Present Tense: The Little Things We Struggle with Daily


We all have our good and bad days. Very few things in our lives today are simple. Some struggles are terrible and out of our control—the national debt, mass shootings, hate crimes, gerrymandering, horrific illnesses, religious prejudice and so on. But many of the little things are not so bad. We often struggle with those daily, however—a bad hair day, allergies, a friend too busy to talk.

Our purpose in this blog isn’t to whine, although some may think we are. We’ve simply reached an age when more things are happening that give us pause and trouble us. We accept the fact we’ve been very lucky in many ways but as events seem to bombard us—and we hear the same from others—we’re more ready to share these ups and downs and find solutions together and apart to cope better. 

What are we struggling with? The list is as long as a CVS printed receipt. We certainly struggle with our finances at times when we have a big hit—several things go wrong with our homes or apartments, the tax man cometh, one of our grown children needs some help financially or we have a reaction to a vaccine. These are things we need to address NOW. 

We struggle with friendships when someone blindsides us with bad behavior and says something unkind, even mean, maybe not realizing it or, sadly, maybe knowing exactly what they are saying and not caring about the downside. And sometimes we’re the guilty culprit and are so preoccupied with our struggles we’re not the good friend we want to be. Forgive us; we’ll forgive you. Yes, sometimes it’s about tit-for-tat. We know we can improve! Can you? And we even struggle when friends don’t stay in touch and seem to forget us. 

We struggle with our mental mindset when a terrible virus continues to disrupt our goings-on even though we’re told that it’s over as a pandemic. Tell that to friends who’ve just contracted COVID-19. Or tell it to us when we’re thinking of going into a crowded airport and getting on a plane where we’re the only ones planning to wear masks. And let’s not forget the recent dangerous air quality problem, particularly terrible in New York City.

We struggle with our fears about any place that’s crowded and full of people—subways, stores, sporting events, schools, churches and synagogues as the senseless shootings continue when never expected. How do we avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Nobody seems to have figured out an app or chatbot for that yet. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming more sophisticated, such a program might not be far behind. 

We also struggle when life seems to be going well—our health seems fine, we’ve got decent work, good friends and family to be with, coveted tickets to a symphony or show. We don’t want to gloat and test the fates, so we don’t share all our happy moments at times with those we think we might upset if we do. 

After giving the subject of life’s little struggles a lot of thought, we decided we needed to develop a prescriptive way to deal with them. Some say that the best way to tackle these bumps in our lives is to be prepared to face the challenges and hit them head on. Here’s what we came up with the following eight tips. See if they help. 

Know with whom you should share your struggles. Someone without children may not be sympathetic to your kids’ or grandkids’ plights, whatever they might be. If they don’t own a house, they may not care that you recently got word that you need to make a major improvement or that the appraisal of your home is going up after climbing last year. Don’t know what restaurant to go to with your spouse or honey? Don’t bemoan choices with a single friend who’s sitting home at night alone again. Ask them to join you and maybe they’ll help. Pick and choose whom you tell what to. It’s harder using your filter as we age but practice the mantra that sometimes silence is golden, as trite as that sounds. 

Couch struggles in a positive way. Don’t feel like you get to see your children or grandchildren or even certain family members or friends enough? Or they don’t call you enough? Don’t make it sound like you’re criticizing them for not fitting you into their busy lives. Offer a carrot. “I’d love to see this art exhibit together.” Or, “There’s a great new restaurant I’ve heard; could we go together?” But be authentic and tell them sometimes you miss them. 

Count your blessings. Boost your gratitude meter. When you have too much work or your refrigerator is having too many problems, flip your thinking around. Aren’t you lucky to still have work and maybe ask for a delay or try not to do some tasks you can put off? Maybe it’s time to take on less work or shift priorities. And aren’t you lucky you have a roof over your head and can afford to fix the fridge, feed, clothe and educate your children. 

Lower your expectations. We all have disappointments, sometimes justified and sometimes not. Sometimes this is due to our expectations that others will be there for us as we’re there for them. Sometimes they don’t because they’re caught up in their lives and struggles. That’s not an excuse but the way life intervenes and disrupts. It’s good to ask what’s going on in someone’s life before criticizing them; then, voice disappointments calmly stating how you feel and see if you can reach a mutual understanding. Most people don’t want confrontation or to get embroiled in angry scenarios, so always be kind. 

Try to be happy despite all. Chanel those in Finland who live in what is considered the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Survey. Part of the success there is due to a Finnish proverb that translates, “Happiness is a place between too little and too much.” What that means is that those who live in places where there is greater income equality is that money matters less, which makes people happier. Also, there is greater social support, freedom to make decisions and low levels of corruption. That country is followed on the happiness scale by Denmark and then Iceland. 

Pick your battles. Often it’s not worth going to the mat to prove you’re right. Is there even a right? Take yourself off the hook; it’s not worth the energy expended—your blood pressure rises, your voice talks faster, you feel you’re getting defensive. STOP or try and think. If a friend is becoming too needy or mean, don’t argue with them. They’re not going to change most likely. Here you can control the situation. Simply pull back (ghosting is unkind) and focus on something positive like a recent accomplishment. Talk to the person calmly and see if you can come to mutual understanding. 

Tackle struggles head on. Turn a negative into a positive. Worrying about a stressful situation is a useless emotion and an energy suck. Get on top of it. If you know you’ll be struggling to pay the $500 to correct a leak in your kitchen under the sink, make a list of ways you can budget for it, arrange a payment plan or get a part-time gig to pay. And maybe there will be money left over to buy that purse you’ve been eying but could not afford, just not yet.

Make a list. We’re big list makers for all sorts of issues—from simple which pair of sneakers to buy including those trendy Ons you keep hearing about, what to cook for dinner when you have been clipping so many recipes from magazines and newspapers, whether to try a new hairdresser. Some of these choices don’t require pros and cons but some do such as which apartment to buy when it’s time to move, whether to move closer to your grown kids and grandkids, where to take your big annual vacation. Doing this kind of exercise will likely help alleviate your struggle. Or call a close friend and read her the list. Saying it out loud will also likely ease your internal debate.


    • Lynn Marks

      I always love your many suggestions for our real-world situations and for those we might blow up in your heads. There are always a few that resonate. Such common sense, that i sometimes ignore when caught up in the moment. THANKS.

    • Joanne McGlinchy

      I have the following Mary Oliver quote on my computer screen, but somehow I worry still. “Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing, and took my old body out into the morning and sang.” I love the suggestions in this blog and I am practicing singing.

    • Audrey Steuer

      Excellent article with thoughtful and reasonable suggestions. Thank you!

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