The other shoe

by Kristin on March 23, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Lachlan Hardy

A week ago I was pushing myself to focus on the positive, forward momentum of “What’s next?” but this week the theme felt much more like “What next?!?”

It all started when I dropped my iPhone in the toilet, not five minutes after arriving in Michigan for a four-day work trip. If you have a smart phone, you know something about how reliant you can become on that little device—the one that holds your entire calendar and all your contacts, and fits so neatly in your back pocket (and slips so handily out when said pocket is no longer anchored on said rear). And if you’re sort of tech savvy like me, but not really tech savvy (like me), you might be the sort of person who puts all kinds of important info in your phone but almost never backs it up on your computer. (If you are that person, please remedy that immediately.)

But “What next?” is the question you ask after a string of misfortunes, so it really isn’t accurate to say “It all started when I dropped my iPhone in the toilet.” It’s possible it started a few months ago when all eight tires on our two cars needed to be replaced at once, or when our two-year-old dishwasher started making a whole lot of uncomfortable noises for a few weeks before calling it quits.

Then the biggest shoe drops

The news Jason shared with me less than two weeks ago, though, topped everything: He had been laid off from his job. The job he had (and worked his butt off at) for 10 years. That’s what inspired me to write this in my “What’s next?” post last week: “…when I’m willing to lift up my head, open my eyes and ask ‘What’s next?’ I am choosing to claim momentum and hope. It’s a willingness to trust that something good can be ahead, no matter what disappointment seems to be blocking my path.”

I think I was doing a pretty good job claiming that hope, but as I saw my phone falling out of my back pocket, tumbling toward the toilet water as if in slow motion, as my brain raced to catch up with what was happening and my hand plunged into the toilet water, “What’s next?” took a turn toward “What next?” I felt numb, in a way that suggested no bad turn of events could surprise me now.

The next three phoneless days left me disoriented, wondering what I was missing and how I could be reached if needed (how’s that for a first world problem?). When it became clear that my phone—which had been buried in a tub of rice for more than 48 hours—couldn’t be revived, I bit the bullet and bought a new one. Then I got on the road for my five hour drive home.

What’s done doesn’t always feel done

But did I put the incident behind me? Oh no. I spent hundreds of minutes behind the wheel beating myself up, both for killing the phone and for not regularly backing it up. And then I spent hundreds of minutes worrying about what was lost—what couldn’t magically be retrieved. Such an effective use of time, right? Regretting and worrying over things that can’t be undone.

But do you know what? As soon as I stopped driving and thinking, and started moving forward in practical ways—downloading apps onto the new phone, collecting contacts, entering items on the calendar (at least the ones I could remember or track down via email)—the regret and worry began to fade. I just had to get out of my head—to cut loose the beast that followed me so many miles down the road, feeding me spoonful after spoonful of worry until I was bloated and immobile, an easy target for whatever shoe might drop next.

Jason seems to have that “moving forward” technique down much better than I do, so I’ll try to follow his lead. Maybe all the shoes that are going to drop for now have already hit; maybe not. It really doesn’t matter, as long as we stay limber rather than sit around making ourselves easy targets.

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  • Jacque Burke

    Good for you keeping your eyes forward. I have also found that focusing on the Today helps keep me grounded in a joyful present when I have a regretful past and uncertain future. Good luck to Jason in his job search.

  • Linda B.

    In my life I’ve also found that if and when the other shoe drops it’s not the one I was expecting anyway. I’ll be expecting a running shoe and it turns out to be a pump… or an army boot. I can be the queen of the worst case scenario. If I have too much time on my hands and let my mind wander alone by its self it gets in all sorts of trouble. So many times I’ve expended way too much time worrying about something happening that either never materialized or turned out to be something different… normally something I never saw coming at all. So I decided to do what you did and step away from the worry that’s unproductive and paralyzes me as much as possible and choose to move forward, look for solutions, be thankful for what I do have and refocus. When I do that it’s amazing what a difference it makes. I function so much better with a sense of hopefulness instead of the fear. For me sometimes it’s a moment by moment choice. Keep us posted on Jason’s job search.

