Monday, September 2, 2013

Real life gets in the way sometimes.

Over the years, I've developed a few phrases and quirks.  Things that I'll say, for lack of a better term, as catch phrases.  It's cheesy, I know, but it's not something I've ever done deliberately.  They just pop into my head, and then pop out of my mouth.  Think of it as cliché turrettes.  Some of them I've ripped off from books or movies, some I came up with on my own, and quite a few others, I couldn't honestly tell you where, when, or how they came about.

When somebody apologizes for something trivial, I'll often reassure them by telling them, "if that's the worst thing that happens today, I think we're all gonna make it."

I can't begin to count the number of times I've laughingly told a friend or co-worker to, "go die in a couch fire," as a comic way of pointing out that they're being a jerk, or more to the point, a bigger jerk than I'm being.

And of course, there are simpler phrases such as, Good Times™, which is almost never a reference to actual good times.

One of my phrases which I've been thinking of quite a bit lately is this; "real life get's in the way sometimes."  It's every bit as cliché as the others I use, but there's an awful lot of truth to it.  Real life does get in the way of our plans and goals from time to time.  Now, before anybody gets in a twist about me blaming all the ills of the world on things outside my control, that's not what I'm suggesting.  What I am suggesting however, is that life doesn't always go according to plan, and there are important things to learn from it; but I'll explain those as we go.

To put it very mildly, August was a rough month for my wife and I.  The month began with some fairly crushing disappointment and health issues.  When all is said and done, we're both going to be just fine, but it wasn't a lot of fun.

Since then, the breaks have needed replaced on both our cars, and now it seems my car will need to have the ECM (the engine computer) replaced.  All together, we're talking about hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars in auto repairs.  I've had to fire an employee who was actually, as Orson Scott Card might put it, on my private list of people who also qualify as human beings, which is a surprisingly short list.  Between disappointments, health issues, and ugliness at work, my studies have slipped off schedule, and I didn't get far enough to take the Comptia A+ examinations before the end of August, which means that once I've caught up, I'll need to spend a couple extra weeks studying up on the changes with the new 801-802 exams.

A summer that began with a lot of great plans and high ideals seems intent on heading out with a bang; and by "bang" I mean the bang of small arms fire.

So, woe is me.

But not really.

The truth is that while there's been some heartaches and some gigantic headaches, we've come through a rough few weeks with nothing more than some bumps and bruises (figuratively speaking).  Our marriage is strong, we're both in excellent health, I've been given new access and responsibility at work that will translate to marketable IT experience, my choice of study options means I'm just a bit off schedule instead of having to start over, and while the schedule has been adjusted, we're still hoping to own our own home by the end of the year.  Even my blog has barely suffered.  Despite the number of emails and facebook messages I got last week, I missed only one entry.

So what's the secret?

The first is preparation.  Have health insurance.  Have a savings account.  If people expect you to post a new blog every Monday, have a few blogs mostly written and ready to go so that you can keep new content rolling out even if you're feeling a little uninspired for a few weeks.

As I've suggested previously, you need to have a plan, and that plan needs enough flexibility and margin that you don't have to feel like a failure every time life gets a little bit off the track.

The second big secret is something I've learned from my dad.

I remember when the first of my nieces and nephews started to appear.  In particular, I'm thinking of my oldest nephew who is now 18 years old and 6'4".  When he was 2 or 3, he would fall like any other little kid.  He'd fall, land badly, and look up at the nearest person with his bottom lip quivering; just waiting for somebody to tell him it was all going to be alright or ask if he was okay so he could start to wail like a banshee.

Now, when my sister (his mother) was the closest, she'd rush over to him and pick him up, ask him if he was okay, kiss his boo-boos.  My nephew would respond by blubbering.  He would scream as giant crocodile tears streamed down his face.

Whenever my dad was the closest, he wouldn't offer comfort.  He wouldn't ask my little nephew if he was okay.  Instead, he'd plaster a huge and amazed smile across his face and exclaim, "Wow!  That was a really good fall!"  If you were there to watch, you could see the little thoughts floating through my nephew's head one at a time.  First confusion, the pride, then humor, and suddenly the pain and embarrassment were lost and forgotten.  Sometimes my dad would even ask my nephew to do it again, and he would, and then he'd laugh as his grampa applauded.

As cutesy as all that sounds, it applies.  Sometimes, questions like, "how are you doing?" are just really stupid.  How am I doing when I just called in sick to work for the first time in 7 years?  I'm doing pretty horrible, thanks for asking, you goober.  When something irreplaceable has been lost, being told that, "everything will be okay," is the least comforting thing on the planet.

You prepare for falls as well as you're able.  You surround yourself with friends and family who can help to keep you from falling or help to pick you up after you fall.  You depend on your faith for comfort at the worst of times.

You do everything you can, but sometimes, the only real comfort comes from knowing that though we've fallen, it was a really good fall.

I have a theory, that the people who succeed in life are the ones who are always ready and willing when someone asks to see it again.