It was one of those Monday mornings.
The alarm went off too early after a night of stressful dreams. I pressed snooze repeatedly which meant I had to skip my precious half hour of coffee drinking with my husband. Instead, I hit the floor running–packing lunches, making breakfast, and getting myself dressed for the day. I’d just discovered that I’d forgotten to run the dishwasher the night before when a friend texted me that yet another stomach flu was making the rounds at school. My preteen daughter couldn’t find anything to wear and her sister was dragging her feet, uninterested in starting a new week. Because of this, we were late out the door and by the time I navigated pre-school traffic and delivered the kids to their classroom, I was feeling a little grumpy and annoyed at the whole world. As I set off with the dog for a walk, underdressed against the biting autumn wind that greeted us, a friend stopped me and asked, “Did you hear about Arnie?”
I shook my head. Arnie, she told me, had been in a plane crash the previous Thursday. He was alive and was going to be okay–eventually–but it was bad. His face was broken in multiple places, he had several cracked vertebrae, and a broken sacrum. There was a surgery scheduled for later in the week. His wife was with him at a hospital on the other side of the mountains far from home.
As the dog and I walked in the cold morning weather, my thoughts wandered back and forth from my bumpy morning to the news about Arnie’s accident. I fretted about my late start and sleepless night, hoping that it didn’t set a tone for the week, and then I wondered if I had Kathy and Arnie’s address so I could send them a note. I listed all the chores I needed to finish when I got home, and then I had a mental picture of Kathy and Arnie sitting side by side at church, content and quiet in their togetherness.
When we reached the gate at the end of the path, the dog and I turned around and headed back to the car. Facing the wind, I muttered to myself that I wish I’d worn a hat and gloves. Then I thought about the phone call that Kathy received telling her of Arnie’s crash and envisioned the long drive around the mountains that Kathy had to make before she reached Arnie’s bedside. As I imagined him waiting for her, afraid and in pain, my eyes blurred with tears. From the cold and from the sudden hit of perspective.
To be clear, the message wasn’t that my crummy start that morning was inconsequential or that I should always put on a happy face no matter what–we’re humans, we are doomed to be preoccupied with what we are currently experiencing. The lesson was much wider and deeper than that. What I suddenly understood from the juxtaposition of my morning against the news of Arnie’s accidents was this: Don’t make that which is easy, hard.
Don’t wear yourself out over the everyday irritations and inconveniences–the slights, the long lines at the bank, or the dishes that were left in the sink. If you do, you won’t be full strength when it’s your turn to receive the call, because one way or another, at some point, we all will be thrown into a situation that shakes our lives to the core. So much so that these mornings like mine–the ones that are a little frustrating and uneven–will seem like heaven by comparison. Ordinary days you might look back on and long for when your world is upside down. The days you will see not as bumpy, but as blessed.
By the time the dog and I got back to the car, my morning had been forgotten–except for the news about Arnie. Perspective, I learned, can be a much needed wallop of gratitude. And a reminder to save your strength for when you really need it.
(I am happy to report that Arnie is slowly and steadily improving. He still has quite a bit of healing to do and pain management is an ongoing process, but he is surrounded by people who love him, including his wife Kathy. Positive thoughts for his recovery are appreciated.)