freaked outWhen I have a problem, the first responder thoughts in my mind are not helpful ones. No. They start rattling off the worst case scenarios immediately.

Like a couple of days ago. I woke up at 6 AM, got out of bed, and wondered why it was so cold in my house. I looked at the thermostat. It was 62 degrees. Oh, no! The furnace was off. Again! I’ve had the furnace fixers here five or six times over the past couple of months. Ever since I had the big, old oil tank dug out of my yard and a new oil tank put into my house, I have had problem after problem. I don’t know if these two things are related.

I stood in the hallway shivering. The first responders in my head hissed, “This is the last straw! You’re going to have to buy a new furnace! You can’t go away this winter like you planned! What if the furnace goes off, and the pipes burst?! This problem won’t be fixable. You’re going to have to sell the house!”

Trembling with cold and fear, I called the emergency service, dressed in fleece, and made a hot cuppa tea.

After a few sips, the more helpful second responders showed up. They said soothingly, “Katherine. Wait til the furnace guy gets here and see what he has to say.”

By the time the repairman came, I was able to answer the door like a sane, calm home owner. I showed him the furnace room where the metal, fire-breathing dragon lives. He pressed a button. The dragon stirred to life and started breathing hot air.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “I’m guessing it’s the (whatchamacallit). I’ll replace it and see if that works.”

He’s guessing? I was about to get upset when he continued, “But here’s the good news:  the part I’m replacing is under your service contract. It’s an upgraded version. Your old part looks like something from the early 90’s or maybe even the 80’s. The new version has a brain in it, so if the furnace goes off again, it will tell me what the problem is and how to fix it.”

A brain?!!! I thought. My big, old, dragon now has a brain?! Amazing. The nice man left. I danced around my house singing, to the Scarecrow’s tune from Wizard of Oz, “La la la la la la la. Now my dragon has a brain.”

Three days later. I wake up. The house is cold. I look at the thermostat. Uh huh. The furnace is off. Yet, again. But, I’m on to those First Responders. “Hush up,” I say. “It’s going to be fine. If I have to get a new furnace, I will. The Big Whatever is looking after me. It’s a whole month until I leave for Florida.  It will be fixed. The furnace has a brain and will tell the nice man what went wrong.”

I don’t go right to the phone to call the emergency service. I wait for business hours because there is no emergency, really. At 9 AM I call the number I now know by heart. I drink my third cuppa hot tea. The knight in the shining truck comes. He opens up the dragon and starts tinkering with it.

I ask him the dreaded question. “Ummmm.  Do I need a new furnace?”

“Oh, no!”  he says. “This one is top of the line! It has a lifetime guarantee. If it can’t be fixed, they’ll replace the whole thing.”

Wow. I had no idea. That is such good news! I drink my tea and smile as he replaces the motor and fixes the Z Dimension, whatever that is, because the dragon’s brain told him it was an ignition problem.

Now, here’s the thing. You may not believe this, but I have noticed during the passing of my many years on this planet that when I can ignore my nasty First Responder thoughts, when I can release my fear, and give the problem to The Big Whatever, somehow, amazingly, the problem shifts in the real, material world to something much more benign, manageable, and even good.

I know that sounds like “magical thinking” but I have seen this pattern in my life many times. It may not be easy to do, but whenever you have scary, ole First Responder Thoughts in your head, see if you can turn them into the reassuring heroes they’re supposed to be.

And let me know how it works out.


  1. I wish I had read this last night. It would have saved me some unwanted and unnecessary almost full-blown hysteria. Great article and sounds like a great furnace and great repairman too!

  2. Thanks so much for this! My agencies haven’t been very forthcoming with temp assignments and I’m having trouble getting some money over from an account I still have in the States, so my “first responders” had me having to sell what little I came over with and resigning myself to council estate living where gangsta thugs would spit & kick at me each evening as I returned from work to barricade myself in my flat until sunrise. Time for me too to shift seeing to my third eye. Hope you’re nice & snuggly! Seb

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