The Eve of Disruption
A lesson in recovery
I like my routines. I depend on my routines. They give me comfort. They help me stay organized and focused. Any major disruption to those routines feels like a tornado crashing through my life, leaving broken limbs and crushed houses in its wake. Last week all my routines were thoroughly shattered by events so catastrophic that they nearly brought my Pint-Sized Publishing Empire to its knees.
The disruption came from an outside force, but I had triggered it by what seemed to be an ordinary decision.
Because I spend roughly 80% of my waking hours at my desk, I considered replacing my serviceable, hand-me-down, Ikea-manufactured desk - my headquarters for 15 years - with something newer, more efficient, and even in a style of my own choosing. My wife helped me select a model that was to my taste, yet not violently clashing with the prevailing domestic décor. She even helped select a new throw rug to replace the worn, torn Oriental-style carpet beneath the desk. Finally, in a nod to my mechanical ineptitude, we contracted for an assembler to put the desk together.
Once the new carpet and three boxes of desk parts arrived, we confirmed a Tuesday appointment for the assembler. To prepare for his arrival, we spent Monday night, moving file folders, unplugging my desktop computer, boxing paper clips and miscellaneous gewgaws, carrying the old desk to a temporary home in the dining room, rolling up the old rug, rolling out the new rug, and moving the three large boxes of desk parts into my office for the assembler’s convenience. Not wanting to lose a full day of work, I set up my laptop on the dining room table. Because the boxes of desk parts prevented me from reaching my exercise bicycle, I generously sacrificed one day of cardio. We went to bed proud of our prep work and ready to return life to its proper order Tuesday evening when the new desk was assembled.
It’s Only Temporary
The assembler was scheduled to arrive Tuesday at 11 a.m. When 11:30 passed with no sign of him, I reached out online to see if he was lost or missing. An hour later the service center emailed an apology (but no explanation) and an offer to reschedule in 48 hours.
Disappointing to be sure, but another two days was bearable. We made a Thursday appointment. However, if I had to continue to work for two more days from my makeshift dining room office, I needed to enhance it. I plugged in the desktop computer and set it up on the old desk. Sitting down to work was a tight squeeze; the chair backed up to the dining room table – or would have if I hadn’t been afraid to let them touch for fear of damaging either one. I could have seen the keyboard more easily if my waistline had been three inches trimmer – which wasn’t likely soon since the exercise bike was still unreachable and walking outside in melt-your-face-off heat was a nonstarter. I discovered that the desktop had no internet access, which also meant no printer, but at least the laptop picked up our wireless network. So now I was squeezed into the old desk, using the laptop for email and internet and the desktop for writing, and 37 times a day I would click on the mouse in a vain attempt to navigate t the wrong screen.
In this mode I lurched into Thursday. Our new appointment was for 10 a.m. – and at 8 a.m. we were notified that the appointment was cancelled, with profound apologies, and we were offered the chance to reschedule for the following Monday.
We briefly considered alternatives and could find only one: Demand a refund and find a local handyperson. But there was no guarantee that a local handyperson would know furniture assembly, whereas the company’s assembler was a specialist. We resigned ourselves to three more days of disruption.
With my two semi-functional computers and an antiquated but reliable file transfer protocol known as “Sneaker Ware,” I managed to write and publish my weekly post. I kept my weekend ambitions for the makeshift office low and eagerly awaited Monday and the final resolution of this disruptive week.
Come Monday, would you believe it? Another form email announcing the appointment cancellation, with standard apologies, and the invitation to reschedule in three days.
But this time I had had enough. I say three strikes and you’re out. I canceled, demanded a refund, and turned to an app called TaskRabbit to find an assembly alternative. To my amazement, I lined up an experienced furniture assembler in 30 minutes. She even promised to show up that same afternoon to do the job. Even more amazing, she kept her promise! In four hours the desk was up, looking splendiferous, and the Pint-Sized Publishing Empire moved into its new permanent headquarters.
I share this story not only because I love stories, but to make a point about resiliency. Creature of habit that I am, the disruption of every familiar routine from internet searches to printing to daily exercise threw me into a tizzy. Resiliency is what enabled me to meet my deadlines and deliver my content in spite of the disruptions.
“You know what I like about you?” a boss once said to me. “First you say something is impossible. Then you start figuring out how to get it done.” That’s about what happened with the desk adventure. I don’t think I’m unique in that way. Life tends, from time to time, to punch us in the face. Especially at this stage in our lives, we lose people close to us. We may lose hearing, sight, or balance. But what life throws at us isn’t as important as how we respond.
Resilience is the ability to cope with change. It’s the inner quality that allows us to accept change and then say, “Okay, now what?”
There are good tips for building and cultivating resilience. It is a mindset that can be learned and practiced. To me, it is the only response to life’s ups and downs that maximizes our happiness and enables us to enjoy the years still ahead of us.