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How to Find Gratitude on a Day From Hell

granite slabThe phone rang last night as I was helping my youngest daughter do some homework. I didn’t recognize the number so I let it go. We’ve had so many telemarketers bother us during family time lately that I figured the call was just another one of them and I ignored it. Then my cell phone rang. Same number. Someone was really trying to get a hold of me. It was the guy who was supposed to install our new counter tops in a couple of weeks.

– Your granite slab is shattered. The wind knocked it over.

Four years ago, when we moved into our current house, we knew that we wanted to add a main floor office for me and redo the kitchen. We spent years looking into options, mulling them over and saving like mad. Last October we were ready to go. We signed on the dotted line and began the long process of designing a main floor office as well as a new kitchen. This involved tearing off the back 2/3 of our house, gutting the kitchen and living in a land of cramped quarters, dust and a makeshift kitchen in the basement. Our project was supposed to be completed within a few weeks. Needless to say, we have been counting down the minutes.

The entire kitchen was designed around the concept of an island focal point that packed a visual punch. The key to pulling this off was finding just the right piece of granite from which everything else was selected: the floor tile, back splash tile, feature tile, other counter top colour, paint colour and cabinetry colour. Months ago, we literally drove across the city to multiple granite warehouses. Out of all the pieces we saw, only a single piece had the warmth, tone and colours that we liked. It had already been reserved by another client, but by some miracle the lady decided she wanted something else and we got our hands on it. We were super excited.

We then made multiple trips back to the warehouse with various bits of material in tow to see how it all worked together. Wrong floor tile, too yellow. Wrong back splash tile, not creamy enough. And so on. When we got our hands on all the elements that worked together beautifully we celebrated. Thank heavens that was all sorted out. Our kitchen would be gorgeous.

Then the call.

Earlier that afternoon, we got an email from the cabinet guy to say that he might need an extra week or two. No can-do we said. There has been ample time to get everything ready. Our contractors have been working hard to ensure that the space is ready to go on time and everyone else has done their bit so it’s time to step up to the plate too. Plus, we said, we can’t delay the stone guy. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

The Universe has a sense of humour. And this only one day before the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, my husband is facilitating a session for a bunch of his colleagues. Today was to be his day to prepare the session. Next week I am launching a new product with a colleague. We were supposed to spend the day together hammering out the final details and preparing the Powerpoint presentation. Instead, my husband and I will be driving to every granite warehouse in the city to see if there is another slab that will work with all of the elements we have selected and purchased. If not, we face one month before more slabs arrive.

Last night my husband and I were in shock. Actually, that’s not quite true. We were in shock, then angry, then in shock again. As we worked to quell a sense of panic, I thought to myself, “If the tables were turned and this had happened to someone else, what would I say to them if they asked me for advice right now?”

Look for the open door.

In every negative or unpleasant situation there is an open door somewhere, an option or a path forward that will lead you to a good place. It’s hard to find the open door when you spend all your time staring straight ahead at the closed door. The trick is to step back, take a deep breath, find something to be grateful for and allow your gaze to wander away from the wall in front of you. Even when the slammed door seems massive, there is an open one somewhere.

Find perspective.

Is this the worst thing that could possibly have happened? In my case, no. Sure it’s a huge pain in the back side and it will involve a lot of time, work and possibly extra money to solve the problem, but it’s not the end of the world. My family is healthy and safe. We still have a roof over our heads. We still have a lot of good friends who will support us through this. In five years’ time we will probably be able to laugh about this. Probably.

Then, gratitude.

Find something, anything, to be grateful for: your dog, the weather, the fact that you have a pulse. Some days, you might have to get pretty creative (e.g. the coffee maker still works). Whatever it takes, find something to be thankful for.

In this case, I’m happy that no one was injured when the slab fell over. As the stone guy pointed out, the thing weighed roughly 1,300 pounds. Thank heavens no one was near when it went over. And I’m grateful for our designer who went into damage control when she got the news. Even though we were upset when we spoke with her, we nonetheless had to smile. She’s not much older than we are, if at all, and yet on the phone it was like having mom walk us through what needed to be done and reassuring us that it will all work out. “Don’t be mad at the stone guy, it’s not his fault. This happens in our industry.” It’s OK, we’re not mad at the stone guy. “This has happened before to someone you know. He found something he loved just as much as the first piece and his kitchen is beautiful. Yours will be too.” We know it will be.

Spending even a few minutes being grateful will shift the energy and start to open up possibilities for you. The more time you spend doing this, the faster you’ll get over the negative emotions and move forward.

Ditch anger.

It’s an unproductive emotion. It shuts down your brain, tires you out and slows your progress. You can be angry or you can move on and start asking questions that will help you get past the difficulty. Sure, feel angry but then get over it as quickly as possible.

I’m not exactly in a zen state this morning but I have moved on. It’s time to go solve this problem. The launch of my new product will happen and it will be fine. Somehow the pieces of the puzzle will all fall into place. They did after Malcolm died and they have many times since. If I’ve learned one thing over the last fifteen years, it’s that there are a whole lot of open doors around. Trust that they’re there and keep going.

This morning I found my first open door. At 8 am my phone rang. This time it was a good friend calling to say that she would take the girls after school and feed them dinner so that Mark and I can get a bit more work done today after our granite shopping trip.

I’m grateful.

Until next time, Survive, Thrive & Grow!

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5 Responses

  1. You have always been an inspiration to me Doris! You and Mark are an amazing couple, and your renovation will be amazing! Can’t wait to see the photos………now breath! xo

    1. Thank you Pat. I really appreciate your kind words. Mark and I are eager for the end of the renovations. It’s been quite an experience but as you say, it will be worth it. I’m off to practice breathing. 🙂

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