Dedicated to the wonderful memory of John Gridley IV
Do you ever wish you could plan for the things that will frustrate and scare you in the coming year? I do. With advance warning, we probably wouldn’t be so triggered by them. Would this ability be a super power or a super curse? Given the choice, would we pack our future with things we find upsetting and challenging to keep life stimulating or would we simply plan a future devoid of accidents, shocks, upsets, mistakes and tragedy?
Such questions will never be fully answered because, while we have much power to plan aspects of our future, the unexpected, unwanted and challenging often seem to weave themselves into our lives.
The unplanned mistake that frustrates us, makes us angry, or scared can definitely do a number on our day. I know this from literally a lifetime of experience.
“Expect the unexpected” is a cliche, and for good reason. Yet, I often find myself struggling to accept the unexpected. You would think after a lifetime of experience, the unplanned obstacle wouldn’t frustrate and startle me so much. But it still does . . . just as recently as yesterday, in fact.
I was in-route to my family practice doctor because I thought wax might be building up in my ears and wanted it professionally cleaned out. Wax cleaning is a totally mundane and routine procedure, so I didn’t think twice about worrying about my appointment.
The concept of totally routine reminds me of one of my best friends in grade school, John Gridley IV. The summer of fifth grade he went on a totally routine bike ride to the computer store. On his way home, he was hit by a car and died. Unexpected is not a strong enough word to translate the shockwave of that event.
Maybe, you’ve had the unexpected attack the happy routine of your life? I was miserable after John’s death. I missed him so much. In addition, I felt fundamentally unsafe in the world for the first time in my life.
There had been a certain innocence and naive delight to believing my world would work, generally, perfectly foreverafter.
That belief was abruptly shattered with John’s death. Umbilical cords sometimes get kinked. Childhood friends sometimes die. Very tough stuff happens.
Before they cleaned my ears yesterday, they checked my blood pressure and it was high, high-high: 150/90. I was shocked. Even though the experience wasn’t at all the same, I was shocked like I was when John died. Does receiving difficult, unexpected news ever get easier?
Before John’s passing, I loved riding my bike around town. After he died, I abruptly quit. Perfect would have been John not dying. I wanted to be perfectly safe, so I quit riding my bike for the rest of the summer. Choosing not to ride my bike that summer did not take away the bitter, unexpected reality of John’s death and it definitely did not bring John back.
Giving up riding my bike did not make my summer more perfect. Only much later would I learn that quitting what we love just stops our exploration and determination to practice and improve.
Fortunately, I didn’t quit with getting my blood pressure checked after the shock of the initial reading. Instead of quitting the next week, I got it checked three more times and it was normal on each occasion. In retrospect, I had run four blocks to make my routine ear wax cleaning appointment on time. Running raises blood pressure. Hence, a high reading.
I want to end this blog with some tidy answer, something as catchy as “expect the unexpected.” But I have none.
What I do know is this – At many points in my life, quitting what I loved, in response to things that frustrated and scared me, seemed like the tidiest option. It seem safer to shrink and become less than I knew I could be, than to endear the complexity, uncertainty and possible heartache of going for what I truly wanted to experience in life.
Nowadays I try to find the courage I need to keep on practicing what I love.
Even if life is imperfect.
Even if I’m imperfect.
I do my best.
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