No Better Life Than This One: Choosing Joy

July 31, 2010

Today sucked royally. I started the day saddled with the dread of a project (replacing the hot water heater) that I just knew was going to go badly. This project was going to go badly because:

  • I couldn’t get to all of the fittings to measure what size they were and therefore didn’t know for sure what to buy to replace them.
  • The old water heater may have or may not have fit out through the available hole… Oh no. It didn’t.
  • The beginning of the project involved cutting the safety net (all of the hoses, strapping, and electrical) thereby completely committing me to raving success or miserable failure.
  • The space that I had to work in was miserably small, virtually guarantying several minor concussions, gashes, and bruises (check, check, and check)
  • The very best that I had hoped for was to get enough done that I could safely turn on the pressure water in the evening (cold only) to do the dishes from the margaritas.

So after a grumpy breakfast, and a grumpy trip to the chandlery and the hardware store, I grumpily made by way back down the dock with not quite enough parts to complete the project, and a pretty bad attitude. I was short tempered all morning, and when I finally remeasured the new hot water heater and found that it was something like 10″ too tall for the space it was going into, I was pretty certain that I was going to go stratospheric. When I then remeasured the old heater and found that there was no possible way to get it out without removing the countertop, I thought I would cry.

At about this point Victoria called me from the end of the dock (she had left about 30 minutes before with Miles) and—after hearing my sad story—wisely suggested that I take a break for lunch. By 3pm we were back on the boat and I had (after a final trip to Home Depot) finally enough parts to route around the water heater so we could turn the pressure back on.

I was in a black black mood, and really didn’t want to see or hear from anyone. I was snippy with the kids and Vick was just staying out of my way. I was so deeply enfunked that I didn’t even want to take my tools back to the man-van, but I knew that I at least had to do that much. For reasons that I’m still not sure of, I asked Ruby to join me and we headed down the dock at a good clip. She was chipper and full of bounce. I said something like “this has been a pretty rotten day for me.” “Not for me,” she replied with an smile, “I thought it was a great day.” I think this was the moment that things started to shift. By the time we walked back through the gate I was aware of the supreme calm of the water and air. My personal rain clouds had been parted by the deep red sunset, and the disappointment in my failure had been replaced by forgiveness and reflective understanding that I was doing more to harm myself and my family by choosing to respond to my failures in this way, than by depriving them of hot water for a week.

Tonight, at bed time, I put my ego aside and reveled in my father role. I horsed around with the kids and we made up silly stories together in Miles’ berth. We roared with laughter and everyone went to bed happy. It strongly reinforced one of my core beliefs: “You can’t control your life, but you can control how you respond to it.”

1 comment

  1. Comment by Dad

    Dad August 2, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Oh, I know that feeling. When I’m in a rage over a bolt I’ve just broken and wanting to stir the insides of the engine compartment up with a flailing wrench, my better side, usually missing in action at the moment, would tell me it’s time to take a break and come back later if only it could be heard. Sometimes my better side is my better half. She lures me away with the promise of food or fun. Almost always the problem is easier when I come back. Usually, the solution lies in making some decision I’ve been avoiding; like buying the right tool, or moving something that I’ve been trying to work around and was just too lazy to take out.

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