Dr. Grauer's Column - A Chain Reaction Day
A Chain Reaction Day
My handyman Conrad is a straight up guy, solid. He came to do some caulking and weed removal and touch-up painting and I said, “And if you get a minute, could you have a look at the fence?” The fence was okay, but seemed a bit off to me.
He did the other stuff, then went back to the fence and opened its gate but the gate did not shut properly. So he started dismantling the hinge when he saw rot in the wood, and when he started removing that, the slats fell out and the door came apart. And with that falling, the ornament on the top of the post fell off and, in reaching for it, Conrad knocked his portable work table, which was old—down, and down fell his electric saw, which cut his finger as he tried to stop it.
He tried to get bandaids in our house and we looked high and low until he came to our first aid cabinet which, when opened, triggered a small landslide of improperly stacked first aid stuff accumulated over years. He headed out to Home Depot for parts for the work table and the drug store for more bandaids and lunch which he had not brought, thinking he needed only a little while at our house.
He drives a classic old van, which was suddenly running hot and he saw he needed oil, so he stopped at the Pep Boys, but realized his wallet had been on the work table and was probably now in our bushes by the fence, and the Pep Boys guy said better not drive the van with low oil. That was Conrad's day, up to morning break.
I have days like this, days where the things you do don't move you ahead but drive you further into the jam, further back, deeper in. I call those “chain reaction days.” If we had no vulnerabilities and passions to deal with, we would not have such days, but we do. The human is a walking pile of vulnerabilities, utterly dependent upon other humans and gadgets and microorganisms and resources, and little fears that define us. The healthy human gets up when s/he falls unless he/she is really (really) damaged, and often charges back harder.
Our emeritus Faculty member Dr. Edith Eger (now a best-selling author at age 90) always reminds us that we can only make victims of ourselves—no one else can do that in the end. Those who fail to persevere or are rescued expose little of themselves, and they hide their vulnerabilities away or they really think they don’t ever have those vulnerabilities. Maybe they think they can stop the chain reactions that make life a frustrating mess sometimes. Is that what we want for our kids?
The only way Conrad could have avoided all the vulnerability would have been to shut down—to just go home and not get the job done, to ignore his real passions, or to expect someone to bail him out. But he’s a straight-up guy, he wouldn’t do any of that. By the end of the day, my fence looked great.
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