My son loves to play video games. The worst games are the ones that are too easy to beat rendering them useless after only a few hours. The best games are the ones where each level opens a new door, unlocks a new tool, or allows you to explore a new world. I don’t get these games. They seem too complicated to me. Too many rules to learn and too much of an investment in my time to waste. I say this but will spend hours playing Farkle on Facebook, a mindless dice game that involves pure chance and little if any strategy.
But life is a little like these different video games. Sometimes it feels mind numbingly mundane and monotonous. Ironically, these times are what would be classified as “happy” and many of us dream for the happy ending when all is right with the world and we can relax. It gets boring fast. Other times life can be like a struggle for survival and each new lesson learned only ratchets the stakes a little higher to see if we will pass to the next level. We usually call these times of struggle and usually try to escape them as quickly as possible but it’s also where most of the learning and enlightenment take place.
I’ve been so proud of myself lately for all my emotional hurdles I’ve seemed to have managed to surmount without falling on my face or disqualifying myself from the race. I’ve given myself pats on the back for the patience I’ve learned. How well I dealt with Martin’s change of plans. How well I dealt with my divorce. I’m not stupid enough to think I’ve “mastered the game” but I figured I hit some kind of plateau and was enjoying the sense of accomplishment.
But God has ways in this life to teach us that we are never done learning what is truly important. This week I’ve had some tough lessons.
First, yesterday my son accidentally dropped my iPhone and it shattered the screen. I didn’t know it at the time but even shattered everything still works. I was grooming my dog, covered in hair, and tired and I flipped out on him. Yelling at him, telling him to get out of my presence, asking him why. I was pathetic, I was angry…livid. It was an accident. I realized quickly that I overreacted. I was so mad at myself. But I talked to Martin on the phone and something about his tone of voice, his encouraging words, and his love sets me on the right direction. I apologized to my son and realized that these things happen and can be fixed. By the way – AFTER – Martin did all those great things, he told me that our call was still active on Skype and he heard my entire tirade. Ugh. At the time I thought that would be my challenge of the weekend. Wrong.
Perspective, perspective. Lesson learned.
Today as we drove to church I noticed out loud for the first time that I was worried about a noise that my car was making each time I braked or went over a bump. I recently got my front brake pads changed and the drums rotated and I thought maybe it was just a new noise. But the kids heard it too and my daughter suggested I check to see if anything was stuck to the bottom of my car. I meant to but just remained concerned instead.
Don’t ignore the warning signs. Lesson soon to be learned.
While in the drive thru ordering a chicken sandwich for lunch on the way home from church I get a text from my childhood friend, brother of my friend I traveled to Ireland with, who lives in San Fransisco who is also recently divorced, who I’ve known since I was 6 years old. I hung out at their house more than my own growing up and have stayed in close contact ever since. Their dad, my second dad, died today. It wasn’t a complete shock, he was near 80 and just survived a very risky heart surgery that he was not expected to make. He lasted 3 more days. We thought he’d have much longer.
Don’t take things for granted. Lesson learned.
I left the kids at home and set out on the freeway for about a 30 mile trek to mourn with my second family. Right about the time I was changing lanes to position myself for the exit there was a very, very loud clunk and something fell off my car. At first I thought (stupidly), “Oh there was something hanging off my car and now it’s gone.” I’m a chick. I swear I’m really stupid when it comes to cars. But when I got to the off ramp there was a horrible grinding noise that got worse and worse as I drove. I made it to their house and after taking a look at it with them we realized a part of my left front brakes had dislodged itself and was taking chunks out of the inner wheel well of my car.
Don’t ignore warning signs. Lesson now tragically learned.
As I was processing my misfortune I realized that my registration tags were out of date as of the end of July. I swear I did not get the registration in the mail. I never lose mail, I look at everything. So I have lapsed tags on a broken down car that I need towed some place tomorrow for repair.
The beauty of this story was even before I thought or fretted about what I was going to do, everyone around me kicked into action. My friend Karen suggested I take her dad’s car to drive (he would definitely not be needing it where he was) her mom thought it was a great idea. David called a garage that was closed but will arrange for my car to be towed and taken there in the morning. I was among family. And they cared even in the midst of the loss of their dad. They did more than that, they acted on my behalf. They came to my rescue when I thought I was coming to theirs.
Now in video games when you level up THAT much in one day…you usually get a special tool, weapon, or reward. You earn something for all your toiling. I went through my car to get valuables out. I had two Bibles, my phone, and my wallet. So I grabbed it all and opened the door to the old, dirty car that smelled that familiar old car smell, a combination of grime and dust and dirt. I asked David if there was anything I needed to know about the car and he said, “Nope it drives great.” And I sped away. Well, speed is a relative term.
As the modern cars with more than 4 cylinders zoomed passed me as I was straining to hit 40 on the on ramp to the freeway to drive home, I realized that I like nice things, I like things to work, and for there to be no problems in life. But I have love, I have health, and I have my basic needs met and that is really all I need.
I looked at my shattered iPhone and thought of how my son brought down his bottle with all the saved coins he’s collected from the house over the summer. He offered all $9.10 toward fixing my phone. He also applied online at Albertsons and even went to talk to the manager about getting hired. My daughter, knowing I had a rough day offered to fix dinner. I have two great kids and that is more than some people can ever say no matter how many things go wrong in a day.
I smiled as I struggled to look out the dirty windshield to change lanes and realized that for the first time in years (and people who know me will attest to what a miracle this is) I just wasn’t in a rush. I drove my 65 mph pushing that little engine as hard as it would go, so incredibly grateful to have it to drive at all. Grateful for the people who gave it to me without a thought. Grateful for the man who drove that car for years who died today and for the last squeeze of my hand he gave me on Thursday as I kissed him goodbye. Grateful for my life. The good, the bad, the hard, the easy.
Unlike a video game this will continue. After I deal with this aftermath there will be new problems to handle. That’s life. You never ever master this game. God keeps teaching us new things. Some big, hard lessons and some little ones. But the more we learn the more we realize how little we really know.