Potholes and Road Work

Written by: Amy Allendar

The snow is gone—for now. The streets are dry—for the most part. That crazy ice dam near Jersey Mike’s and Noodles & Co has melted.

Signs of winter are fleeting—although the forecast still insists on including a chance of snow flurries, just to keep us on our toes. And while many of us are joyously soaking up the sun, grateful to be on the brink of golden summer days—negativity is always knocking.

A wise friend once told me it’s always easy to find something to complain about. She said people are uniquely gifted at identifying ways to improve. While this can be an asset, it also means it’s often easier to find something to criticize than to see what’s good right here and now.

This is especially true for me. Pessimism is a “skill” that comes quite naturally to me. For much of my life I was chronically waiting for something better, instead of enjoying the beauty of life that was all around.

I’ve put a lot of effort into creating a different mindset. And I discovered that a more positive outlook, a more content perspective, is obtainable with practice, patience, and intentionality. The more a person can practices reshaping negativity, the more natural positivity becomes.

What we think matters. The words we use matter.
Spring ushers in a lot of good things. But, clear roads reveal a winter’s worth of potholes. Warmer, more dependable weather opens construction season, and road closures. My newsfeeds are already filled with opinions on how many potholes are in the streets. Hot takes on road closures and construction projects are soon to follow.

Potholes. Road work. They are so easy to gripe about. This, has turned them into two of my favorite topics for practicing using more positive language—usually because my two young sons are a captive audience. These are perfect and precious moments I use to teach my children that we have the power to create our outlook, and the ability to see dignity and good all around.

When we swerve to avoid a pothole, or are delayed because of roadwork, I have a chance to help them practice putting a positive spin on a common inconvenience. If they can learn to reframe the little things, in time they’ll be able to reframe the big things.

Instead of bemoaning the hold up, I remember that these are real people, with real skills, offering a real service to our community. They are doing work I am incapable of, in weather I often wouldn’t care to be out in. And it’s not just the people doing the manual labor. Someone planned this project, ordered the materials, decided how many people would be needed.
These projects are carried out for the good of our town—not with malice in mind. No one is out to derail your commute, or your weekend plans.

Here are some things I say, when faced with the temptation to complain. I say the words out loud to my children, but also to my own ears—because I also benefit from keeping my humility intact.

“Look at all those tools! Isn’t it cool that there are people who know how to use those machines? What a big job.”
“This project is taking a long time. They are working really hard. It’ll be fun to watch the progress.”
“It’ll be so nice when it’s finished.”

“Don’t you think it would be complicated to take on such a big project?”

“This road is bumpy, but I saw a crew out filling potholes. I bet it’s hard to decide which roads should be fixed first.”
“Keeping our roads safe takes so many people. All the people working, and a lot of other people who planned the project. Think of all those different jobs. It’s great that we live in a place where people work so hard to keep our town nice.”
“Construction crews are community helpers.”

“This is slowing us down, but it’s important work that makes our roads safer.”
“These people have very important jobs. I’m so glad they work in our town.”

If we feel entitled to complain about the little hardships, we’ll have a harder time reining in our perspective on the really hard things. How we talk about potholes may seem trivial, but it might be the start of something big. Maybe this will get your wheels spinning on how you can reframe the things you are most tempted to grumble about.
Summer is coming. Don’t let a pothole, or a closure steal that sunshine.

For more stories of life in Hot Dish Land and positive perspectives, join me on Instagram, @amy_allender, Facebook, @amyallenderblog, or online at amyallender.com

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