Coping With Setbacks

clarington ohio road
The Road Trip of Life, Man…

I’ve been meditating a lot lately.

Yes, I meditate.

And lately, in my meditations, I’ve been thinking on the importance of not getting fixated on thoughts so you can live in the present.

Think about it. Presently you’re reading this blog post… until you think about that bill you need to pay for your car, or what you need to pick up at the store tomorrow, or that guy you saw the other day at the mall with that really cool tattoo walking around with the five-year-old girl and you’re wondering if they’re related and if they’ll be playing Parcheezie later –

See that? You’re thinking about the future or the what-if, rather than focusing on what’s happening right now.

The most insidious thing we can do is think about the future.

I know for me, the darkest, most sinister thoughts I ever have are in answer to the question, “How am I going to afford my bills in the future?”

Just by asking that ONE question, my mind spirals into imagined situations – “oh god if I can’t pay my bills now what do I have to do? I already live in my mom’s house. Maybe I’m doomed to never ever move out because of student loans and never being able to afford my own health insurance and -”

Dude. Stop.

It’s in my head.

Then I remember to look outside of myself. Where am I now? Don’t even think about the future. Just be in the present moment.

Recently I came across a great quote. It goes,

“I have had many difficulties. Many of them have never happened.”

We are humans. We have a habit of thinking about the future and imagining what can happen.

That comes in handy sometimes, especially if we want to plan ahead.

It’s handy… in moderation.

Think about the hypothetical future TOO much, and you get anxious about what you think will inevitably go wrong. When you’re anxious for too long, you’ll get sick and depressed and your health gets hit hard.

This can happen anytime we fail or are met with setbacks, too.

For example, recently I was drawing a page for Seeing Him, the webcomic I co-create with Kia. My usual habit is to sketch the page, send her the sketch for approval, and then once approval is shared, I make the page.

I forgot to do that with this page – instead I sketched it and inked it and sent her the page. And of course this is a page with extensive use of one- and two-point perspective illustrating a scene in the city. With buildings. And crowds.

Guess what?

The page needed redrawn.

Thinking back on my meditations and the way I assess my own thoughts, here’s how I went about this:

I grieved. I thought negative thoughts, mostly along the lines of “oh god I can’t do anything right” and “I have failed as an artist.”

I thought those thoughts – but I did NOT get attached to them.

They appeared, I did not latch to them, and…they left.

Negative thoughts will linger and develop into full-on visions of the future if you give them a place to sit in your mind.

DO NOT give them that space.

Back to the situation: I had my moment of grief, but since I didn’t get attached to any thoughts, the grieving didn’t last long. It was…five minutes of sadness at most. So right after, I took a deep breath and asked, “What can I do right now, in this moment?”

I chatted with Kia about the issue and found where we both made errors in judgement. We then agreed on what to do next with the page, and how to avoid any similar situations in the future.

I took a deep breath and realized that the setback was temporary and would only cost me about two days of work. It wasn’t permanent. It wasn’t a life-changer or a career-killer.

I have had many difficulties. Many of them never happened. All they were, were hypothetical situations my overimaginative brain thought up.

Next time you hit a setback or experience a fail, whether epic or not, remember that it’s ok to feel bad in that moment and to grieve.

But don’t get attached to those dark thoughts or those future scenarios.

Grieve, but remember that you are in the present. Think about what you can do in the present moment. Let the future be.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

2 Replies to “Coping With Setbacks”

  1. Thank you for the wise words. I fixate too much. Recent tumor scare with me and I knew that worrying about it constantly wouldn’t fix it or get me the info sooner, so I just fixed what I could with myself (like changing my diet to help my liver) and just waiting for the results. Luckily no tumor. You give great advice. Thank you. <3

    1. Thank you! I try really hard to share what’s helpful in the hope that it helps others, and I’m glad it could help you. <3

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