Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Do You Handle Life?

Those in book publishing tend to be smarter than the average bear. Because they think about everything, usually in great analytical detail, they find the challenges of life to be overwhelming at times. Everyone, at every level, experiences some type of hardship – physical, financial, psychological, familial – so it’s not like those in publishing have cornered the market on pain, but I do feel that those in the industry are more sensitive, more aware, more volatile to the swings of life.

The past few weeks I hit a rough patch, as we all do with life. It wasn’t that any defining events happened – death, job loss, severe injury – but a series of events and frustrations happened that turned me into feeling blanket anger towards everyone. I was reminded that life is broken, and the ability of any of us to change it has its limits. But I also reminded myself that it’s not up to me to focus on the negative or to dwell on where society or individuals fall short. Once I can look past my blinders, I can paint a whole new landscape.

Sometimes it seems when it rains, it pours. And each negative event that piles on takes on a bigger life than it normally would. It starts out as an isolated event or two, and then you start seeing a pattern. Before you know it, your life is in the red of the ledger that scores your state of being.

It all started about two weeks ago.

My wife’s iPhone of 17 months just stopped working. She didn’t drop it. She didn’t leave it out in the cold. She didn’t download a virus. It just ceased to work. Apple is supposed to make quality stuff, right? Verizon, whom we bought the phone from, said they don’t know what’s wrong with it. Apple said the same thing – and sold us a “replacement” phone for $150. The phone came with a 90-day warranty. Really, they don’t stand by their product? How about we buy an extended warranty? Sorry, they don’t do that. So is this phone used? No. Is it new? Well, it uses new parts. I couldn’t get a straight answer out of them. I was not impressed. Then the phone wasn’t working properly. She wasn’t getting certain texts, and her email box had thousands of old emails that had been previously deleted. Hours of subsequent calls and visits seemingly cured its ills. What a waste. Okay, shit happens, right?

Then a bunch of snow storms peppered our winter, one that’s been colder and wetter than normal. It led to school cancellations, late trains, and everything else that goes with it. Okay, it’s to be expected, but it still sucks.

Then our dryer decided to stop working. A $250 visit from the repairman hopefully fixed it, but who can trust any mechanical device to work beyond the warranty? Okay, things don’t last forever, right?

Then I got into a car accident. In just a split second, I crossed the line from driver to victim. Luckily I was not hurt, but my car suffered enough damage that the insurance company of the guy who rear-ended me said it’s a dead car.

I had never been thrust into such a situation like this. While I was in limbo, waiting to hear from the insurance company on whether the car would live to see another day, I was given a rental from Enterprise. It turned out the car held up against the winter conditions poorly. It seems the car didn’t have snow tires, like mine did. They said none of their fleet has snow tires, and they weren’t aware of any car rental place equipping their cars with them. Wow, you realize how corporations just don’t care about your safety!

My old car had a sticker on it, indicating I can park in the local lot. Of course, my rental had no such sticker. I thought ahead and put a sign in the windshield, alerting cops that my car was in an accident, gave the license plate #, and indicated that I had a parking pass. I still got two tickets. So I went to City Hall to fight. A snowstorm closed their offices. I had to come back another day. The court clerk apparently doesn’t work under their stated 8:30-5:00 business hours. She slithered in 15 minutes late, just long enough to cause me to miss my train to work. Her colleagues told me she’s always late. Nice to see the tax dollars at work. She claims the judge will take care of the tix. I hope so. It’s hard to have confidence in anyone.

Around the time I discover the vehicle is declared a “total loss,” the family fish, Spots, died. As my oldest son mourned his Beta, I mourned the car I had for nearly nine years – and just under 41,000 miles – the one I’d hoped my son, Ben, could use as his first car.

I sat in the malignant car and thought of how I used it to drive my infant children, and all of my pets, many of whom have since died. I thought of the trips I took it on. I let it go.

Life is about how we handle it. Though I was in a two-week funk of frustration, I realized that I must accept life on its terms, warts and all. I need to expect it to be faulty and imperfect, otherwise every day’s inevitable setback, rejection, loss, or disappointment will flood me out of proportion to how things should be looked at.

I look at a colleague, James, who is undergoing a fight for his life. He was diagnosed with cancer and has undergone some treatments to battle it. He just lost his hand to it. His road to recovery is long and hard. But he has a good, positive attitude about it. That's the way to live life.

We need to have a positive perspective on things and rejoice in what’s good and to truly appreciate not only what we have, but our ability to handle what may come. We can change and carve out the life we seek. Life has many momentary highs and lows – we just need to ride them out.

Certainly, as writers, we know frustration and rejection well. We must remain resilient and persevere. Once we can see beyond the mountain’s dark shadow, we can enjoy the view at the top.

I took photos of Ben’s undersized body in the driver’s seat, imagining him driving it. I removed the contents and surveyed the damage one more time. At first, angered that the insurance company made the call not to repair it, I now was at peace with it and suddenly excited at the prospect of applying the settlement towards a new car and a fresh start.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com

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