“One day, out of irritation, I said, you know all of those years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, all those years of playing kings and princes and speaking black verse, and bestriding the landscape of England was nothing but a preparation for sitting in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise.” (Patrick Stewart)
Jean Luc Pickard had it right.
Life doesn’t always turn out how you planned. And you’re not necessarily preparing for the future you envision. I’m not sure why we go through all we do…only to end up in some very unexpected places having experienced some unimaginable things.
But this I do know.
Our experiences teach us valuable lessons—IF we allow ourselves to learn. ”Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.” (C.S. Lewis)
Isn’t that the truth?
I also know this.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
We’re stronger because of what we’ve overcome. And if we got through something that difficult, we can get through anything—especially the next unexpected new opportunities we’re blessed with!
Late last summer I took my kids swimming at a friend’s pool one Saturday. Afterward, we enjoyed a barbecue. Then we innocently returned to our home after several hours of fun. We walked into the house and noticed a strange humming sound. I thought, “Darn! Someone left the television on when we left. I’ve asked my kids not to do that a thousand times!” and in a bit of frustration, went to the turn the t.v. off. Only it wasn’t on.
My oldest headed down to his bedroom right about that time, got to the basement and cried out. In a panic I raced down the stairs to see what was wrong, got to the bottom of the stairs, and unexpectedly stepped into a puddle of water at least 6 inches deep! The entire basement of our home was flooded! The “humming” sound I’d heard was the dying echo of ruined electronic equipment.
As I stood there, water sloshing against my calves looking at the utter ruin of the lowest level of my home’s interior and its contents, I belatedly thought, “Is it possible to get shocked standing in water with electronics humming and crackling as they float by?” And then thoughts of death-by-electricity fled my mind as I realized I needed to get the water to my home shut off. A pipe must have burst.
But wouldn’t you know, inept single woman that I am, I couldn’t find it? I looked high and low, everywhere I could think of, but I couldn’t locate it. I had my children down there hunting with me and it never turned up. I assigned my son to find a male neighbor who could tell us where the water shut-off valve might be located. He returned with an actual neighbor who helped us find it and shut it off. Then he suggested we look for the pipe that had burst–the source of the water.
Would you believe there wasn’t one? The entire basement was like a giant kiddie pool but there wasn’t a source of water! The ceilings were dry, the walls were dry, but strangely, in one room, there was water spray on everything below four feet in height. It was the craziest thing.
And I learned something about myself: unsolved mysteries (aka. house floods) make me think the darndest things! After hunting high and low with my neighbor for the source of the water, and never finding one, I’m ashamed to say one of my next thoughts was, “Oh my gosh! It has FINALLY happened! A Ponzi scheme victim must have located us, broke into our home, and unleashed their anger at the situation with a hose—by flooding our home!”
That was ridiculous. I put that thought out of my mind and unexpectedly it was replaced it with, “How in the world have we made an enemy like this already? Just one year living in Utah and we’ve offended someone so badly that they’d want to flood our home?”
That’s when I noticed it.
My son’s bedroom window was cracked and broken, pieces were missing. And then I noticed grass floating in the flood, mud and grass splattered everywhere inside my home, and mud and water floating in the window well.
My neighbor and I headed outside to find the source of the water. As luck would have it, the patio and everything outside near the broken window was completely dry. NO trace of water! Where were Fred, Daphne, Thelma, Shaggy, Scooby and The Mystery Machine when I needed them? There was a mystery to be solved.
Another neighbor saw us outside and came over to see if we had noticed the water outside my home. Due to the heat of the day, the outside water had dried up, so we hadn’t seen ANY water. (That was why the situation was so puzzling!) I told him, unfortunately,the water wasn’t just outside my home, the entire interior of the basement was flooded. But at least he solved the mystery for us.
It was entirely unexpected.
There are irrigation wheels in the corner of my backyard. While I was out, a farmer came to take his watering turn and failed to check that the appropriate gates were open when he diverted his irrigation water. He drove away…and my home flooded. I wasn’t home, the farmer wasn’t there, so I didn’t know anything untoward was taking place or needed to be stopped. The water ran and ran. Unchecked. Out of control.
A different neighbor happened to look outside and saw water flooding our cul-de-sac and the connecting streets so filled with water he assumed a water main had broken. Until he tried to locate the source of the “break” and saw a literal river of water running through my backyard, into my home, and into the streets all around it. Just a little house flooding, courtesy of a farmer who failed to check (as they are always supposed to) that the appropriate diversion gates are open. Just one little gate. I NEVER expected that!
I don’t think the farmer did either. As he told me later that night, “I’ve been doing this 30 years and I’ve never had a problem. I never thought to check that the south gate was open. It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault; these things happen. That’s what your homeowner’s insurance is for.” The farmer advised me to get my belongings out of my basement as fast as I could. I never expected that, either.
I stood there, alone, with my four children and thought, “How in the world am I supposed to clear my basement all by myself?” (I was tending a baby at the time, as well.) I was overwhelmed. But that is a great thing about Utah. (Get ready for another one of those, “Only in Utah” moments.) My son went to one neighbor and asked if he could help us move some furniture out of our basement as it had flooded, he came right over, took one look, made a phone call and within minutes, literally, there were 30-40 people from our neighborhood and church congregation hauling our belongings out of the flood and into our front yard. An impossible task was completed in a matter of an hour or so.
I helped, I hauled, and then I confess, I had a moment of meltdown. I escaped to the privacy of my bathroom, called a friend in Denver, CO, and lost it. For a moment there, I was afraid a house flood was going to be my undoing. Silly, I know, but after a year of shock, trauma, and attempted recovery, I was temporarily at my limit.
Thankfully, my friend “talked me down,” we laughed and I put the situation in perspective. Really, after EVERYTHING I had lived through, a house flood wasn’t that big of a deal.
And I knew it.
Sadly, compared to decades of lies, betrayal, crime, drama, divorce, vilification and everything else played out in the media and on a public stage, a flood really wasn’t that big of a deal. I had lived through worse. Much worse. So that’s what I said when people expressed their sympathy regarding the flood. “We’ve lived through worse. Not a big deal. It’s just stuff. It will be ok.”
I never expected the collapse of my family and the public downfall we endured would be preparation for a flood; would help me keep it all in perspective. But it was. And it did. We’ve certainly survived worse.
In the unexpected life.
Yet still, “I doubt whether the world holds for any one a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice-cream.” (Heywood Braun)
Or your first house flood.