’d backed up those files! Thought about it. Didn’t do it. Two months of preparation gone. And now I’ve got nothing for tomorrow’s classes.

I shared my dilemma with some colleagues and I heard things like: “that’s my worst nightmare!” And in the moment it certainly felt like that. In fact, as the day progressed and the likelihood of getting my 1,048 files back grew slim, my vision became narrow and focused on my poor predicament.

But was this actually the worst that could happen to me? You know the answer is “no”, but if we’re honest, it can possess our minds and distract us from what are the real issues in life that are far more serious.

This snap back to reality came in multiple ways throughout the day, as I heard several individuals speak of their struggles and challenges that were far more serious than the inconvenience I was experiencing. Because honestly, while it might take me a long time to rewrite what I lost, it was possible. Mine wasn’t a life and death situation. But the young person I was talking with at the end of the day was dealing with exactly that. She was experiencing the worst possible thing that can happen to a young person in love - the death of her boyfriend from a terminal illness.

I had 20/20 vision now. While the loss of the data was unexpected and more than blip in my day, a USB or simply the notes are replaceable; a loved one is not. How often do we say, “this is the worst” when really it’s not. Why do we overreact to so many things that can be managed if we take the time to process, when there are others who are living with circumstances so painful and beyond their control?

Our daily life is truly a matter of perspective. The next time a situation arises when you find yourself saying “this is the worst”, bring some clarity by pausing and putting it in context. That’s how you can have the power to pass the Snellen test of having 20/20 vision in the present issues you face.

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© 2020 Connect the Thoughts: Charlene Mahon