I was once asked by my boss to help fix a commercial toilet. The head maintenance guy was offsite and so they patched him in remotely to walk us through it. The instructions were coming to me second-hand. He told me to turn a large hex bolt attached to the water supply (there were actually two bolts which turned out to be important).
At the first turn, water began to drip from behind the bolt. When I asked I was told this was normal. By the next turn, water was spraying out, like a thumb over a garden hose. Still apparently normal. One final turn and the bolt became a projectile unleashing a fierce torrent of frigid water that blasted me in the chest. I stumbled aside allowing the water to span the bathroom and splatter off the mirror.
The water level quickly began to rise around my feet. The others fled and I was left to fight the flood on my own. I splashed around until I found the rouge bolt and struggled to force it back in place. The cold spray beat against my face and stung my eyes. I dropped it several times, once in the toilet. To my own shock, I finally managed to plug the hole. A fact less impressive once I realized at the same moment another staff person had reached the water main and cut off the supply.
It is a massive understatement to say my efforts were futile. But in the moment it felt legitimate. When placed in a situation that is quickly spiraling, the natural reaction is to strive to regain control. If that is your default, give yourself some grace.
But what if we stopped trying to hold onto control. I’m not saying do nothing. Don’t stand there and let the water bore a hole in your chest. But rather than self-reliance, what if we sought help. Acknowledge the beast is bigger than us and go to find someone who knows how to beat it.