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When Life Knocks You Down, Reach for This

May 24, 2015 by Diane

Old wooden tool box

“Did you forget your teeth?”

“No dear. They’re in my back pocket.”

-overheard in my head


Your teeth are your tools. You use them to chomp your food. If you have the removable kind and you forget to put them in your mouth where they belong and instead you shove them into your back pocket, what good are they? Unless you’re eating through your ass.

Your teeth are your tools.

Like the other tools we have. Our brains. Our breath. Our sense of smell. Touch.

Deep breathing is calming. That’s a tool. Positive thinking. That’s a tool. Taking a walk under the redwood trees and inhaling the moist gooey needles. Another tool. Singing in the shower, eating a chocolate truffle, rolling down a hillside, walking barefoot on the beach, clasping the hand of your grandfather as you watch the fireworks from the tailgate of his red pickup…these are all tools. Tools to stash in your emergency kit so the next time you’re visited by the brittle critic, or the anxious cowering panic-stricken one, or you’re stepping into the coiled snake of your dysfunctional thinking, you can reach for a tool to lift you up.

This past week, when my car was totaled by a big rig, I spiraled from shock to anger to frustration to loss, negotiating with insurance agents, agonizing over the financial burden, scouring websites and dealerships for something I could afford—until today, when I felt that I, too, had been hit by a big rig.

My energy left me.

My brain froze.

My heart sank.

I needed my emergency toolkit.

I needed to take those teeth out of my back pocket, stick ‘em in, clack ‘em together a few times, open wide and chomp down on something nourishing, something oozing goodness. I needed to take it in.

As Rick Hanson says in Buddha’s Brain, take in the good. That sunset on the beach—take it in. That conversation with your sweetheart on the porch—take it in. That hike to the peak of Mount Whatchamacallit—take it in, the whole 360-degree view.

And when darkness seems to descend, if those good feelings don’t sustain you, then draw on your other tools: family, friends, meditation, prayer, writing, jogging, old movies, Earthing, an uplifting book, relaxing music, a priest, rabbi, therapist, a nap. Whatever your tools are, know them. List them. Refer to the list when you’re blindsided, and use them.

Because some day the hurricane will hit. Some day. And you want to be prepared.

Now it’s your turn: What’s in your emergency toolkit?


  1. Nan Sampson says:

    So sorry to hear about your car, but hoping you walked away unharmed. Great, inspirational post. Thanks!

    • Diane says:

      Yes, I’m so grateful that I wasn’t in the car when it was tossed onto the curb. And super grateful that someone chased down the driver or the big rig, or it would have been a hit and run!

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I really like your tool chest. I had to dig into mine when I lost my beloved sweet 17+yr old cocker last week. The hurricanes do hit and the tool chest needs to be at the ready. Good luck with your car and you were really lucky that someone chased down the big rig driver.

    • Diane says:

      Sorry to hear about your Spaniel! It’s hard for gratitude to sustain you when faced with a loss, even tho I’m sure you are grateful for the 17 years you had together. Glad to hear you had a collection of tools to rely on. Take care! And thanks for sharing.

  3. Joan says:

    My faith In God and His awesome goodness is what’s in my toolkit! He has the answer for everything and you can’t loose Him!!

  4. M.W. Thomas says:

    When I need I tool, I march myself down to Ace Hardware and buy the wrong one. Anthropologists have found even chimpanzees own tools they don’t use. Where am I going with this? I don’t know. What was that brain thing again? That went by too fast for me.

  5. What a beautifully written, inspiring, much-needed post! Also, a great reminder to enjoy the lovely things in life instead of rushing through them, because those memories will be essential later.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your car, though. I hope the mess got sorted out soon. Dealing with insurance and trying to pick out another car can be very time-consuming and disheartening.

    • Diane says:

      Boy, you said it. It’s like a part-time job trying to find a car. And then, when I think I’ve found one, well…buyer’s remorse sets in. It’s 3:00 AM and I’m searching the internet on how to get out of this deal. Ye gads. I need to remind myself to accept what is, deep breathe, stay in the moment, be aware of my intuitive answers, and trust that I will be guided out of this mess.

  6. PorkStar says:

    wow damn, sorry to hear about your car and glad you are ok. No emergency toolkit in mine actually. Now that you mention it, that was one of the things i wanted to add when I bought it earlier this year.

  7. Diane says:

    Thanks for the appreciative vibe! I’m taking it in. Hope to see you ’round the blog again!

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