Obstacles Are Teachable Lessons for Personal Growth
I recently took a short weekend trip about 40 miles outside Philadelphia to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, to visit my brother-in-law. I try to get out to “the country” where he lives about twice a month. We do the “guy” thing: sit around, drink beers, and do nothing. He watches sports, and I follow cooking shows while creating dishes in the kitchen. Occasionally, we may go food shopping, but we’re fine with just hanging out.
I returned to Philly on Monday afternoon and was immediately consumed with the hustle and bustle of city life. I started with the dad stuff that had piled up during my absence. I was glad that I’d had the time away to chill out and relax. My brother-in-law is one of my favorite people. He understands about my pulmonary sarcoidosis and has been there for me throughout my health episodes, including multiple spontaneous pneumothorax and subcutaneous emphysema.
Trouble on Tuesday
The next day, I resumed my usual routine, which involves dropping off my wife and daughter at work and returning home to prepare for my day. I start with the gym; I’ve been a “gym rat” since completing pulmonary rehab.
I got into the car and started it up. While waiting for my wife and daughter, I noticed that the check-engine light had come on. My mouth fell open in surprise. I had just taken the car to the dealer for routine maintenance the previous week. I started to worry because my state inspection is due by the end of the month, and the car won’t pass with the check-engine light on.
I tried to put the thought of an expensive repair out of my mind, but I couldn’t entirely banish the worry. It seems that when I think I have a handle on things and am making progress, something comes along to disrupt it. I remembered that my son had used the car for work the day before, but he didn’t mention the service light being on, unless he didn’t notice it.
After dropping off my wife and daughter, I went to the gym for my regular workout, hoping to de-stress about the car situation. I arrived for my workout, oxygen in tow, my new smartphone in hand, and my new Bluetooth earbuds in place. The earbuds weren’t connecting to my phone at first, but I finally got them working. I was looking forward to a wireless workout, then one earbud stopped working. Then both shut down, leaving me frustrated and in silence.
One at a time
I returned home and asked my son if he’d seen the service engine light when he had used the car. He had seen it and told me that he had intended to tell me about it that morning. So far, one big obstacle and one small obstacle were causing me unnecessary stress.
Then I noticed a letter from my hospital that had arrived while I was away. I opened it and saw that it was a bill. Suddenly I felt overwhelmed. In less than two hours, two significant obstacles and one small one had started to consume my energy.
I was feeling stressed while recalling my bouts with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a byproduct of sarcoidosis. I had dealt with PTSD after my spontaneous pneumothorax, so I recognize my stress triggers.
I took a deep breath, saying to myself, “One at a time.” I took out my earbuds and charged them. Then I called the hospital and asked to speak to someone in the billing department. I wanted to figure out why I had received a bill even though I have two insurance policies. The woman I spoke with sorted out the problem and added notations on my account stating that the charges needed to be resubmitted to one insurance company. She also noticed that I had a past due balance, and informed me that my provider had corrected the error, so I have no outstanding bills.
I began to relax a little. It looked as if I was about to make progress again. Sometimes living with a chronic illness leads you to become overly worked up about sudden obstacles. But if we consider the barrier and change our approach toward handling it, we can remove it.
Eventually, I mentally regrouped and celebrated that one phone call that got two bills paid. Zero balance. I call that progress. When we sweat the small obstacles, we do ourselves a disservice in our healing. Just accept them for what they are: teachable challenges that we can overcome. Now to take care of the car …
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