My daughters and I have a joke that has arisen between us within the past year. It started when I would begin to tell them a story about my day by saying “Guess what happened to me?” and then proceed to tell them something along the lines of how I had run into a stop sign on my bike or tripped in front of a bunch of people.
The joke began after an embarrassing incident in which I was going to dinner with my husband and oldest daughter. We were all getting out of my husband’s truck when I got a text and stayed in the car for a minute to respond. Unaware that I wasn’t right behind him, my husband used his automatic key to lock the truck and they both went into the restaurant. When I was finished texting I pushed the electric lock to get out of the truck, only to discover the locks wouldn’t go up. Being in a particularly frazzled mood that day, I mistakenly believed I was locked inside the truck. No problem, I thought. I’ll just call them on my phone and he’ll come out and unlock the truck. I could see them sitting at a table conversing cheerfully and began to feel a little annoyed when neither one of them answered their phones. Having had some caffeine earlier in the day and being prone to panic attacks, I could feel my heart begin to race as I became more illogical. I tried to call my friend, and she didn’t answer. I tried the electronic locks again to no avail. I searched frantically through his console for a spare key, and as my anxiety peaked into a full-blown panic attack, I began to beat on the window. This lasted for only a few seconds before I realized the insanity of it and quieted myself down enough to remember that there was a manual lock which I promptly released. I scrambled out of the truck and raced into the restaurant to chastise the two of them for not answering their phones. By this time the waitress was taking their drink orders and they both stared up at me with puzzled looks. “Where have you been?” barely left my husband’s lips before I blurted out that I had been locked in the truck. The waitress gave me a dumbfounded look, and the two of them started cracking up as I told them the story.
As my daughter listened to me sharing this story with her sister, using the opening line of “guess what happened to me?!” she laughed and said “Nothing Happened to You!!” That is when I realized it was true, the only thing that had happened is what was brought on by my own state of mind. Just as the stop sign didn’t jump out in front of me, and the sidewalk didn’t trip me, those things happened because of my own choices and actions. I can look at many areas of my life and realize that this is true as well. Now, when we tell each other stories about our days, we inevitably joke about the things that happened to us and will set each other straight about the truth of the situation when needed.
While there are many situations that I can definitely take responsibility for in my life, I have also learned that there are many others that occur randomly and are out of my control, because life just happens. Sometimes I get the two confused and am unwilling to admit my own part in things, while other times, I try desperately to control things that are clearly out of my control such as another person’s decisions, health, or life. I can choose to offer support and care for them if they need it, but I have little control over the ultimate outcome.
It makes sense to accept that difficult times are a part of life rather than to strive in vain for the perfect life. Perfection is unattainable, and there is a real art to making the best of situations that happen in life.
One of the phrases I’ve heard often from my dad is “life gets messy”, and he should know. He has weathered many difficult situations throughout his life, growing up in the depression, losing his father at age six, being sent away to camp each summer so that his mom could work, finding out his wife had schizophrenia and the subsequent issues that arose because of that, losing his only son a few years ago, the health issues that arise with aging, and now, finding out he has cancer. It makes sense why he can be so cynical about life at times, but when it comes down to it he has always been a great example of perseverance and dealing with life’s messiness.
I am uneasy about what comes next but regardless of what happens, I want to follow his example and deal with it with as much courage, integrity, and fortitude as he has always demonstrated.