It’s safe to say that my writing career really took off when a house did, in fact, almost fall on me — metaphorically if not literally.
I broke into the early world of writing for “This Old House” online when I wrote about a very tall brick chimney crashing through a very old roof. When you open with, “Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it DOES take a house to fall on me to get my attention” people take note.
I followed that with “House Beautiful” writing about our toddler’s delight in rolling a ball on our sinking bathroom floor. There the phrase “little attacks of charm” was born.
In a nutshell, I decided to find the humor in the endless home repair and renovation Mr. Wonderful and I were undertaking in the early years of our marriage. We owned two rental properties and two houses at one point. I never lacked material and most days it was better to laugh than cry. Or, at the very least, cry a little bit and then laugh it off.
My nickname at one point should have been Henny Penny. Since I was a very small child I’ve been convinced pretty much every day that the sky is falling. I was a happy person, don’t get me wrong. I just felt like I should always prepare for the worst. It felt alarmingly vulnerable to be too happy-go-lucky. Just think of how stupid I would look if I was hopeful for no reason? Or so I thought.
I didn’t really become a better person until I was pressed into being a role model for our tiny humans. Those little eyes and ears upon you can surely change a person. This doesn’t mean I don’t have missteps. I try to be a bigger person but sometimes I do slip up — if only momentarily.
When my spouse was having what was arguably one of the harder days of his life, I found it helpful to adhere to the oldest tenet of the supportive spouse in a healthy marriage: be sure to make it all about you. Yes, the day that Mr. Wonderful gave me a big hug and whispered in my ear “I lost my job today,” I did what any supportive spouse would do. I made it all about me.
While he was still processing the major life change, I was reacting like Fred Sanford clutching my heart and wailing, “Hold on, Elizabeth; I’m coming to join ya’, honey.” I’m dating myself with that reference but if you are of a certain age — you’ll get it.
Once I got done being incredulous and insisting he was kidding — as if he had suddenly come into possession of the worst sense of humor ever — I resorted to curling up in a near fetal position on a bench in our (blessedly unrenovated) kitchen. As you can tell, I’m a rock in tense situations.
Then, I decided I should probably get a grip on myself as our two then-teenagers processed the news. Sure, it was an awful shock, but it was a pretty good opportunity too.
Looking back, that low point was actually an enormous opportunity, an opportunity we could not have fully embraced if we had not, on some level, decided it was just going to have to become a positive experience.
I realized that worrying about tomorrow’s problems doesn’t solve them — it just taints your enjoyment of today. That doesn’t mean we should not be prepared. It just means we also should not dwell.
Not everything has a “look back and laugh” facet. Death, grief and loss are real and lasting and don’t really have a “bright side.” On the other hand, I do think some things that are initially a pretty big bummer can turn out to have a better outcome with the right mindset — the break up that led to meeting your actual soulmate, for example (Mr. Wonderful and I both experienced these prior to meeting each other).
We both have also experienced the job loss that led to a different and much more fulfilling career. There have been so many times the Lord has said “no” to our prayers. Hindsight allows us to realize that was definitely the right answer. He knew.
We have spent the past few years as a society in a time of great uncertainty. Economics. Pandemic. A general sense of worldwide mayhem — as Gen X I never did trust Russia anyway.
Now more than ever we need to focus on the good. The happy moments. The calm amongst life’s inevitable storms. Into each of our lives, a little rain will fall.
Sometimes you just have to laugh at the storm and consider that maybe we needed the rain. In many situations, our attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.
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