My Series of Unfortunate Events

unfortunate eventsSometimes my days seem like they come right out of a Lemony Snicket novel—they are a “series of unfortunate events.” Seems like I’ve been having a lot of those days lately.

For example, I had some workers in to do what I thought was going to be a simple repair and they discovered all sorts of wiring and plumbing problems. This eventually led to having to tear down the drywall in the room to expose the wiring and plumbing and find the source of the problem—which led to needing electricians, plumbers, and drywall guys in and out of my house for three weeks.

Meanwhile, everything in the house was covered with dust and our savings account was dwindling at an alarming rate.

At the same time, I was going through a serious misunderstanding with a friend and several other dilemmas. It seemed, like David says in Psalms, that “troubles surrounded me on every side.”

Everywhere I turned, there was something to be frustrated or fearful about. All I could think about was what else might go wrong—how else things might spin out of control. And I was mad at the guy who had done such a lousy job on the original wiring and plumbing, mad at the other weird things that were happening, sad over the misunderstanding with my friend, and afraid that I was caught in a never-ending downward spiral.

Everybody has those kinds of days (or weeks) and they sometimes seem to last forever. When it got to the point where I was losing sleep, I knew it was time to pull out my arsenal of self-help strategies.

Focus

A friend taking a screenwriting course told me that great film directors make sure every frame of their movie moves the story forward. What this means is that each scene is set up in such a way that it takes whoever is watching the movie in the direction the director wants them to go—mentally and emotionally. The way the set is designed, the props, the background, the camera angle—everything is deliberately and strategically used to control the viewer’s focus. And by controlling the viewer’s focus, the director can create a certain effect that enhances the movie’s story.

When I heard this, I began thinking of my life as a movie and wondering how I could “set the stage” to move forward the “story” I wanted for my life. How would I “set the scenes” to make the movie of my life move in the direction I wanted it to go? What mental, emotional and physical “props” would I use to fix my focus?

Two of the most often quoted maxims that are taught in every self-improvement program are:

“What you focus on expands.”

and

“Gratitude changes your attitude.”

So what I do in times of trouble is the same thing the Psalms tell us David did. Sure he did a lot of complaining about all the bad things that happened to him and about all the “evildoers” and what they were up to. But he always came back to a focus on the good things God was doing in his life.

So the first thing in my “bad day” arsenal is the Psalms. There are 150 Psalms and I used to read 5 a day, which meant I read them all through once a month. Lately I’ve just focused on re-reading the ones most meaningful to me, like Psalm 23 or Psalm 51. Just knowing God is in control and orchestrating everything for my good is a very powerful antidote to fear, anger, and sadness.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Gratitude

The second weapon in my arsenal to defend against overwhelm, fear, anger, and sadness is gratitude. By fixing our focus on things we are grateful for instead of things we don’t like, we can “move our story forward” in a more positive way.

I try to focus on everything that’s going right instead of everything that’s going wrong. In other words, like a good movie director, I direct my focus in the positive direction I want my “movie” to go.

Today, as part of God’s inexplicable sense of humor, someone emailed me this video about the power of focus and gratitude and I want to share it with you:

How do you deal with your “series of unfortunate events” days?

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