Coping For Beginners
I’ve often thought there should be a course in Coping.
Maybe in Junior High. Maybe sooner. Maybe Kindergarten.
But I’m not sure it would help. Can we be taught how to react to stress? Should we all react the same way?
Just recently a friend left for a road trip – a vacation the whole family was excited about – only to have car trouble halfway to their destination. They lost half a day of their precious vacation and were stranded scarily on the side of the highway. … and it cost them a bundle. “We’re fine!” she reported.
At the same time another friend was vacationing at a luxury hotel in an exotic location. And there was no fridge in the room. This was unacceptable.
And yes, I could say the first friend had a great attitude and the second friend had a bad attitude.
But they are not the same people. They do not have the same brain connections. They process stress differently. My friend who wanted a fridge seems to have a bit of OCD (in my perhaps incorrect and inappropriate opinion), and small disruptions can really throw her off balance. It’s not that her expectations are so high; it’s that she needs those expectations to provide order to her perceived chaotic world. She doesn’t need ‘luxury’ – she needs ‘no surprises’.
Then there are two more friends who have completely different reactions to pain. One friend goes to bed for the whole day when he has a headache. The other friend had hip replacement surgery and was up and walking the next day. “I’m fine!” she reported.
So is my first friend here a hypochondriac? Maybe. But maybe his brain perceives pain really strongly. Maybe he hurts something awful.
I won’t deny that I prefer the folks who are cheerful. Who don’t let car trouble or even surgery get them down. Who say, “I’m fine.”
But I can’t feel what others are feeling. And I’m pretty sure the more stressed folks don’t really want to be stressed. They feel what they feel.
Some people can’t bear to visit their sick relatives in the hospital. Some want to sit by the bed all day.
Some people want to dance the solo at the talent show. Some people throw up when they have to speak in a business meeting.
Some people can throw a party for 50 without ever running out of shrimp or toilet paper. Some people burn the hotdogs and drop the coleslaw when the neighbors come over.
Some people grieve for years at the death of a loved one. Some go back to work the day after the funeral and say, “I’m fine.” And it doesn’t mean they didn’t feel real love or don’t feel real loss now.
And some people can hold their aged cat’s little body and cry and cry.
But some people go into the kitchen and cook and cook, and use every pot and dish and fork. And then cook some more. And they say, “I’m fine.” And it doesn’t mean they didn’t feel real love or don’t feel real loss now.