Kicking Frustration to the Curb

A lesson in realism: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
By Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust on Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning as I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 28, 2021

Modern life comes with a clutter of frustrations unimaginable to our ancestors.

Recently, my laptop was having problems. The young man in the repair shop discovered that I was years behind on my updates, and after about four hours, he had added the updates and fixed the problem. He even cleaned the keyboard and screen, making the machine look new again.

So I returned home, acquainted myself with some of the changes he had made, and went to bed a happy man. Then came early morning, and every document on the computer now sported a black background and white text.

Ugh.

I messed around online, discovered the meaning of “dark mode,” and realized what had happened. So that story had a happy ending.

But we all experience frustration. We head out the front door to drive to work and find the left front tire of the car to be as flat as the proverbial pancake. We call the state revenue office and spend an hour on the phone waiting to speak to a human being. We’re pumped for a week at the beach with our family when the little ones fall ill with the flu the day before our scheduled departure.

Epoch Times Photo
(Fei Meng)

Holding down a job, raising children, or navigating relationships can bring their own special irritants. The boss keeps changing his mind about office protocol regarding visitors during our ongoing pandemic. Ten-year-old Billy throws a Wiffle ball to his brother in the den, which he knows is against house rules, and breaks a porcelain statue that belonged to your mother. You want to spend Sunday afternoon on a family hike, while your spouse is happier watching a football game.

When confronted by such unexpected difficulties, some people rant and rave. Others just want to throw up their hands and call it a day. A few even blame the fates for raining down distress, asking, “Why is this always happening to me?”

But we also see those folks who face up to unexpected problems, seek solutions, and regard such troubles as a natural part of life. They’re rarely thrown off-kilter by inconvenience or minor irritations. One man I know, at age 37, is particularly unflappable. The father of a large family and a busy attorney with 20 employees, he faces a daily whirlwind of challenges, yet generally meets them with a smile and a can-do spirit.

In “The Road Less Traveled,” author M. Scott Peck began with these words:

“Life is difficult.

“This is a great truth, one of the greatest of truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Peck is spot-on in this observation. When we forget that life is difficult, when we expect sunshine and roses and are instead belted by a hurricane, we’re miserable. But the realists who accept that life is difficult will tackle challenges in stride without wasting energy on anger or exasperation.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. That old adage fits neatly with Peck’s great truth. It’s as solid a watchword against frustration as any other.

Readers may be interested to know that just after I finished the rough draft of this article I dropped my cellphone, cracking the screen, and my computer crashed.

Onward and upward.

Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust on Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning as I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.