The Things We Wink At

I often joke that most of us are very good at handling catastrophes–both personal and more public. However, we get one little hangnail, and we have to call the suicide hotline to talk us down from the ledge.

That’s because little annoyances can often mean the difference between sinking and swimming. They’re really torpedoes. I call them “tolerations.”

tol-er-ate – v.t. to allow without opposition

tol-er-ant – adj. of a long-suffering disposition

Among synonyms for toleration, I found permit, allow, indulge, approve, ignore, overlook and condone.

The one that made me laugh was “wink at.” Although amusing, it’s also profound.

When we “wink at” things in our lives that are slowly driving us crazy, we become complicit in feeding our own stress.

To wink at something is to signal, “I know this is really not tolerable, but I’m going to pretend it is because I don’t want to deal with it right now.”

But you are dealing with it. It’s lurking in the back of your mind like a detective on a stakeout–always there, always watching, patiently waiting for the chance to catch you when you least expect it.

That’s why tolerations are so dangerous. When you don’t take care of these little things as they come up, one of them builds to an explosion way out of proportion to the event that triggers it

My mother was one who tolerated a lot. With five kids and a vocally cynical husband, she spent her days nervously putting out one fire after another. I was always amazed that she didn’t get angry more often, but when she did blow, it was VOLCANIC! She would have led a much calmer life if she had handled the annoyances as they came up, instead of winking at them.

What are you winking at? Here are some tolerations to watch for:

· A messy, disorganized work space

· Broken promises–yours and those made to you

· Disrespectful behavior from another

· Things on your car that need attention

· Clothing and shoes in need of mending or cleaning

· Overdue medical check-ups

· That pile of stuff in (take your pick) the corner of your office, your bedroom, your garage…

· Your finances

· Phone calls to return

· Correspondence to write

· E-mails languishing in your in-box

· Items you’ve bought and need to return.

I am no stranger to tolerations. My family joked for years that Christmas gifts from me arrived in March. It wasn’t because the presents were early–I had bought everything long before December 25th!

The gifts collected in my home, silently taunting me as day by day I neglected to send them off. This is an awful way to live. It drains the life force out of you.

Stop winking at tolerations. Open your eyes and instead live a life in which you’re complicit in your own well-being.

And that’s nothing to wink at!

Download a PDF of this column