Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

What to do When Your Story Hits a Low

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Last Monday, I wanted to quit everything. Not a few things. Not most things. Everything.

The Perfect Storm

My day developed into a perfect storm of work and lost necessities and people getting hurt all piled on top of the normal demands of a Monday morning.

LIke most storms, it began with a calm. I was on call for the weekend. Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday my phone remained silent.

photo by Ryan Heaney (Creative Commons)

Then came Sunday evening. For the first time in 10 months, I received two consults that would both require surgery the following day. The problem wasn’t this new work, it was the 5 other surgeries already scheduled for Monday.

Knowing the day would be long, I walked in Monday morning early and prepared for anything. Well, almost anything. When I arrived I discovered that we were missing a part from the table I use. The part was so small and seemingly inconsequential that someone had thrown it away. Despite its appearance, I couldn’t do anything until it was replaced.

I was angry. I was frustrated. I was growing increasingly tired from thinking about how tired I would be.

I was so consumed by the moment that I could think of nothing else. I wanted to quit. Run away from it all. Go somewhere where nobody could find me and ask me to do one more thing for them.

I wanted to quit my job. I wanted to quit writing. I wanted to quit caring. I wanted to quit life.

After starting at 5:30am that morning, I finally arrived back home at 8:00pm.

The Article 5

Two days later I was still feeling the effects of Monday. Then came beautiful news. Like the first drop of rain after a summer drought, an email from China splattered across my dry, parched throat, quenching my thirst for life.

Our Article 5, the next to last approval we would need before traveling to China, came. Monday and all of its frustrations, left my mind. My frown turned into a smile that could not be erased from my face.

This experience reminded me about 2 realities that accompany living a better story.

1. Hard times will come. There will be days that make you ask why. Days filled with so much trouble that you want to quit.

2. Good times will come. There will be days that will cause your soul to rejoice in ways you never imagined.

This is the stuff of incredible stories. Highs and lows. Peace and Conflict. Joy and Sorrow. Love and Loss.

Self-Sabotage

These highs and lows are part of everyone’s story. But sometimes the lows are so bad, that we find ways to limit them. To minimize their impact. To make them hurt less.

We dam up the river to prevent the chance of flooding. But we also prevent the life-giving water that the river brings from ever reaching our thirsty roots.

We sabotage our own story by removing anything that could cause us to experience those lows. We quit the story because we don’t ever want to be disappointed again. We don’t want to lose another person. We don’t want to be hurt ever again.

The problem, though, is that when we try to avoid the lows, we inadvertently avoid the highs. The two go hand in hand.

A Road Sign

When we understand that they will come, we can learn to use these lows, the ones we typically avoid, to guide us.

What should we do?

We embrace the lows. We don’t find pleasure in our personal pain. But we remind ourselves that this is part of a story that is better than if the low’s didn’t come.

The low’s are a road sign reminding us of our purpose in life.

  • Stop avoiding the hard times.
  • Acknowledge the pain.
  • Step into it as part of the story.
  • Keep moving forward, taking the next step.

When life hurts, when you hit an impossibly difficult low, learn to embrace it. Learn to make it your own. It is the sign of something better.

It is the sign of an incredible story.

How do you avoid the low’s in your life? Have you quit something that would have made your story better?

Leave a comment by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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44 Replies

  1. helloheady

    Definitely learning to embrace the lows.  Not fun, the lows, but I learn so much during those times.  Now the question is or the key is to apply what I learned.  Jeremy, Go Win Today!  & Thanks for being a writer.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how missing one little part of the puzzle can throw your life into a chaotic frenzy? Glad to hear you overcame and decided not to quit everything, especially your writing. Really enjoy reading what you have to say.

