My roommate Shane and I are typical bachelors in many ways. I’ve got a Superman poster in my bedroom. Shane’s got a bunch of Star Wars toys in his. The furniture in our place is a mishmash of used pieces, chosen for utility and convenience over what’s stylish or “in”. You’ll find a stack of comic books behind the toilet in our bathroom.
Our meals aren’t exactly Martha Stewart-approved either. Shane recently had cottage cheese, celery, cucumber slices, peanut butter toast and yogurt for supper one night. I had a hardboiled egg with a side of broccoli, carrots and some cold brown beans.
So I was surprised and impressed when Shane tried to get domestic and make a pie from scratch this past weekend. He’d been thinking about it and planning it for quite a while. His mom got him a brand new pie plate and a pie cookbook for his birthday this year. He hummed and hawed for a long time, trying to figure out which pie he wanted to make. He finally landed on a maple-walnut pie. I was rooting for rhubarb or cherry but this was his baby so I didn’t fight him on it.
He went out at 8 am on Sunday to purchase all the ingredients he needed. He followed the directions on the recipe precisely. He preheated the oven and set it to exactly the correct temperature. He timed it all perfectly. This was the result:
Ain’t nothing pretty ‘bout that. As far as pie fails go, this ranks pretty high.
Turns out our oven is actually a portal to the surface of the sun. As a result if you leave anything in there for more than a moment, it’ll burn to a crisp. Of course, had we been in the habit of using the oven more instead of eating toast and cottage cheese for supper, we may have known this.
Moral of the story
Life is full of curveballs. External factors outside our control can derail even the best-laid plans. Shane did everything right but in the end was foiled by an appliance on the fritz. I’m sure my friend Julie who manages a golf course can also attest to this fact. She can have a big tournament organized and planned to the finest detail. But she can’t keep those skies from opening up and stop the rain from coming.
Self-help programs that insist that all you need to do is be positive and work hard to get anything in life bug me. Don’t get me wrong, positive thinking and tenacity are key to life. But we’re still living in a physical world where external factors affect the trajectory of our lives. (My serial novel over at Plot Hinge is based around this idea!)
Homelessness is one example. Assuming that a homeless person should just stop being lazy, pull his socks up and get a job is unfair. 9 times out of 10 (hell, 10 times out of 10) there are external factors at play (be it mental health, addictions, the economy, etc.) that we should be sensitive to that need to be addressed.
As a former project manager and a bit of a control freak, I know these external wild cards can really ruin a person’s day. The best you can do is accept that something unexpected can and usually does happen, have a plan B, be quick on your feet to adapt your new reality and make any changes you can to reduce the chances of it happening again (like getting our oven fixed… or just sticking with the store-bought pies).
What do you think? Do you have examples of how life throwing curveballs at you?
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Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.