On the Edge


Or what to do to keep an even keel when life seems to be pushing you over a cliff

I’m going along, working toward my goals, big and small. Edit novel. Plant a geranium.

And then something happens. A talkative friend calls just when I’m in the zone and the words are flowing like melted butter—smooth and satisfying.

Or there’s a long line at the bank and I won’t have time to fit six errands into two hours.

Or a relative is diagnosed with cancer, and I’ll need to go live with her while she is in hospice.

For whatever reason, big or small, justified or not, sometimes it feels like there is a universal conspiracy to keep me from achieving what I’ve set out to do and push me over the edge into a meltdown worthy of a spoiled teenager.

I know. Sounds kind of selfish, right? But it’s hard to control how we feel. The trick is what to do about it.

Which brings me to the question: How to keep on an even keel when the cosmic scheme of things doesn’t flow along with my agenda?

Here are some ways I cope (I’m not saying they’re all great):

Waste Time on Computer Games

Yes, I confess. Sometimes when I’m upset, playing endless games of spider solitaire can actually help. It’s almost like I’ve turned my brain off and can forget about whatever trauma has been inflicted on me.

When I think about it, this makes sense. I get a little space, and little reprieve, and can later think about what’s happening in a calmer frame of mind.

Play the Piano

Along the same lines, banging on the piano can restore my equilibrium. It takes more concentration than solitaire, but has the same effect. When the piano is too challenging, the guitar works, too. The added benefit is I’m developing a talent and stimulating, rather than anesthetizing, my brain.

Go Outdoors

A change of scene, preferably into the fresh air always does wonders for my mental state. This is no good when I’m trying to navigate the aisles of Wal-Mart when I picked the time to shop when the slowest-moving people on the planet also decided it was time to spend some money…or at least think about it.

But later, maybe another day, getting outside and leaving the frustrations behind is a way to pull back from the edge, to build some reserves to combat the angst.

I’ve always loved water sports, and have found a new favorite. Kayaking is a great way to enjoy the stillness of a lake and the gentle warmth of the sun. There’s no need to hurry, just the slow paddling, letting the rocking of the kayak infuse calm and peace into my soul.

Talk to Someone

Sometimes just saying what’s bugging you can defuse its toxic effects. I was a little rattled by a harsh comment from a beta reader (which based on numerous other comments from others, I knew was out of line. But still. It hurt.).

Just telling my husband diluted its impact, and I could laugh about, even before hearing what he had to say.


When nothing else works, prayer does. Knowing there is Someone who can work good in all my circumstances is a big comfort. Too bad I usually wait until I’m teetering on the edge before I tap into this source of help.

Getting a sense that the universe does not revolve around me is also a great reality check. Those errands aren’t all that important. Serving my dying relative turned out to be an enormous blessing, and I came to see my service to her as a privilege and an honor. My plans are not always the best; my way isn’t the only right one.

Take a Step Back

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. A simple reminder that It’s Not All Going to Get Gone When I Want it To Get Done is often what it takes.

So I take a deep breath. Readjust my goals for the day. And do my best.

What do you do when you feel like your falling over the edge?

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