  3. thanks for sharing and being transparent… 

  4. Lisa Morrison

    Thank you Jeremy for this article.  My husband, Tim and I knew you when you were a teen. Always enjoyed you and your family.  Last year we lost our son in a car accident and are continually dealing with the emotions of this loss.  Even tho we know he is with the Lord, we still miss him greatly and deal with the emotions that come with that.  Articles like this are encouraging and help us deal with the lows we are experiencing.  Keep writing and may God continue to use you to help others and bring glory to His name. 
    Because of His Love, Lisa Morrison

  5. Wow, Jeremy didn’t I speak with you right after all of this? I knew you said you had a rough day, but no clue it was THAT rough. Way to rebound buddy! 

  6. Yes, it was that day. It was pretty bad. That day was also the reason I decided to back off from posting 5 days a week to 3. I wasn’t leaving any margin in my life and when the storm happened, I paid for it for several days.

  7. Lisa, I am sorry to hear about your son. My “bad day” was nothing compared to what you had to and are dealing with. Your lows are a sign of how much you love your son. You should never stop loving him. I hope you choose to never stop loving others as well.

  8. I’m glad you picked up on that part, Joe. I’m surprised anybody even noticed it was gone before the exact moment when it was needed. The part plays an incredibly small role, but a necessary role. Even the little parts matter.

  9. I think you are right about learning during the lows. The lessons are harder, but may be more important than the good times.

  10. I think it is often smart to scale back and prioritize. Heck, you’ve seen that happening with me over the last few months especially. You still were an absolute pleasure to chat with in the midst of the storm. 

  11. Shane

    Doc! I am sure the pressures of life tend to be very burdensome with the field of work that you do! I for one want to thank you for never giving up and walking away! God Bless you and your skilled hands.. For without you I probably wouldn’t be walking nor would I be almost back to normal after you being on call that day over at the other hospital… I thank God for your skillful hands and your heart of gold because with out you being there I don’t think I would have progressed as far as I have so with that said…… THANK YOU for never quitting, never giving up and living for our Savior! With out those three very important facts I don’t think my life would be the same!

  12. Doc…….thanx for sharing the trails of an “ordinary” day. It is so easy to get the feeling you were have; to just quite it all. I find myself there too many times. I will remember the pain of your day and it will help carry me through mine. ….thanx for the long distance consult!
    shalom en theos…….jim
    http://www.jimwork.com

  13. BrinaHarwood

    I, myself, had one of those weeks last week.  In retrospect, it was kind of like I was trapped in a fog because no matter how many times my spirit interrupted my emotions with encouragement and logic, my emotions would shrug their shoulders and say I don’t care.  It was something that started last Monday and rolled over into Wednesday.  Then at a prayer service at Church our pastor said some stuff I needed to hear and it was like I woke up.  It was odd.  Thanks for posting this and being vulnerable.  It’s always easier to pretend that we never feel like running away, but we better able to connect with others in our brokenness.

  14. Thanks for being so real, Jeremy. I like what you said: ‘We embrace the lows. We don’t find pleasure in our personal pain. But we remind ourselves that this is part of a story that is better than if the low’s didn’t come.’  Going thru tough times is hard…but maybe going thru the lows lets us appreciate the highs so much more.  For myself, I need a God kind-of  love-hug when things are hard. Throwing one your way, Jeremy:) 

  15. Thanks, Lorna. I’m good. It was  just a rough few days.

  16. That’s a great way to describe it. A fog. It feels like you are 2 different people at the same time. And I agree on how the brokenness affects our ability to encourage.

  17. Long distance consult? Should I send you a bill?

  18. Thanks, Shane. Your words are very encouraging. 

  19. Great insightful post Jeremy. Can’t wrap my mind around how you do i all – husband, daddy, surgeon, writer, missions and all other life responsibilities :).
    My challenge in handling the lows is keeping a good perspective. Its not always easy to keep “and this too shall pass” attitude.

    Just like you , I find that God is able t reach me, right where I am at. He speaks my language and refreshes in a way that only He can.

  20. I won’t follow/read anyone that doesn’t appear to drag the bottom from time to time.

    Someone who [appears] to always have it together is just not inspiring.

  21. Great point. It just doesn’t make sense. If we were more honest, we would realize the bottom is even lower than what I described.

