With our bodies getting bigger and our apartments getting smaller, space constraints have to be one of the primary first world problems. We literally have to shove clothes into our closet and seal them with tape so that they don’t invade each other’s space or the space on the floor in front of the closet. When we open our refrigerators, it tends to attack us with anything in the frontline: eggs, soda cans, half-eaten apples, 3-month old milk, phone chargers (so that’s where I left mine), the annoying neighbor’s severed arm, and if we’re lucky, perhaps even an assortment of pastries. Washing machines occupy the tile right next to the one under the shower spout so that we may get a bit of a massage while we shower as it tumble-dries. We don’t even have to hit the floor as we can tiptoe over furniture right from one end of our apartment to the main door. The bicycle now shares our bed. The television is attached facedown to the ceiling and we have to keep glancing upward to follow the plot. The writing desk serves as the dining table. And the children live with the neighbor (the other neighbor who’s hand we didn’t sever).
This does not even begin to define all the other clutter that exists in our homes. We won’t stop buying more but will tear our hair out at the lack of space and whine about how unfair life is because the new 12-seater sofa set we bought does not fit in our 400 square foot apartment. And while we fret over these ‘diabolical’ issues, the real threat lurks under our feet. Under our rugs and carpets.
Isn’t that where we shove all our actual problems? In fact, we go a step further. We store our materialistic objects for current use or use at a future time but we dismiss our problems and pretend that they have gone away for good, or never existed in the first place. That’s like a passenger in a crowded Mumbai train pretending that the foot of another man does not exist on the floorboard and places his own over it. This single move alone can worsen the plight of all 130 people in that compartment. As a toddler I played hide and seek by hiding in plain sight with my eyes shut, thinking that if I can’t see the world, the world can’t see me. My family was kind enough to humor me. Life isn’t.
Sure there are plenty of reasons for us to avoid problems.
- We have to deal with unpleasant situations (especially if we upset our cable TV operator or internet service provider)
- We have to admit a mistake (or two dozen)
- We have to take responsibility (I never signed up for this)
- We have to cease being in denial (oh it’s such a cozy place to be in)
- We need a reason to continue drinking and smoking regularly (avoiding problems is a full-time job and requires plenty of hard work)
- We also need excuses to call and text our friends about frivolous topics that allow us to live in fantasyland (with billion-dollar startups popping up like daisies, unicorns are now a reality)
- And we get to become close friends with tomorrow (a mutually convenient long-distance relationship)
While we bide our time, these problems start flowing out from under the carpet and into our lives like a behemoth with the tantrums of a spoilsport. We may feel safer in delaying our intervention in a situation, but either way, at whatever point in time, that situation is eventually inevitable (Thanos anyone?). The term ‘nip it in the bud’ is something I urge everyone to take very seriously when dealing with problems and adversities. Whether it is a strained relationship, a toxic work environment, stressed finances, unhealthy lifestyle habits, fixing your vehicle’s tail light, or even kicking that stalking creep in the nuts, these problems are here to stay until addressed. And in my humble experience, these problems are like rotting teeth, they just go from bad to worse if ignored (and from my perspective dentists are easily amongst the scariest people on earth).
We may try and keep ourselves busy being busy in the hope that when we look up, our problems will either have gone away or be resolved. But are we really fooling ourselves? Is our subconscious not aware of the strain with our coworker as we chug our fourth beer at the bar? Is our subconscious not aware of the bad blood that is beginning to creep into our relationship with the spouse as we distract ourselves binge-watching series after series? Is our mind not worried about the ballooning debt that has to be paid, while we continue to rack up credit card bills to keep us materialistically happy? Are we unaware of our rising cholesterol as we submerge ourselves in food delivery applications? Our mind is aware of all our issues every second of our lives whether we acknowledge it or not. And this will consume us from within, slowly but surely. There is no point jumping from one roller coaster ride to another to keep our spirits high because the park will close at a certain hour and we will be left with silence and darkness.
By focusing on accepting our problems and being solution-oriented, we will realize that problems don’t necessarily get the better of us. This, in turn, will provide the experience to deal with future problems with greater confidence and a sense of control. Sure we all need to let out some steam, but that is to help us deal with our problems better, not run away from them.