  • ThatGuyKC

    So sorry about your phone and Jason’s job. Glad you were able to “recover” some stuff from memorry. Will be praying for the employment situation.

    Great perspective. Thank you for sharing real life with your readers. Not just the glossy colorful stuff.

  • The Modern Gal

    I am so sorry to hear about Jason’s job and the rest of your frustrating events. It really does seem as if when it rains, it pours. I’ll be praying for more promising times for you ahead.

    I’ve had a few “what next?” moments lately too — a lot of major frustrations with work. I came home Monday night at 12:45 a.m. after working 14 hours with my mind on the Gospel reading we had at mass a few weeks ago — Matthew 6:24-34. The last two lines of that reading absolutely drive me crazy and make me angry but have stuck with me while I’ve been so frustrated: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Whenever I feel completely overwhelmed, I kind of repeat it to myself like a mantra, and it surprisingly (or maybe not so) helps me feel calmer.

  • Nicola


    We’ll be thinking of you and Jason as he faces a job search. We’ve experienced this in our family in the past, so I know how disorienting it can be to have your spouse suddenly unemployed. And, how scary. Take care and try to support and enjoy each other – you will both make it to the other side!


  • Daisy

    I understand – more than you know. When you’re strong in facing the big things such as job loss, a relatively little thing like the phone in the toilet can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Take care of yourselves and each other; it’s not easy, I know.

  • Ray Hollenbach

    So sorry to hear about your iPhone, and happy to hear that you can and do look ahead! Praying for J to find something even better!

  • ed cyzewski

    Lingering regret is such a killer. Once you deal with the initial loss or aggravation, regret becomes completely useless, binding us to the past. I feel your pain. I felt the same way when my last computer crashed.

  • Kristin T.

    Jacque, ah yes—a “regretful past and uncertain future.” Much of life does end up feeling that like, doesn’t it? I guess that’s just more proof that we should focus on trusting in the moment rather than trying so hard to fix/control everything.

    Linda B., that’s a great point. We try to anticipate and predict—it’s just part of being human, I think—but the universe seems to like surprises more than predictability. I like this combination of actions you suggest: “…choose to move forward, look for solutions, be thankful for what I do have and refocus.” I will definitely learn some very important things through this experience.

    ThatGuyKC, it is really tempting to just write about the things that you can be proud/happy about, but when it comes down to it (at least for me), trying to avoid the very things that are consuming my mind and heart is pointless. As I writer, I start to close up when I’m “keeping secrets,” and I find I can’t write about anything at all. It feels good to get this out—part of the moving on process.

    The Modern Gal, I can definitely relate to the strange combination of annoyance and calm you feel in response to Matthew 6. When you hear that “tomorrow will have enough worries of its own” it doesn’t exactly make you feel better about tomorrow, does it? Why can’t God promise us a day or two without worries? But it does make us feel better about today, right now, the moment we should be living in, and it helps us be more capable of doing just that—embracing/tackling the moment.

    Nicola, “disorienting”—yes! And while I’m thankful for how busy I am with clients and projects right now, it’s a true discipline to focus on giving my work my all, with so much to distract me. If I wake up at 4 or 5 am, I’m doomed to travel down a path of worry in my mind, but once I throw myself into *doing* I’ve been able to feel good about my work.

    Daisy, you nailed it, exactly! The phone was such a small thing, really (besides the fact that I rely on it a lot for my work, and my family is relying on my work now more than ever), but it sort of put me over the edge. I think it also helped serve as a metaphor, though, and see the importance of letting go and moving on.

  • molly

    Just plugged my phone in. :)

  • Sarah@EmergingMummy

    Sorry to hear about Jason’s job but I admit to being very inspired by you in this. Learning….

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