When my daughter was two, she had so much she wanted to communicate. If it is true females speak 10,000 more words per day than men, Chloe was a tea kettle on a red-hot
stove, whistling the only tune she knew as loudly as she could whistle. Without the vocabulary to meet her desire to communicate she had to resort to creative means of
expression. For example, since she was still in diapers she saw the world in terms of clean diaper, wet diaper and dirty diaper and understood the ramifications of each. When she was
very angry, frustrated, or thwarted in some way she would stomp one chubby leg and declare vehemently, "that's a POOP-IN-THE-PANTS!" This declaration was so loaded (pardon the pun)
she was able to make us all understand completely the intensity of her unhappiness. That declaration has become part of the vernacular of our family. And that's what
these past few weeks have been like for me; one big poop-in-the-pants.
If there is such a thing as temporary, internal Tourette syndrome that would explain the working of my mind as I struggled to come to terms with my new reality, it shouted at me: "Loser!", "Failure!", "Weakling!", etc. The internal battle left me at times almost incapacitated, just going through the motions of my life. As though some Gargoyle was perched on my shoulder, I felt a weight, ugly and uninvited waiting to crush me when I least expected the blow. And I hate that, not knowing what to expect I mean. Don't you?
Here's the thing that really argues in favor of my insanity: I have never, ever, not even once, had the power to control life. Yes, I can choose to turn right or left, chocolate or vanilla, coffee or tea, etc. But the big stuff that catches me off-guard and knocks me on my butt like Cancer, or the telephone call that changes life as I know it; I have no control over that, no way brace myself or be prepared. So knowing this, why do I keep trying to be prepared? And then why am I surprised by life's random twists and, at times, maniacal turns? Although I will be the first to admit I am wound just a bit tighter than the average human wayfarer, I believe we are all inflicted with the same insanity when it comes to our desire to control life, some of us are just, well, a little crazier than others.
For the past five years I have struggled to operate a retail business in a small town. Almost from the first day of ownership the business seemed to be scream at me, "GET OUT!", like the house in the "The Amityville Horror". And did I listen? No. Just like the crazy people in that movie I kept showing up and tried to ignore the stink bubbling up from the basement and the pig-eyes peering at me through the bedroom window.
The business was purchased late in 2005, we were rolling-in-clover financially, or so we thought. We purchased the store based on the audited numbers from the previous three years and they were impressive. Like Dorothy's short-cut through the poppy field on her way to see "The Wizard", all we saw on the horizon was "Oz". By the time we woke up from the dream, we were in too deep to turn back and the flying monkeys were in hot pursuit.
I had a five year plan. My goal was to grow the business to double the historical sales and sell it high in 2010. This goal would be accomplished by caring about each and every customer as an individual. I would groom my employees to have high levels of integrity and always give more than anyone expected. Whoever purchased my business would be left with some very large shoe's to fill but would be so grateful for the legacy I left behind. Well, suffice it to say I fell a bit short of my goal. Not only did I not care about each and every customer as an individual, sometimes I wanted to stick a screwdriver in a rude customer's eye. My employees did not always exhibit high levels of integrity; they stole from me, cheated customers and filed bogus worker's compensation claims. They did succeed in giving more than anyone expected, however, it was mostly grief. To quote a wise Hebrew proverb, "Man plans, God laughs". All I know is I have not been the one laughing, but I certainly made some plans. No part of my plan included the economy's nose-dive into the toilet and losing the business I had worked so hard to cultivate.
So, now what? Do I assume the lotus position, and chant "OM" relinquishing my selfish ambitions because reality is just an illusion anyway? Seriously. This is where I have to take a slow, deep, cleansing breath and exhale: Simplicity. Because when it all boils down, that is what I really want. Admittedly, I have taken some complicated roads if my ultimate destination is simplicity. They have been long and riddled with pot-holes, strange twists and impossible turns. But I have learned a few things along the way. For example, getting kicked-to-the-curb is painful, but the curb offers a wonderful perspective I would have missed from the driver's seat. How long has it been since I sat-on-the-curb of my life? Once I made it through the humiliation of being forced to sit there, it wasn't so bad. From my new perspective I realize I have missed a lot as I sped along, driving toward my destination. Had I been driving more slowly I might have seen the gentle detours along the way and maybe stopped to pick some flowers. Perhaps I would have noticed how the breeze gently bends the blossoms while the same breeze can break those that are rigid or dead. So now, with empty hands and and open heart I move forward, more supple in my spirit than I was before. Or maybe I'll just sit here on the curb a while longer, and breathe. But first, I should probably change my pants.
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