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How can we best manage pressure in our lives?

By Stephen C. Schultz


This last weekend, I was busy with the family out doing yard work. The kids were weeding the flower beds and I was using the edger on the lawn. As is the case every time I use the edger, the line ran out half way through the job. I let out a few minor expletives under my breath and headed toward the car. I needed to run to the hardware store and pick up some more line.

I pulled into the parking lot of the hardware store and slowly moved into a parking spot. Just as I was turning off the key to the ignition, there was a reverberating explosion close by. The kind you feel in your gut. Immediately I scanned the intersection to see if there was a car wreck of some kind. Then I turned to scan the parking lot. I saw some men and women running towards the back of the Chevron station that borders the parking lot.
I quickly moved to the area of the explosion. There was a woman in her mid-sixties sitting, her back against the outside wall of the station. Her head was weaving back and forth, eyes closed and in a shock filled tone, she wailed in pain. Another woman who was there to help had wrapped her fleece jacket around the woman’s hands. Others were on their cell phones obviously calling 911.

While the “Good Samaritans” had the woman well cared for, waiting for the ambulance, I was still concerned about the surrounding environment and people moving in and out of the hardware store. What had caused such a powerful explosion? Was there a gas leak somewhere? Was there further danger?

My gaze turned to the woman’s car. The trunk hatch was open and there was an upside-down wheel borrow inside the trunk. The tire was shredded. It became obvious that the woman had driven around the back side of the Chevron station to where the air hose was. She was inflating the tire on the wheel borrow and had over inflated it until it exploded. From the sound and look of the explosion, she will be fortunate to keep all of her fingers.

The ambulance came quickly and rushed her to the hospital. Whether there was further trauma I do not know. Once again, I felt fortunate to live in a place where members of the community act quickly to assist those in need.

I was able to get the line for the edger and I headed home to finish the lawn. I found my wife and children around the back of the house finishing up the weeding of a flower bed. I started sharing my experience, making sure they all knew the importance of using a tire pressure gauge when inflating a tire.

Over the next couple of days I continued to think about that experience. I couldn’t get the image of that elderly lady, sitting there in pain, out of my mind. What subtle intricacies of life led up to that moment in time? We all experience events that take us by surprise. Some are relatively minor, while others can impact our lives, as well as loved ones, beyond comprehension.

As I’m writing this, I’m on a return flight from Bermuda. I was in Bermuda to meet with the family of a young man who was attending one of our treatment facilities.  This young man had not only graduated the therapeutic part of the program, but also earned his High School diploma. This was a tremendous accomplishment. Our goal was to assist in the reintegration of this young man to the island. After being away from home for well over two years, there was obviously some anxiety on his part. How does he avoid old dysfunctional patterns of behavior? What should he do when he sees old friend that were not a good influence?


Todd Spaulding, this young man’s therapist and I spent two days assisting him in identifying the “Gauges” in his life that will help him manage the “pressure” of life back in Bermuda. Pressure is not something any of us gets to escape. Whether our own personal pressure is externally or internally motivated, we will at some point need a healthy way to regulate that pressure. Sometime we need more pressure in life to meet certain goals we have set or to accomplish tasks. Sometimes we need less.

So, what “Gauges” in life do we need to help us maintain healthy and appropriate levels of pressure in our lives? Friends? Family? Co-workers? Community? Are we willing to learn about pressure and understand its dynamics?

As with filling a tire, ignorance of pressure in our lives and how to manage it can bring about catastrophic consequences...consequences that we most certainly will regret.

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