I got a call a couple of months ago.
“I am sorry, ma’am, but the carpenters accidentally threw away your dishwasher. You will have to order a new one.”
Here is some context. While I was away, I renovated my old kitchen and replaced ancient appliances. The dishwasher was not one of the old appliances. I had just bought it. But three weeks into the renovation, it found its way into a dumpster and was hauled away. It was an accident, no one meant for it to happen, but it did.
And this incident reminded me of a simple fact of life. Life is not about what happens to you…it is about how you respond to what happens to you.
I imagined my old self. Getting angry, demanding to know how this happened. Demanding that it be fixed immediately. Perhaps a “why me” moment.
But my new self knew that it was just an accident. My new dishwasher got put in the wrong pile. No one wanted it to happen.
And that is life. Many things that happened in our lives were not something that we wanted to happen.
They just did.
And our character has grown from how we adjusted to these things that just happen. Some call it wisdom. Others call it perspective. But I see it as the necessary learning on life’s journey.
Life isn’t about what happens to us…it is about learning from what happens to us. Life is about becoming less self-centric and seeing the broader picture and yes, recognizing that those who did it are as human as I am. Recognizing that the contractor did not want to make that call; nor did he want to tell me that it would further delay an already much delayed renovation. I knew that he felt bad about it, the carpenter and workmen who did it also felt bad about it.
My response. First, I needed time to get past my reactive self, so I made up an excuse and told him that I would call him back.
Then I reflected how this was a minor incident compared to what I have had to deal with. I reflected how lucky that I am that I can replace my old appliances. I know that in the grand scheme of my life this really doesn’t matter.
My new self called him back.
“I’ll pick out a new one on the appliance company’s website and let you know.”
Thank you, maturity.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.