  22. Jeremy, I’m moving slowly from posting three times a week to five. Every time I start to get overwhelmed with it, I think “Hey, Jeremy does it and he’s a demanding job, wife, and four (nearly six) kids.” I’m going to need new self-encouragement now. Thanks, Buddy. Kidding, of course, I’m glad you’re putting your time into the people who deserve it most (which includes yourself).
    Katie

  23. Just don’t schedule too many shoulder surgeries in 1 day and you’ll be fine. : )

  24. ” The problem, though, is that when we try to avoid the lows, we inadvertently avoid the highs. The two go hand in hand.”  BINGO!

  25. “It could get worse” is certainly one way to look at it, lol. 😉

  26. Kapil Sopory

    This is the key to happiness. ACCEPT whatever is happening around. Strongly FEEL  that  what has happened/is happening is the best for you at that moment. Why? Because He is the doer and His order is to accepted with open arms; also that nothing is incorrect in his Scheme of things. Our positive attitude is the saviour and negativity breeds sadness and despair.

  27. Our attitude can make a huge difference. Thanks for weighing in Kapil.

  28. Don’t just let it pass, but learn something from it. I think this is the key.

  29. What a tremendous “pick me up” in the form of an official government document.  I liken it to a change of perspective.  So many times I’ve become consumed by my own situation and needed a little wake-up call.

    Avoiding the lows – I’m not sure how to respond to that.  Depending on what the low involves, I will have different reactions. 

    For me, I can only survive the low, by focusing on the positive – trying to see the big picture, the potential impact of an event or situation.  Hope for the future, for a better tomorrow, for the promise of everlasting life.  Otherwise, I am consumed and unpredictable.

    Great post.

  30. It’s not often that government documents make you smile.

  31. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  32. Mike Zserdin

    Thanks Jeremy. Appreciate hearing your heart and also knowing others doubt in troubling moments.

    Best regards. I love hearing the ups and downs.

    Mike

  33. Lots of doubt. The question is what do we do with it? Believe it or keep on?

  34. Mark Dutton

    “The problem, though, is that when we try to avoid the lows, we inadvertently avoid the highs. The two go hand in hand.”
    CONTRAST! It makes life so much more vivid. You are right… we can’t avoid one extreme and still benefit from the other. This is one of my favorite concepts to think on the awesomeness of what God has created!

    This was a great reminder. Thanks for being vulnerable and reminding so many of us we are not alone!

  35. I like this idea of a vivid life.

  36. I subconsciously attempt to manage emotions/instances to keep from experiencing the lows… and consequently highs.  It’s a horrible way to live.  I have been getting better, but it is such a process.  Times of great stress fatigue sneak in when I’m not prepared or on auto-pilot.  

    I have found that I have to be very intentional in order to go through the mountaintops and valleys of life.  Mentally I know they go hand in hand, but that doesn’t stop me from subconsciously avoiding them.  I know God wants to take me there, I simply must listen and be obedient.

  37. I think listening is important. Most of us are too busy to ever stop to listen.

  38. Thanks for sharing this and being so transparent. When I was an ICU nurse and received a patient that subsequently coded right near the end of my 12-hr night shift, I can relate to this frustration. 12hr turned to 16hrs, and I got angry. I questioned why I ever wanted to be a nurse. I definitely agree their is damage done when we choose to avoid the hard times in life. It reminds me of the saying, “You can’t have the sweet without the sour.”

  39. Sounds like a rough shift. The thing about sour is that you probably learn the most from it.

  40. There are so many times when I want to quit EVERYTHING – walk away from it all. I’m currently searching for apartments in Nashville, and I have to find a place before tomorrow. I’m ready to quit now. I’m a champion of avoidance, and that’s usually how I get myself in so much trouble. I put conflict out of my mind, and before long it overwhelms me. I especially do this with writing deadlines.

    I love your story, Jeremy, and I’m so excited about your next chapter that will begin in China very soon! If you go about life in this way, you’ll never go wrong.

  41. Without deadlines I would never get nothing done. Nothing.

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