It’s not Your Problem Really

I have just had an experience at Panera Bread this morning, that really illustrates the things that people do to themselves. I find Panera to be sort of like a town square, lots of people, primarily friends having coffee and a bagel and businessmen looking for a place to work on their laptops.

Many of us could not help but overhear an animated conversation on the phone between a business woman in her 30’s and her mother. Her mother is buying a new car. She can afford it but it does not get good gas mileage. The woman was very upset with her mother, saying she had not done the right cost analysis, because fuel costs are part of the equation. It was very much a “I am a high level business person in finance and how could you not listen to me.”

We were all subjected to this for about 30 minutes, and you could see the various business people taking out their ipods and headphones like I did. I think etiquette allows us to sort of stare at the person, but probably not say anything.

The business man sitting at a table next to me said “Is this really something to get so emotional about?” The answer, of course, is no, this is a ridiculous thing to get upset about. If her mother can buy a new car, and then it sits in the driveway because she cannot afford the gas, who cares? Honestly, we are all probably getting to that point pretty quickly! 

How should she have handled it? She should have said “Mom, don’t forget to think about the gas. I wouldn’t want you to have a nice new car and not be able to drive it anywhere.” That’s it, say that and leave it alone.

There are two really important and overriding issues here. First of all, the woman has damaged her relationship with her mother over something that in the end does not matter. Secondly, she has probably shortened her own life by driving up her blood pressure.

I am constantly amazed by the things people do to themselves. The pain and angst people put themselves and others through over meaningless worries is staggering. I guess that is why I believe in reality therapy, where it is just about telling people the truth. Which reminds me, I have had five cups of coffee, and my energy level will come crashing down at about 3:00. The things we do to ourselves!

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