I bet you have such days …
When things don’t seem to work as expected, when all your plans fall through and what you thought would take two minutes takes two hours. When that quick phone call to settle some bitty thing becomes forty-five minutes of muzak followed by a hang-up then forty minutes more before you get transferred again, only to be put on hold for speaking to another department … When the quick break for a sandwich becomes condiments that spritz in the wrong direction, an upset can of cookies (complete with crumbs), a shattered glass requiring three broom cycles and a vacuum … Days when one client after the other is either late, cranky, moody, muddy, or all. When the world becomes an exercise in patience, a realigning of time and expectations.
These days sure happen to me all too often. I bet you have them, too.
It used to get my blood-pressure up, to have things unexpected. In general I do not much care for surprises. My friends and family know that I’m not the person to plan dark roomed “Happy Birthday!” parties to. No thanks. I like knowing what to expect and having a bit of opportunity to see how to best manage stuff that happens. Good or bad. So having a kink in my day never was my recipe for happy.
Nowadays, though it does not rank high on my preferred-day way, it mostly makes me chuckle. I figure that it is a pause for learning, something to call my attention to doing too much, too fast, or with too little an awareness. The unexpected grounds me faster than a cup of cold water (sometimes it IS spilled or splashed cold water … in a double-attention-getter …). It stops me into “what just happened?” and “how on earth …?” And that very pausing stirs a breeze of mindfulness into my brain.
So, while I still don’t like to spend my lunch break sweeping shards, cleaning counters, or on the phone with some ‘press-this, press-that’ company; I try to see it as something that helps to pace me or to point to where I have lost touch with the clock that is not of this world. Where I have turned too low the timer within me, the ticking of my body, the breath that should not become fogged by too much thought or busyness.
I still get stunned–surprises do that to me. But I take a breath, as well. And chuckle. Laugh a bit into myself. The ridiculousness of it all helps me find the gratitude that’s tangled with the grunt and sigh. It is a gift, really, when everyday tasks that I’ve done a million times without awareness bring back the reality of how complex they truly are, and how blessed I am to be able to perform them mostly sans a thought or pause or conscious memory. It is even a precious thing to have the things I usually take for granted–a company to call to make things right (or try to), the vocation I love living, the freedom to set my schedule, the miracles of water in my faucet and electric power at my finger tips. So many do not have those and would gladly take a spilled cup for having the water flowing to begin with.
And suddenly the disruption is not so terrible and the wait is not so bad. This realignment of meaning helps shift me, even if the situation stays the same. I get the best ideas, sometimes, when I’m on hold, a captive audience, forced to still and listen. The muzak goes right through me. It is my own thoughts that unfurl, birthing new ideas. I am reminded of the most arcane and unexpected and forgotten things when I am climbing to change yet another light-bulb that went zip a moment before session, or rush to change a stained article of clothing before a client comes. Somehow these unplanned, often unwanted, wrinkles in my planning pause me long enough to bring in an unseen angle or perspective.
Don’t get me wrong: I still do love my little islands of predictability. It is lovely when days go just as I had planned (or at least close to), and when my energy is parsed the way I’d hoped. It doesn’t take much for me to run out, you see. Some hiccups in my autonomic nervous system makes my body ultra-prone to fast exhaustion. Weather changes, temperature shifts, being vertical too long–they can and do seriously tire me. And yet, I am not frail. Just living with a finicky apparatus. All the more reason, one might declare, to not live life too gingerly as if on eggshells (please, oh please only figuratively! I’ve cleaned the kitchen once already, courtesy of spilled coffee grounds this very day …).
For days when patience is a bit harder to come by? “Just make it work” is my mantra of sorts for those. I have not invented it, of course. People all over our blue Earth marble have been saying it in all manner of variations, for longer than my mind can fathom, and while facing far more difficulty than I usually have to endure.
Small hitches in the schedule? Unexpected hiccups? Murphy working overtime to make life inexplicably complicated? I remind myself that it is all workable. Sometimes the solution is immediate, sometimes it takes time (I would sure love to know the schedule, though, Dear Universe, if you are listening!). Sometimes I can resolve it on my own, sometimes only with serious creative collaboration.
Either way, when the Universe throws a wench in my today and threatens to mess up my tomorrows, I try breathing smiles into it. A chuckle, even, if I can. Extra points for finding blessings in the messes … Gold stars for managing cooperation in the least likely ways or with those I do not find it easy to collaborate with.
I’m reminded of a photo of Paris in flood in 1924. People faced the very wet prospect of ruined shoes and clothing given that the only possibility was trudge calf-deep in watery plazas. Or was it really the only way? In ingenuity, someone or some ones, came up with a creative (if rickety) solution … and wrangled up some cafe chairs …
Paris flood, 1924, photo by Henri Manuel