Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Splinter!

I take my 3 year old granddaughter to school and then pick her up again every afternoon. She usually greets me in the afternoon with a huge smile and is excited to be going to Nana and Pawpaw's house. I pull up in line to pick her up and then jump out of my truck to help her get into her car seat and get buckled in the right rear passenger seat. One day last week, she met me with a smile and happy attitude as I began to put help her into my truck when she started wailing and crying. I didn't have a clue as to what just happened and then she started yelling she had a splinter in her hand as she put one hand on top of the one that contained the splinter. I struggled to calm her down and get her into her car seat and then she would not unclasp her hands so I could buckle her in. I pulled the truck up into a parking space so the next parent could pick up their child. I went back around to her side and was able to get her to allow me to look at the splinter. She had huge tears running down her face and I expected a huge splinter deep into her finger. She removed the hand covering the splinter and I saw a tiny half inch piece of wood that was barely embedded in her finger. (The photo above is not the splinter in her hand)  I quickly removed it and she instantly got better since she could no longer see the splinter in her finger. A smile and laugh quickly came back as I buckled her into her seat. 

This splinter could not have caused any pain, it had barely pricked her skin and was barely hanging on. I'm surprised she didn't shake her hand enough for it to just fall off. But, in her eyes, she saw a huge and painful problem with this splinter and just the idea of a splinter in her finger set her emotions into high gear. Her tears and screaming were more about what she thought was a terrible situation rather than what the actual situation was.

How many times throughout our lives do we react much the same way to situations that we find ourselves facing? I know, from personal experience, that I have made a mountain out of a mole hill on numerous occasions. I've walked to my car in the Walmart parking lot and noticed a spot on my car where someone has hit it with their own car door. My blood pressure rises, my stress level rises and I began to get mad and then as I rub my finger over the horrible spot on the car, the paint rubs off and you can't tell that anything happened! I had reacted the same as my granddaughter did to her "splinter". The same thing has probably happened to every one of you. You have overreacted to an event or a comment by someone that really was no event at all.

Other situations in our lives may deserve some reaction from us but not an overreaction. Many small events in my life have caused me great stress and sleepless nights. Those same events in retrospect were nothing to really lose sleep over. I have experienced several real splinters over the years. I have had painful splinters under my fingernails, in my finger and a few in my feet. Some were easy to remove. Some were hard and painful to remove. A few drew blood and were very painful. Life throws us many rough situations over the years and much like a splinter, some are easy to get through and some are a little tougher to get through.

The important lesson is to clearly assess the situation at hand and make sure we don't overreact to a situation that has been created in our own minds. Sometimes we see the splinter on the surface of our hand or the spot on the car before we assess things such as Is it real? Does it hurt me or others? Is it really important in the big scheme of things? Some friends of ours have a funny saying when they describe a silly fall. They will tell the story of stumbling and falling for some reason and then say "And then I assessed myself", meaning that they assessed the situation to determine if they were hurt and able to get up off the ground. But, what a great thing to to in any situation, "assess yourself" then carry on.

Our minds can work against us in making the situation much worse than it actually is. To me, it is much like the placebo effect that people often get when taking medicines. If you think you are taking a medicine that will help an ailment, often you feel better just simply because your mind believes that the medicine is working even if you are taking a placebo. Only, in this situation, our mind sees the splinter on the surface and automatically associates it with a painful and nasty experience. 

I believe I have gotten better at reacting to situations as I have gotten older and as I have adjusted to retirement. After years of overreacting to things, that turned out to be nothing, I feel that I am a little slower at reacting negatively to things. Since leaving the work force for retirement, I think I have a lot fewer problems and issues that come up on a daily basis. I'm sure I will still overreact to the next door ding on the car or other things that really are more irritating than they are a serious problem. I have to continue to remind my self that the small problems are not worth losing sleep over as they will pass into the past very quickly. 

Have you had a similar "splinter" moment recently when you thought something was going terribly wrong, when in fact nothing bad was happening at all? Have you ever experienced a placebo effect from taking a supplement or placebo medicine? What do you do to properly access a new situation to prevent overreaction? Have you become better at not making a mountain out of a molehill in retirement?


  1. Nicely told story. I imagine we can all relate to a "splinter" experience that was really much ado about nothing.

    As we age we are usually better at keeping events or mishaps in perspective, but not always. I become upset if my daily newspaper is not properly sealed to keep out moisture. Then, I read about real problems around the world and am reminded how petty my complaint is.

    1. Moist newspapers are the worst! Yes, there are a lot bigger problems in the world that are much bigger than the trivial things that get us riled up on a daily basis.

  2. As I have aged, I have gotten much better about not overreacting both physically and verbally. However the thinking part is the hardest, especially after 2 am in the morning after a trip to the bathroom. Shutting off my mind to not dwell on even the most mundane of things seems to be nearly impossible. Usually when I get up and awake, it all goes away again, but then I am up and awake with hours to kill before someone else is up.

    1. I have those thoughts in the middle of the night also that keep me awake. It is hard to shut down the brain and the worries we have sometimes.