A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the first of two things that happened recently, both of which caused me to stop and think about the journey I’m on. Here’s the second one….
The same weekend I bought the rug (maybe even the same day), I walked out of my house to run errands and noticed that one of the terra cotta pots lining my steps and walkway was broken. All of my pots were currently “in transition”—the summer annuals pulled out, the pansies yet to go in—so all of them were sitting there with nothing but dirt in them, the four-packs of pansies waiting nearby.
The pot in question had clearly been knocked over and the potting soil strewn across the walk. I could see where someone had scraped as much of the dirt as possible back into the pot, leaving a thin layer of soil dusting the walk, and had then propped the broken pieces against the sides in an effort to hold the dirt in the now-destroyed pot.
I didn’t know what had happened, but my first guess was that a neighbor’s dog had seen one of my cats on the porch and taken off after it, knocking over the pot in the process. I turned back to the door and mailbox to see if there was a note of explanation/apology; there was none. I began to feel upset, indignant that the person/dog owner involved in the incident would just shove the dirt back in the pot, prop it up as though nothing had happened, and leave no note of apology for the broken pot—or knock on my door to explain/apologize. I leapt to judgment, thinking, How inconsiderate and irresponsible!
But then a strange thing happened. In the next moment, I suddenly reversed course, backed out of my upset, and thought, Well, it’s not like someone walking his/her dog is carrying a pencil and paper with him/her. And it could have happened early this morning, and the person didn’t want to wake me on a weekend. Maybe the person is planning to come by later and explain/apologize.
So I let it go and headed for the car. I had places to go and things to do, and fretting over the situation wasn’t going to fix the pot anyway.
Several hours later, I returned home, having completely forgotten about the broken pot. I was surprised to see, in place of the shattered pot, a brand new pot, neatly filled with the potting soil from the old pot. The walk had been swept clean.
There was still no note, but then no note was needed. The new pot clearly said, “I’m sorry about your pot. My bad. Here’s a new one to replace it.”
I smiled, my mind going in a couple of directions.
First, that we’re often too quick to judge: situations, people, actions…whatever. While I’m a big proponent of going with your gut and trusting your instincts, there are times when what’s leading you around by the nose isn’t gut or instinct but knee-jerk conditioning or leftovers from some other person or relationship that caused you pain in the past and has nothing to do with the current situation.
Second, that what seems “broken” to us in the moment may, in the end, turn out alright. Perhaps the awfulness of today will lead to something better, something wonderful, tomorrow. Case in point…
Nearly a year ago, due to a budget shortfall (an all-too-common occurrence at non-profits), I was downsized by the non-profit for whom I was working part-time At the time, I was extremely upset—scared about the loss of income and dismayed at the short notice I’d been given. However, the non-profit also offered me a contract to continue writing grants for them on a freelance basis. It would be very sporadic work, with no guaranteed hours—but I had no other options at the time, so I took it, and trusted that things would work out.
After the dust settled, and I’d had a chance to look calmly at the situation, I realized that leaving the non-profit job would allow me to devote more hours to my other part-time job—freelance writing for a client who paid me a higher hourly rate than the non-profit and who was happy for me to produce as much copy for them as I could crank out. It also meant I was free to accept additional grant-writing work from other clients.
Now, ten months later, I’m working from home, making my living almost completely from freelance writing work (with occasional theater and design work thrown in from time to time). I have another grant-writing client in the wings, and a possible third on the horizon. I set my own schedule, and I enjoy the freedom and flexibility that working from home affords me.
As with the terra cotta pot incident, when my nonprofit job ended, everything seemed broken, but I somehow managed to back out of my upset and move into a place of trusting that things would work out. In the end, the loss of the regular job/income (the “broken pot”) gave me the opportunity to plan my work days as I wished and made it possible for me to earn more money than I’d been making (the “new pot”).
There have been other incidents in my life that seemed awful and ended up turning into or leading to something better, but it’s not always easy to remember those times when you’re right smack in the middle of the awful. It takes effort and intention, a willingness to resist jumping to the conclusion that whatever’s happening is the end of the world.
Of course, there are deeply painful circumstances and losses that we all face in our lives—serious illness, the death of a loved one—for which it seems impossible to see a positive outcome. Faced with such life events, finding our way to a place of trust that we’ll be able to handle what is and get through each day may be the best we can do.
I had no idea how the story would end that morning when I walked out and found the broken pot. None of us knows how any of the many stories we live during the course of our lives will end. All we can do is live the part of the story we’re in at the moment, and trust that the rest of the story will work itself out.