Coaching Blog 39: What’s the definition of a Catastrophe ?


Last Friday morning, I left my house at 6.30 in the morning and headed to work. 2 minutes later, the radio stopped working, then the lights went off and I turned around and managed to get back to my house just as the engine died.

‘Well that’s ruined my day’, I thought as I phoned the RAC. A couple of hours later as I’m driving it to the garage, I spot steam coming out of a vent and there’s a really weird smell …… Later that afternoon I find out I have antifreeze leaking from the engine, I will need a new engine matrix, a new alternator and the repairs may cost more than the current value of my car …… and its MOT is due.

‘Well Silver’ says Chris, my mechanic ‘let’s do the MOT first and see if she’s worth spending money on.’

After a totally miserable weekend, I pick up my car on Monday afternoon and she’s fine and dandy. Hooray ! I missed one day on site, but worked from home and so have a few meetings to rearrange, but I have my car and all is well with the world.

Fast forward to 7am the next day and I’m stood on the hard shoulder of the M56, my car’s completely dead and it’s minus 3 degrees. I spend the next 40 minutes waiting for the RAC and am completely distraught. My phone gives up after 10 minutes – it’s so cold it doesn’t recognise the SIM card – and I realise that if the RAC do not turn up, I’m going to have to trek off to an emergency phone and (surprisingly) I’m not dressed for the journey. (No boots, no coat – just a jacket – no hat, no gloves, no scarf ……. no husky, no flare, nothing ….pathetically I spend 3 minutes thinking of Oates’ last words ‘I am just going outside and may be some time’ and realise that stoicism is not one of my qualities.)

When the guy from the RAC arrives I am so cold I am practically incapable of speech – he takes one look at me and ushers me into his van. I sit there listing all of the meetings I need to re-arrange; wondering what the cost of a decent second-hand car is now; feeling sick at the thought of having to phone my line manager for my current contract for the second time in less than a week and let her know I won’t make it the office.

When I finally get my car back to the garage Chris shakes his head and just says ’this can’t be good’, which just makes me want to cry.

2 hours later I’m at home, totally fed up and have given up on the day – I had meetings planned for that and also I know I will have to cancel a chemistry meeting with a potential coaching client. It’s officially a dreadful, rubbish day. So bad that I don’t think anything could make it worse, it’s almost the end of 2012 and when I look back this is its worst moment. Having no car is a disaster, it’s the end of the world and I am distraught.

A few hours later my husband telephones to ask if our eldest child is at home – he’s spent an hour waiting outside school for her as arranged and she hasn’t turned up.

My heart stops and I start to panic; I instruct him to go into the school and grab anyone he can find – caretaker, cleaner, I don’t care. I get my youngest to put messages on Facebook; I phone and text the friends whose numbers I have and we spend 45 minutes trying to stay calm, but wondering if it’s too early to call the Police.

15 minutes later we track her down – shopping in the City Centre.

What I did with my car was catastrophise – I imagined everything in my life falling apart because of my car; I imagined it was beyond repair; I imagined not being able to afford another (Christmas is coming); I imagined losing my current contract and not being able to secure another. I basically did a whole ‘it’s all going to go horribly wrong and my life is ruined.’

But my life would go on without my car – it would be really hard, but I could do it. My daughter ? She annoys the hell out of me, has no concept of time, her definition of tidying her room does not include picking her clothes up off the floor, putting books onto shelves, or cleaning any surface. Her definition of appropriate attire sometimes suggests ‘street worker’ and she is self-obsessed, but my life would not be my life without her.

And the point of this ? The next time you catch yourself with a negative thought, ask yourself,

‘Is this really the worst thing that could happen to me ? ’

Chances are in the scale of what you have in your life, the temporary setback in front of you is exactly that – a temporary setback that you can find a way around; if you can appreciate it’s not a true catastrophe.





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