After sitting on the tarmac for 15 minutes into what should have already been our flight, the pilot came on and announced they were waiting for potable water for the galley and for the lavatory. Well, I guess that's a good idea, I thought. It’s always tough with an early flight to get too perky, but I had an hour layover in Houston, so all is fine. Not as bad as missing my connecting flight, right? 30 minutes later, we were on the runway, about to take off, when the pilot announced (in his best cheery voice) that the runway we were about to use had a plane on it. “Well, doesn’t it need to take off?” I pondered. He then announced. “That plane on the runway had to abort their flight and evacuate everyone on the runway.” Well, that isn’t great, is it? But the pilot assured us we would still be able to get to Houston close to on time. “It could be worse”, I thought. All of a sudden, I started giggling to myself. (Notice I said “to myself”. The guy two rows up is randomly laughing out loud every five minutes in what appears to be his own entertainment land. Good for him.)
My next thought was a great memory of a book I used to read the kids at the elementary school in Florida where I was blessed to be the guidance counselor and principal for a total of 14 years. The book was called It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach. The book was based on an old Yiddish folk tale about a man and his wife who lived in a small hut. After having a few children who made a mess in the house, the man got exasperated and went to the local rabbi for help. “Dear Rabbi!” he cried. “With all the kids and the mess, our little house is too full and it is making us crazy.” The Rabbi looked at the man, thought for a moment while he tugged on his beard (this is clearly the universal sign for thinking, right?) and said, “Go and find a goat and take it into your home.” The man, trusting the Rabbi implicitly despite his inner doubts about the wisdom of placing goats in huts, did as he was told. As you can predict, the goat butted into everything in the house, ate the bed (Dave said it might be like living with Labs), and generally made a tremendous mess. Now the man and his wife were really in a pickle. The crowded hut was worse than before. So, after his wife nagged him for two days (that is Dave’s addition to this story (sigh)), the man trudged back to town to visit the Rabbi. “Rabbi, oh Rabbi, now life is worse than before! With the kids crying, the goat bleating, and my wife bugging me (Dave’s addition, again), I can’t even think. What should I do?” The Rabbi, who clearly had either nits or food stuck on his face, tugged again at his beard, and said, “Do you have a cow? A nice milk cow will do.” The man of course is reluctant to give up the goods as he likely sees where this is going. “Y-yes, I do”, he stammers. The Rabbi, of course, tells the man to put the cow in his little hut. The man must be thinking the Rabbi has lost his marbles but he does as he is told and, as everyone can predict, the cow made everyone moooooove over and shoved her way into the house. Between the cow chewing her cud and dropping it on the baby’s head, the goat had eaten the blinker and cruise control off the family’s brand new SUV (oops! That is not from the Yiddish folk tale but rather from the annuls of Dave and Shelly’s new SUV when L.N. was a puppy. No lie----she ate the gear shift and blinker and cruise control!). Of course, life was a mess for the man and his wife. And I’m certain you know the rest of the story. Every farm animal was soon brought into the home at the advising of the Rabbi (why the man didn’t change advisor’s, one may never know, but stick with me). When finally the Rabbi tells the man to take all the animals out of his house, the man dies of exhaustion. No, no, no, the man goes home, removes the animals from the crazy house and goes back inside. He and his wife exchange glances and, with heavy sighs, agrees the hut has never been so quiet.
Of course, the tale is all about perspective. It truly could always be worse, even when we think we have hit that “worst” wall.
I had the distinct pleasure of talking with a new but very dear friend of mine yesterday. We sat and drank coffee and diet coke on a swing in front of the local grocery store for two hours. She asked me how I made it through the cancer diagnosis last May and the subsequent 9 months of surgeries and diagnoses and waiting and recovery. At first, I looked at her, quizzically and said, “I don’t know. We just did it.” But then, I realized that my M.O. is, and has always been, to look at the situation and know that it could always be worse and deal with it (maybe as fast as I can to get through the tough part). I then said, “Three things got us through it: Dave’s and my love for each other, faith in God, and a sense of humor that is always aided by my dearest friends and family in our lives.
There it is: life could always be worse but if I put all my stuff (my good stuff, my bad stuff, my tough times, my great times) on the table with everyone else’s “stuff”, I will take mine back in a heartbeat. I am who I am because of all I have been through (despite feeling “less than a woman” at times----I think that may be an old BeeGees tune) and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Perhaps we need to examine how we look at our lives and our work and our families and friends and be grateful for all we have been given.
Happy Communicating and love to all,