My new favorite phrase is “champagne problems.” A friend of mine used it recently to describe the intense angst that people she knew were experiencing about their bright, healthy, normal kids not getting into competitive private schools. We both have special needs kids and would like very much to have our greatest fear about our children be that they won’t get into a top tier college.
Yesterday, in the middle of a beautiful day, I found myself with a free hour. I decided to sit outside and read my brother’s book. First the Fed Ex guy came, then a garden crew showed up at the house next door, the the propane guy came to fill the tank. Each interruption made me more irritated. I was feeling cheated out of my quiet hour in the sun. As my blood pressure started to rise I began to feel sorry for myself that my one quiet hour of the day was being ruined, I heard the phrase champagne problems in my head and had to laugh.
Sometimes it’s important to have champagne problems. I can’t walk around all the time thinking about world hunger, climate change, or what will happen in my own future and that of those I love. I am not sure how much fun I would be having if I walked around all the time intensely focused on all my fears. We should be mindful of the realities of our life, and of the greater world. We should live in a way that aligns with our values: recycle, be kind to others, do your best, but also give yourself a break.
Trouble arises when we can’t tell the difference between champagne problems and genuine heartbreak. We all struggle with real problems and real insecurities, but it’s easy to distract ourselves with superficial ones. Perspective is being able to separate an irritation from a crisis. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference because our bodies respond to them similarly.
The gritting of teeth, the tightness of shoulders and the elevated heart rate are the body’s way of sensing and dealing with danger. The trouble is that a driver in front of you going slowly, or a quiet afternoon being ruined by noise are not danger. They are irritations or champagne problems.
I am learning that I need to spend some time each week on a walk or a run reflecting on how I am responding to the unexpected ups and downs in my life. If we aren’t careful we can form habits that turn everything into a calamity when really very few things are. A champagne problem is one that I can catch and release quickly, I can be disappointed or irritated for a few minutes and then let it go. I know I need to conserve my emotional resources for the moments that matter both good and bad, because life is certainly filled with both.