How Frustration Can Be…Good?!?
The chicken never defrosted. The baby’s documents have gone missing, perhaps been shredded. We haven’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks, maybe months. Who can really say anymore? Did I mention the chicken never defrosted?
I was really looking forward to that chicken dinner, after a week of leftovers and on-the-run dinner-snacks. While I worked an eight-hour shift, I was enticed with the fact that the next day a real, home-cooked meal was coming my way. Something good and grounding amid the haze of early parenthood.
The chicken never defrosted?!?!
This was to be the one constant, the one thing to rely on. The one semblance of normalcy. You’re tired. I’m tired. We keep losing things and forgetting things.
The %&$#?@! CHICKEN NEVER %&$#?@! DEFROSTED?!?!?!
Not another night of leftovers, please! Not one more thing forgotten! And now the baby’s crying, and won’t fall asleep easily. I’m hungry and tired. You’re hungry and tired. And we’ll wake up to this again.
No one told me that when we had the baby, we’d each find little ways to become irrational. A frozen chicken had never before created disorder in the household, never before driven a wedge between my wife and me. It used to be minute. But amid the long days of taking care of a “napping-limited” baby for me and long nights of tending to a baby that sleeps in short spurts for my wife, we started forgetting to tell each other things (although we thought we had), misplaced the baby’s Social Security card, and allowed the little chores that keep the apartment in order to pile up.
I held on dearly to that chicken dinner. And then poof!
I brooded, knowing it was silly, and then I chose to get over it. It didn’t matter. But my wife interrupted me mid-brood and we hashed out our stresses. We each cried from the exhaustion and exasperation, a cleansing cry, and came upon this solution for every issue that will ever plague us going forward:
We have 10 minutes of frustration and then we get over it and forge ahead.
The frustration can include a bunch of “Harumphs!” or slammed cabinet doors or mumbling under our breath. No matter what, though, it ends after 10 minutes. Over. Done. Frustration solves nothing, but it can feel good.
I have worked with holistic practitioners who have a perpetually sunny outlook and view any “negative” emotion as something to be avoided at all costs. Yet if we deny that part of the emotional spectrum, aren’t we shutting down an important part of the human experience? We humans certainly are capable of wallowing in our miseries, which we should avoid. Remaining in a state of anger or upset will not bring resolution and will only injure our relationship to the world. To paraphrase Paracelsus, “The dose makes the poison.” Had I stayed frustrated all night long, even after the chicken unfroze and we ate at 9 p.m., and went to bed conspiring to make the chicken episode part of a bigger story about our relationship, I would have poisoned our marriage. To have my little fit felt great. After 10 minutes, I prepared to move on and resolve the problem.
In other words, the 10-minute rule is good medicine.
We learned something, too. This week we pulled out a roast two days ahead of time. By the time we went to cook it, it had fully defrosted.
This article was first posted at MindBodyGreen.com.