I have this trick that makes shitty things easier to bear.
Here it is – I have a theory that, before I came to earth, God and I went on a little date. We sat down together and planned out my life. Everything. My family, my physical shell and inner workings, who my friends would be, my strengths and areas where I’d need to struggle. What would happen over the course of the years. That I would be lonely and bullied in high school and that would turn me into a fiercely compassionate, inclusive high school teacher. That I wouldn’t find my heart-mate until much later in life because we both had a ton of different travel and service and loving to do first and it needed to be done solo.
In that moment with God, I said a resounding YES to all of it – and this is important – particularly the hard stuff. Here’s the reason: in that space of perfect love and trust, I knew that if I leaned into grace – really hard, in some instances, it could and would all turn into something beautiful. On that date with God, I was deeply-centered-sure that all would be fine in the end.
We ALL love a great story of someone overcoming adversity, right? I mean look at all the TV shows dedicated to transformation: Pimp my Ride, Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover… This fascinates us on a very deep level. The thought that something, someone, can transform, period. We all hunger for transformation. We look around at our lives, our relationships, our bodies, our world and we say “Really?! Is this all there is? Isn’t more possible?”
I remembered to put this idea to work the other day with smashing success.
I recently moved back from California and, instead of driving a U-Haul truck five days cross-country, I decided to do what felt like a very adult thing to do and hired a moving company. Wrong choice. Or perhaps, the perfect choice.
Here is now the litany of how this went wrong.
- The company stood me up two days in a row before showing up on the third day in an unmarked van with drivers who didn’t wear any sort of identifying uniform, and bearing paperwork that didn’t have the company’s name on it. (We’re busy! We needed to rent this truck! It’s a sister company – that’s why there’s a different name on the paperwork…)
- There were two options for insurance – one required that the company issue it to me, but it was 7 am and the office was closed. Also, it needs to be issued before the truck leaves the lot. Two – the standard protection insurance – $.60 per pound if anything that gets damage. So…a $1,000 stereo that weighs 10 pounds? $6. That’s right. But that was the only option for me, so I signed it because they wouldn’t load my things unless I did and my plane was leaving later in the day and I didn’t want to have to buy a new plane ticket. “We’ll take great care of your things – don’t worry!”
- The non-binding estimate was off and my things took up more space than what the guy on the phone thought it would, so I owed them $800 more, payable on delivery since I didn’t have it.
- The driver wanted to know when the first day would be that I could receive my things and they way he was speaking make me feel like they might very well arrive then. So I set a date for 2 weeks in the future, confident I’d be able to make the addition money before then. What I didn’t realize in the fine print was that they have 30 business days after the first possible date of delivery to get my things to me before owing me a per diem refund. I just gave them TWO MONTHS. But no one thinks that it will take two months for a moving company to get them their things right?
- When my things did not, in fact, arrive after two weeks, I kept calling and calling and frequently no one would answer, or if they did, I’d get immediately routed to an answering machine and would never get a call back. At this point, I was seriously questioning if it was even a legit company and if I was ever going to see my collection of journals or lovely beach cruiser in two tones of blue or teaching files or copper Italian pot with hand-riveted handles ever again. This was endless frustrating.
- Finally! I’m told that my stuff has been loaded and is on its way. And a week and a half later I hadn’t gotten a call yet to arrange drop off. I call to find out what the story is and actually, my things are still in storage in San Francisco…or is that Los Angeles – the dispatcher doesn’t know… and they’re looking for a driver. WTF.
- Two weeks later, it really is on its way. Truly. I get in touch with the driver who tells me that he watched it all get loaded and that the boxes are mangled and held together with tape and that lots of them sound like they have smashed things in them. According to the guy loading it all, it had been moved FOUR different times (up and down from SF to LA and back again), and obviously by people who threw and dropped the boxes instead of stacking the with any kind of care.
At this point, I am furious and feeling totally victimized. I can’t withhold payment because then nothing will get dropped off and the driver isn’t connected with their company, he’s just a contracted driver. The best I can hope for is $.60 per pound of all my beautiful dishes and who knows what else that’s been destroyed. By the time things will arrive, it will have been 8 weeks later. EIGHT WEEKS. The bike riding I’d been looking forward to doing won’t happen since it was damaged and I needed to order a part to make it ride-able and it’s now rainy cold Midwest fall. This company won’t suffer in the least and won’t have to pay more than $30 or so if I go through the trouble to meticulously photographing everything and filling out all the complaint forms. For two days I’m almost physically ill I’m so angry and feel so impotent. (Thinking about all the other atrocious and much more extreme ways people are victimized does not seem to help at this point.)
And then. I remembered my Ultimate Existential Hack.
What if I said yes to the delay and the broken dishes and wrecked bike and extra financial outlay? Truthfully, when I was packing everything up, I did feel a little bit claustrophobic with how many things I do have. And I could make a mosaic with the broken pieces since they’re all beautiful colors and interesting textures. The thought of a few less boxes feels curiously liberating. And I only get panicked about money when I think there’s not going to be enough, not when I’m confident that more will come my way exactly when I need it.
Somehow, knowing that I agreed to that happening strangely made it alright.
The day the truck finally arrived, after breaking down on the highway in the rain that morning, I had a peaceful heart. The mover guys (who had no fault in the delay or broken stuff) were as amazed as I was at how easy it was to joke and laugh and say “Those motherf@ckers! Look at this mess! What were they doing, heaving the boxes into the truck?”
They got my things unloaded and packed into the basement in record time.
I grilled us lunch and made smoothies with raspberries from the garden. We had a picnic together in the backyard. David talked to us about what it’s like being a black man in the US right now and Gabriel share how he lost his dad, brother and infant stillborn daughter all in the past three months. We prayed together. Had some good laughs. Told a few stories. They both gave me and my dad giant hugs before climbing into their enormous, unmarked white moving fan and heading off to Grand Rapids.
If I’d been still caught in my rage at the perfidy of this unscrupulous moving company, I would have completely missed out on the gift of that day and of these two men.
Beauty from ashes. Or, more specifically, from dish shards.