This was a great weekend for me. While the backdrop nationally was President Trump’s inauguration and the peaceful protests for the rights of women, minorities, and the poor, my focus was a little more personal.
Friday and Sunday nights we had parties (YAY!) where my son invited over his friends for dinner, games, art or music making, and general hanging out. As I’ve already written, they gave me a vision of unity that overrode the conflict I saw in the news.
But the evening in-between may have offered me even more spiritual growth.
The evening in-between, Saturday night, our utility room flooded.
First, I’ll give you a little bit of context about this situation. We live in an unconventional house, built over 50 years ago by my unconventional father-in-law. He splurged on some things, like fancy door knobs and a table made of a single slab of Wake County granite dug out of nearby-by Falls Lake. But he went cheap on some other things, such as the plumbing and drainage system.
So this was not the first time that room had flooded. Also, our ground floors are polished brick, which is kind of a nice, unusual, and natural floor. But apparently the bricks are porous and if water gets under the house, it can seep, or even pour, into our house from beneath.
That night, my son was out with his friends, and my husband was out of town. I was busy in the kitchen, preparing food for the next evening’s festivities. So when I wandered into the utility room for something and discovered the standing water on the floor, there were only me and the cats there to deal with it.
And we all know how much help cats are when there is work to be done.
I gathered up all the towels I could find and laid them down to soak up as much water as possible. I put them in the dryer (which, fortunately, is in the same room) and then pulled out my mop to start mopping up the rest.
As I did that, I knew I had a choice. While I mopped, I could be angry and resentful that I was mopping when I needed to be getting ready for a much more fun occasion. I could blame my father-in-law for saddling his own family with a house with bad drainage. I could be a victim of the fact that my son and husband weren’t there to help and that even the cats had abandoned me.
Or I could choose something else to think about while I mopped.
As I’ve also written earlier, I’m currently reading The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Reverend Tutu. One point they keep making is that while an experience like happiness depends on the situation, joy is a quality of Spirit. When we are in touch with Spirit, we can maintain our joy regardless of our external circumstances.
So….was I just going to read the book and think about how brilliant these guys are? Or was I going to try to practice their teachings?
I chose to practice.
I started out with gratitude. What could I be thankful for about this mopping? Here are some of the things I came up with:
- My friend Barb had offered to take my son to and from the event, which meant that I was actually here to deal with the situation instead of coming home late at night and having to handle would would have been worse when I was already tired and ready to go to bed.
- The flooding took place in the utility room, which doesn’t have much furniture and such, so it is easier to access the water and mop it up.
- We don’t have any carpet in that room, so I didn’t have to deal with a soaked rug.
- Because it had been raining, I hadn’t taken my usual walk, so going back and forth to the bucket would help me reach my daily goal of 10,000 steps.
- The pushing and pulling of the mop was also giving my arms a good work-out.
- My body is strong and healthy and is able to mop.
- The house was flooded in this room, but the other ten or so rooms were dry and protecting me from the elements.
Perhaps there were some others, but eventually I either ran out or just switched to a different thought process. One of the maxims I like to believe is “The universe is always conspiring on your behalf.” So if that is true-if there was some benefit, some message from the universe behind the flooding-what could it be?
I pondered that for a while. By the time I had gotten the standing water off the floor, I had decided that the experience was a metaphor for abundance in my life. Not only would the blessings pour down from above, but they would also spring up from below-if I allowed it.
That idea was hilariously, woo-woo-ily confirmed the next day when I attended my spiritual center service (in my most Pepto-Bismol-pink outfit in support of human rights) and listened to our minister, Mr. Bill, say just about the same thing in his talk, which was replete with water imagery. He also told the story about a man who discovered his young son playing joyfully in a pile of manure the man had bought for fertilizer. When he asked his son what he was doing, the boy replied, “With all this manure, I know there has to be a pony here somewhere.” The lesson, according to Mr. Bill, is that when we are faced with a pile of manure, to look for the pony.
I thought that was it until we came downstairs Monday morning to discover water on the floor again. This time, however, my husband was home, and announced that since the water was warm, it was coming from a leaky water heater rather than from the rain.
We called the plumber, who arrived promptly and confirmed my husband’s diagnosis. That was also kind of hilariously woo-woo, because on my list of things to do on Monday was to call the plumber about our two bathrooms. In one, the water in the toilet was running constantly, while the in other, the water in the sink was barely running at all. Mr. Daniel, who was such a great guy, drained the water heater so there would be no more leaking, fixed what he could, and left us with a bill and a promise for someone to come back tomorrow to replace our hot water heater and restore our hot water.
And, of course, the water was still on the floor. Thus, I got to return to mopping. Obviously, the universe had a message for me that I had not yet received. I guess I had not yet found my pony.
I knew there were many things to be grateful for, in addition to the ones from Saturday, including:
- Our plumber was so nice.
- It was in the 50s, so it wasn’t unpleasant to have the door open so they could run a pipe to drain the water heater water outside.
- Although our water heater seemed ancient, it was still under warranty, so we didn’t have to pay the $1,250 it would cost to buy a new one (so YAY it leaked now instead of when it wasn’t under warranty).
- We had the money in the bank to pay the not-insignificant labor and associated costs with installing a new water heater, even if we didn’t have to pay for the heater itself.
- These minor issues with sinks and toilets were getting dealt with on the side, so it was a cost-efficient way to get all our plumbing problems fixed.
But what was the larger issue? I figured it all came down to flow. I believe what we give off comes back to us. And I believe in a universe that is giving and wants to deliver what we want. But I look at our plumbing, and I see: a toilet that is running all the time, a sink that is hardly running at all, and a water heater that is leaking. So I figure that is a metaphor for my life. Some aspects I’ve putting out too much. Some I’m not letting go. Some I’m holding but allowing parts to leak out in an unhelpful way.
So I’m thinking my spiritual lesson is that I need to make sure that all my energy is flowing in two-way channels: giving and receiving. I can work on receiving in the areas that I tend to give, and increase my giving in the areas I usually receive. So that is my focus for the immediate future.
As I write this, so far today three new plumbers have come to help fix our physical plumbing problems. One is an older white man who knew my father-in-law (who is now deceased) and may have installed the old water heater (he knew he had done some of the work on the plumbing years ago). Another was a really friendly black man, and the third was a pony-tailed Latino. They are all really nice and seem to know what they are doing (I’m pretty ignorant in this area, so while they explain things to me, I mostly just trust what they tell me). And they are another reminder that even in this family-owned small business in the heart of the South that is 35 years old, diversity is the new reality.
So can I really say I was filled with joy through this whole experience? Maybe not ALL the time. But can I see the blessing and learning from it? Definitely. I have a new appreciation for brick. Brick seems like this solid, inflexible thing. But actually, brick is a superior building material, because brick has mastered flow. During the winter, brick absorbs the heat from within the house and then radiates it back at night. During the summer, brick retains the heat that would otherwise be making the air inside the house hot. Brick can collect water from the outside and transfer it to the inside atmosphere if it is too dry, or vice versa. The many minuscule channels within the brick allows energy and moisture to flow both ways to serve where they are needed most.
So flow is my new pony. In fact, maybe if I do it right, I can turn it into my rainbow unicorn…because why not do it big, right?