The Importance of Framing (and Re-Framing) Circumstances in a Beneficial Way
Relearning Stoic Lessons in Light of Unexpected Inconveniences the Past Two Weekends
The past two weekends have been really busy for me: the previous weekend was busy in a good way, the current one less so. But contrasting the events of the past two weekends has reminded me of that critical lesson from Stoicism: the importance of helpfully reframing events, especially when confronted with challenging circumstances.
Last weekend (January 21st and 22nd) I was busy for mostly pleasant reasons (some fun social events), but also because of an unpleasant development that nonetheless has a positive spin on it: my car’s battery died and needed to be replaced. Not that it’s ever nice to encounter an unexpected expense or inconvenience, but in this case, I was very grateful for the timing of events. My battery died at just about the best possible time and in the best possible place: my driveway on a Friday evening after I was already home for the night. Had it died earlier when I was at work or out running errands, it would have been much more inconvenient and time-consuming.
This realization really kept me positive about the whole situation, even when I encountered some unexpected complications. The portable jump-starter I had on hand for such an event turned out to be a complete piece of shit that would not hold a charge, even after charging overnight, making it useless. The roadside assistance I called for a jump start took about ten times as long as the estimate they initially gave me. And when I arrived at the auto parts store, they were very busy and extremely understaffed, meaning it was took much, much longer this time than it had in the past to get the battery and get it installed. And then there’s stagflation, which appears to have hit auto battery prices especially hard — the batteries I looked at were all about three times as expensive as similar batteries were just a few short years ago. But none of these unpleasant developments overturned my positive mood. Whatever difficulties arose, all I had to do was remind myself about how blessedly opportune the timing of the battery’s demise had been, and I was put instantly into a better mood.
Contrast that with my experience this weekend. I have been needing to fix my kitchen sink, but when I had initially tried to close the shut-off valves under the sink, I realized they were stuck fast, as if they had been soldered open. I tried a few different things to get them to turn without breaking the adjoining pipe, and at long last was able to get them closed . . . but the hot water still flowed even though the valve was off. No problem, I thought. I have repaired leaky valves before. This would be a simple plumbing fix, and once the shut-off valve had been repaired, I would be able to take apart the sink without shutting off the hot water to the entire house.
I live in an older house, where most of the plumbing fixtures are still the originals. Unfortunately, this means that there is no such thing as a simple plumbing job. One thing leads to another, and to another, and to another, until you have a series of cascading failures that leaves you with a much more serious plumbing issue to resolve. I should have already known this, from numerous past experiences, but for whatever reason, I went into this project expecting it to be easy.
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