BJ and I have a penchant for bad luck. It’s not too terrible, but when we go through a year without a major set back we start to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Let me distinguish between a set back and a normal trial of life, though. A set back is something unexpected, something that shouldn’t have happened, but doesn’t necessarily alter the state of the universe. An ER-worthy injury is a set back. A sick dog is a set back. A broken hot water heater is a set back. Life is a little tougher because of it, but it’s not a game changer.
Normal trials of life are more difficult, but I really believe that it’s best to delineate between the two. Deaths, losing a spouse, and ill health with old age are certainly a part of this category. I call them tough touchstones. They are inevitable, require mourning, and often leave scars.
In light of set backs and tough touchstones, I always value adaptability. It’s a quality that, for me, is indicative of whether or not a person wants to keep pushing forward in spite of all the life-oriented curveballs. There’s an inherent optimism that accompanies being adaptable, and it’s a quality I’m always trying to emulate — especially when our occasional bad luck kicks in.
Petey is a great example of our own efforts at being adaptable. We adopted him on a whim and spent the next few months pulling out our hair over how difficult he was to manage. He had no concept of using the bathroom only outside. He destroyed everything around him. He was terrified of inanimate objects that sometimes make funny noises (like our rice cooker). He barked at beards. And he was stronger than me — much, much stronger.
We laughed through a lot of Petey’s adjustment. I sometimes cried, especially when some of my clothes were eaten. But the lesson we took away from it was to be adaptable. If you make a big change (or a big change happens to you), you have to alter your routines and expectations to account for that change. Life feels so much easier when I don’t get hung up on broken expectations, a last-minute change of plans, or my dog throwing up a sock.
To help convince you how great it is to be adaptable, here’s a hilarious, scientific take on the intersection of adapting to stress and living past your 100th birthday.