Expecting things to go wrong (and why it can be a good thing)

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Do you expect things to go wrong in your life?  When things do go wrong, do you take it in stride figuring that sometimes things just happen?  Or do you think that the universe or God must really be against you?

Someone recently told me how an extended family member (from the tone, one he didn’t particularly like) called him up and said, “Have you been praying for me?”

“No, I haven’t been praying for you.  Why would you think I was praying for you?”

“Somebody must have been praying for me.  The engine on my car blew.”

OK, it’s a somewhat bizarre exchange, but it demonstrates how some people come up with the oddest explanations for why thing go wrong.

Of course, I have had my own recent experience with engine trouble.

I was just thinking about how when my van engine blew up, I got a lot of sympathy from people thinking that I must be having a really rough time of it.  I’ll admit that parts of the ordeal were a bit stressful and at one point, I did kind of break down for a couple of minutes.  I was definitely felt a bit sad about the van, exhausted after a couple of long days and unsure at times how I was going to face things.  But honestly, I never really felt that much like I was having a bad day.  It seems like that sort of thing would entitle me to have a bad day, and even maybe to feel sorry for myself.

The thing is that I do expect things to go wrong.  It’s not that I dwell on it or feel like things are always going wrong for me.  I do think that on occasion things just go wrong.  Stuff happens.  To all of us.

I’m a math person.  I think in terms of probability.  I know that I put a lot of miles on the road and at some point, I’m bound to have car trouble.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.  So when it did happen, I didn’t feel like the universe was against me, but rather like I had this coming.  (Not in a karma sort of way or anything.)

I did think of all the ways it could have been worse.  I could have been on the interstate in heavy traffic – just the week before I was on the interstate in Oklahoma City.  It could have happened when it was dark out – I drove into Snyder exhausted the night before it happened.  It could have happened somewhere I didn’t know anybody that could help me, or even somewhere out in the woods where I didn’t have cell service – I had the van out in the National Forest a few days before it happened too.

If it had happened at one of those times, perhaps I really would have felt the universe was against me.  Or perhaps I would have found other ways of dealing with it.  After all, if I got stranded in the van in the middle of the night and it was cold out, I could have just closed the blinds, turned on the heater and snuggled into bed.  There are some advantages to traveling in an RV.

It’s not really helpful to dwell on the fact that things will go wrong, but accepting that things will in fact go wrong and expecting it makes it easier to take it in stride.

There is probably a second element to this that helped me as well: I already felt like when things did go wrong on the road, I would figure out a way to handle it.  There are a lot of places in life where I don’t have this same sort of confidence.  I often worry about this going wrong or that going wrong.  For whatever reason, I don’t worry about that stuff in relation to travel.

I can remember a conversation with my mom from years ago when I first started making business trips on my own out to Texas and Oklahoma.  I was 19 or 20 at the time, and mom was probably still getting used to the idea of me being an adult.  Or maybe she’s just mom and her concerns would be the same today.

Anyway, said to me, “I worry about you out on the road.  What if something goes wrong out there or you have car trouble or something?”

“Well mom, I’d just call the tow truck.  Just like I would if my car broke down close to home.”

And I thought through the possibilities.  What if I didn’t have cell service?  Then I’d stand on the side of the road and hope somebody stopped or maybe put up a sign, ‘NEED HELP’.  (From my experiences now, I can say that being a female looking stranded on the side of the road, it doesn’t take long for somebody to stop and offer help.  When I was with my van on the side of the road, three people stopped, plus the Texas State Police.)

Since I expected to have car trouble at some point and somewhere deep in my brain I had already determined that it was something I could deal with, it really didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  And I certainly didn’t feel like God had it out for me.

So, do you expect things to go wrong?  And do you have faith in your ability to handle things when they do go wrong?

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