If you look back on your life, could you pick one single year that has been more eventful than others? I suppose it depends on what you use for a measuring stick. The loss of a loved one, a critical illness, catastrophes all have their own impacts. Every once in a while, the impact of the events from one year make that year more memorable than others.
This past year has been like that for me. I went from being a highly respected internal consultant travelling frequently to locations in Europe and the US to being completely rejected by old colleagues and comrades in what seemed like just a minute. The blog you are reading is almost one year old and was started as a means to keep some sanity as things just kind of spiraled out of control.
In just a minute, my reputation that I had spent years building through many achievements and sacrifices was suddenly shattered.
Years of travelling on weekends, navigating my way through countries where people spoke English nearly as badly as I tried to speak their language. Walking the floors of countless un-air-conditioned factories trying to improve people’s lives vanished as quickly as the wisps of smoke coming from their stacks. Loyalty to a company that denied it to you the one time you needed it. Patrols on submarines that lasted months at a time leading to a commission as an officer suddenly had very little value.
It doesn’t matter what the reason was anymore
It just seemed like a poor exchange for a lifetime of service to be denied the use of my life’s experience over something that could have really been treated with a bit of understanding and compassion. Like so many before me though, I found that it could all change in a minute. With the climate in today’s workplaces, it has consequences that can last a lifetime. Maybe its good that isn’t as immeasurable as it used to be.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in the garage helping to move boxes around. Now you know that my life has really changed if you find me working to support a garage sale. Having other people poking around my old stuff and frowning when they have to pay a few dollars for something that cost a lot more just sort of makes me cranky. But the last year has been a bit tough as we have tried to reinvent ourselves. Getting rid of the past was an acceptable exercise that day.
I have a lot of books from all of those years of consulting and I love my books. Storing them, once I had to empty my office, was a bit of a hassle but we managed to find places. I remember reinforcing the shelf just to be sure it would not collapse from the added weight. I actually even thought about that as I placed the box back up after looking for books that were excess. As I set the box on the shelf, I could almost feel the extra supports pulling away from the wall as the shelf collapsed.
The shelf that was right above our water heater. The water heater that had no local shut off valves. The water heater that suddenly started spraying hot water from the now broken pipes. Water that was spraying all over the stuff we had put together to sell the next day. Frankly, it didn’t even take a minute.
After everything that has happened in the past year, I asked the only question that made sense as I ran to the far side of the house to shut off the water supply…
“Why are you so mad at me?”
We had recently read the book of Job as part of our morning devotionals. In the 31 years we had been married up to last June, if you had said morning devotionals, I would have said, yes, I pray every morning that nothing gets in the way of my success. Doing a morning devotional together was not on the schedule and frankly my health showed it. Plus reading about suffering in a year when you have lost so much yourself seemed to be a bit on the overkill side.
The lessons we have learned as we have prayed together, cried together, smiled together, and read the Word together have made a difference. As the water was spraying however, I was reminded that I am still a work in progress.
I ran back to the garage and my bride had already started moving things out of danger. I was a bit agitated but did not swear. I did ask Him a few more times, WHY ARE YOU SO MAD AT ME? She calmly reminded me that it was only stuff and I tried my best not to think about the notification I had just received that the unemployment had run out. Our savings had been used to help start a fledgling business that still had not produced a single dollar. The IRA is the last bit left. I was trying my best not to be mad at Him.
I called the plumber and you know they showed up almost right away. He and I moved all the rest of the junk out of the way so he could work on the water heater. After making sure I had the power off, he started working and at one point called me over.
“Did you know you had a fire in the lower elements?”
He pulled back the blackened insulation where the melted units were hiding and said “You are very lucky. It looks like the other elements could have gone at any time and this time it would have caused a much larger fire.”
The corner where the fire would have been would have allowed the flames to spread quickly. If we were not home, we could have lost everything including Angus and Rufus who still have not mastered opening anything more than the doggie door. It is locked when we are away.
If we were home we could have lost everything that matters. The open attic above us would spread a fire quickly and we both sleep pretty deeply. I have rechecked all of the smoke alarms.
It took a day to get a replacement and we both looked at that event with a different point of view. My Brother-in-Law, Sister-in- Law and their boys transferred money to our bank account the next day. More than enough money. They reminded us that we had done for them over the years (although I don’t think it was ever that much). Their generosity and kindness will be remembered. True family comes through when you need them.
When the worst of things happen, they often have reasons we can’t understand. The lesson learned is to not become a victim. If I have learned anything in this past year, it is to listen more carefully, be more compassionate when others have their struggles, and learn to be thankful for the things that really matter. I look forward to my daily conversation with God and my best friend. I think we are starting to really learn some things.
In the week that followed, I got my first paid speaking event. More are starting to come through. I have been getting some requests from my website for information and even some face to face requests for my service and knowledge about my old field. We are going to make it. Success will come one customer at a time. The fact that I was too busy to blog this week is a perfect example of how things don’t stay the same forever.
Tragedy and success both share many traits.
The biggest one I believe in is that they can both happen in just a minute.
The trick is taking more than just a minute to understand which is which.
Get out there and have a great week!