Something very interesting happened while I was in the supermarket today.
I had just picked up my usual container of hummus. I love hummus. I could live on hummus alone, but that’s another essay for another day.
Anyway, as I continued to walk toward the checkout counter, I encountered a woman who was having a coughing fit. She looked like she was about to choke, so I stopped and prayed in that split second that I could remember the Heimlich maneuver or whatever it might take to help resolve her issue.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
As she finished coughing, she said, “Yes! Yes! I’m okay! Cough! Cough!”
With that, I was relieved. My fading, Heimlich maneuver skills would not be needed today. The woman continued on and basically yelled out …
“I’m sorry. I just keep thinking that our country is going down the tubes, it’s the 4th of July and …
... I DON’T FEEL LIKE CELEBRATING!”
The woman was being somewhat facetious, but what I detected in her now cleared-up voice was unmistakable. She was frustrated. However, I think that she was somewhat relieved because I – without realizing it - gave her a platform to express what she was feeling at the time.
In that moment, I listened to her. She clearly felt like she was being heard.
“We’re just going to have to pray,” I responded to the woman.
With that, we had a brief yet humorous chat and cordially parted ways. I think the woman felt better.
I should’ve given her my bill, but she’s actually paying me back right now because here I am, sharing the story with you. Everything in my daily life is essay material. Go figure.
Exactly where am I going with this?
I don’t know. I just keep thinking about that woman’s frustration. I felt it, I still feel it and these days, many of us feel it.
Frustration is not an alien concept. We all know what it is. It requires no explanation or clarification. It comes with the gig of being human. Yet for the sake of argument, let’s unpack it for a moment.
We’re living during a time of heavy frustration, but what exactly IS frustration? What does it mean to be frustrated?
I’m definitely not a psychologist, but let me just say that based on my own personal experience, I think frustration is something we suffer when we’re angry or sad about something yet at the same time, we feel powerless. We’re not sure what we can do about the problem and therefore, we get frustrated.
It’s like being locked in rush hour traffic. What do you do? How can you get out? Where can you go? Who can you call? It’s so very frustrating.
In order to tackle frustration, we’ve got to define it and look up the antonym for it.
Dictionary.com defines frustration as …
“… a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems …”
Thesaurus.com lists numerous antonyms for frustration that include: happiness, pleasure, advance, blessing, success and encouragement.
We get frustrated when things just aren’t going our way. They’re not working out. They’re falling apart and as a result, we’re close to falling apart.
Imagine saving up a ton of money for a vacation in Vegas and you lose it all at the craps table in one fell swoop. Talk about frustrating.
Do you know what I find so frustrating about frustration? There’s something about frustration that seems to taunt and tease you. When I’m in the midst of frustration, it almost seems as if there’s this little gremlin swirling around and mocking me.
The gremlin almost seems to be singing …
? “Naa! Naa! Naa! Naa! Naaaaaaaaaaaa!” ?
Needless to say, even imagining this is frustrating. Suddenly, you really just feel like smacking someone.
But here’s the thing ...
These days, we’ve got a nation and a world full of frustrated people. Things are just not going our way. People are angry and they feel helpless, which means their frustrated. They lash out, they act out and they often hurt people who played no role whatsoever in their frustration. The poor victims were simply in the wrong place and the right time.
Frustration is definitely a sign of mental anguish. If it’s prolonged, it might even slip into mental illness, but again, I’m not a psychologist, so who am I to talk?
Still, the question remains. In these frustrating times, how do we handle frustration? Can we escape it?
I mean, so many frustrating things can happen in the course of a single day. You can get stuck waiting on a long line, some clumsy dude could spill his coffee on you while you’re on your way to a job interview, some woman may not thank you for holding the door open for her, your boss could give you yet another assignment that’s due tomorrow … you name it.
Right now, I’m thinking about some of the times when I’ve been frustrated. I’ve found that – for me – the best way to handle frustration is to …
… Disavow and Replace.
This isn’t easy, but the next time you’re frustrated, imagine that that little gremlin is running around and taunting you. Picture yourself grabbing that gremlin by the throat, holding him up high in the air so that you can see his little arms and legs flailing about, tossing him into a gremlin shredder and replacing him with something that feels pleasurable like a stroll down Miami Beach.
Again, this isn’t easy, but I’ve found that if I shift my thoughts to a place of gratitude about simply being alive and being able to breathe in that moment of frustration, I can successfully crawl out of it.
If I can remind myself that every dead person in the grave would probably rather be alive and frustrated than dead and gone … this will lead me toward feelings of gratitude and grace and the gremlin will flee.
Yet again, this isn’t easy. Frustration is a formidable foe. It grows like weeds and no matter how often you hoe, it can always come back to taunt you.
We have got to start viewing our minds and lives as gardens. They require constant care and attention. Weeds are constantly popping up. Frustration is always around the corner.
Do you know what we need? We need more weed killer. The instant we find ourselves in situations that we know are going to create frustration, we need to take out that can of weed killer and spray it before the frustration can even grab hold. We need to refuse to be frustrated about things we simply cannot control anyway.
If we cannot control it, why be frustrated? Believe me, I’m saying this to you, but I’m really saying it to myself.
We often cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our thoughts, emotions and reactions to things. Also, frustration comes when we take things too seriously. If we can inject some humor into even the toughest situations, that certainly helps. Humor is often the best medicine. We also need to get out of our own heads.
I’m thinking again about that woman who was coughing in the supermarket. I think our humorous conversation helped her snap out of it … if only for that moment.
We’ve got to find ways to snap ourselves out of frustration. No good comes from frustration. Just ask that woman who was choking or anybody who has been frustrated just before having a stroke or heart attack and keeling over.
It’s just not worth it. Frustration is a gremlin. It’s a weed. Let’s not honor it by giving it even one single second in our day. Here’s what we need to remember:
Choke it out.
Weed it out.
Replace it with the gratitude of simply being alive.
Remember that there are just certain things in this life that are way beyond your control.
Stand on guard with your hoe in hand.
Repeat these steps often … as needed.
Believe me, while I’m sharing this with you, I’m really saying all of this to myself … for future reference.