As a kid, I never had allergies. My sister Kaylyn had terrible hay fever though. When we shared a room, I remember her using dozens of tissues each night. In her sleep, she’d blow her nose and throw the used tissue toward the garbage can. More than once, I was pelted by a wayward tissue. Funny thing is, Kaylyn grew out of her allergies and apparently I grew into them.
Twelve years ago, we were living in northern Virginia. One morning I woke up with my eyes swollen shut. For weeks, I could barely leave the house. I was pregnant with my fourth child and pretty wary of taking medication. That summer we moved to Idaho and I hoped I would leave my allergies behind.
No such luck! Every spring since then, I’ve wanted to claw my eyeballs out.
I’ve tried a few things over the years, none of which worked. So I made up my mind that it was just a trial I had to endure. And I handled it gracefully … by complaining nonstop for four to six weeks each year.
But this spring, I did something crazy. I went to see an allergist. And guess what? He speculated that I was allergic to grasses and suggested a few things that I had not tried before.
Two days later, and ever since, I have felt fantastic!
All those years, I could have enjoyed spring. But instead, I suffered through it, convinced that there was not a solution to my problem.
I wish this sort of thing were an isolated incident. But it happens over and over again in my life. I’ll share another example just because I have one handy.
A few years ago, our air conditioner stopped working during the hottest part of the summer. When my parents came to visit, my dad looked at it. “Yep, it’s not working,” was all he said. He’s not the most communicative fellow and we should have prodded him for better information. Instead, we figured the air conditioner was dead and needed to be replaced. And since there are many other places that money was needed, we figured we could just live without air conditioning.
One day, years later, our neighbor mentioned that a common and inexpensive problem among air conditioners is a faulty capacitor. We made a phone call that day and a $30 purchase. Soon, our air conditioner, which we had left for dead, was humming in the back yard.
So often in life, I complain because I face challenges and that seem to have no solutions. But, as my stories illustrate, it may just be that I have a problem-perpetuating paradigm.
When you hear people complaining, it is likely that they are in this mindset. They are either hoping their complaints will draw the attention of someone who can solve their problems. OR they hope to get martyr mileage out of having the worst problems in town.
I love the words of Stephen R. Covey, “As human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.”
Our gift, as humans, is to be thinking, feeling beings. We inherited the gift of choice and a vast problem solving capacity. We have self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will. We are agents to act and not merely objects to be acted upon.
If anyone can find solutions to our problems, we can!
Not all of our problems will have solutions as easy as eye drops and capacitors. In fact, sometimes we will have problems that require faith and patience and even a willingness to submit and accept. While we may not always achieve perfect solutions, the problems we face will be vastly improved by our attitudes and our actions.
If we are willing to look inward, we will discover this truth.