Surprise, Surprise, Sunny Skies
Today was a big day for myself and my two closest companions, Right and Left. I had my first mammogram. Slam-o-Gram. Whamo-Gram.
Frankly, it was not the nightmare I had been prepared to expect. It was uncomfortable but not excruciating, owing I suppose to the fact that I don’t have too much to work with and, after nearly a combined five years of breastfeeding, what I have is pretty malleable. The experience also was made quite a bit easier by a very skilled and personable technician who kept me informed about what was happening.
She opened the exam with a little speech about surprises. “Let me just tell you. There are lots of great surprises, like diamonds or a vacation, or flowers, or, you know, when you find a little extra cash in your checking account. This is not that kind of surprise.” It was clever and I felt more than prepared for the next 15 minutes.
Yesterday brought another surprise – well, it wasn’t all that surprising, more like a warning shot about a looming serious change in the lives of my kids. It’s the kind of surprise that either can turn out, as I hope, really well, or...not. I guess that's where the surprise comes in.
Life is full of surprises, in fact it's really all about surprises, good and less good. I've gotten kind of comfortable anticipating "surprises" and mitigating or maximizing their impact, depending on the type of surprise, thanks to a little too much practice and a job that has more than fine-tuned my instincts.
But you can't prepare for everything. Last week a colleague and I got one of the worst surprises I can remember in my professional life. We placed a call to a candidate we had been expecting to hear from, and learned that, during the course of a routine biopsy this person had contracted a staph infection and was now fighting for life. It was a stunning piece of news that left us both in tears and a general state of disbelief. The patient is one of the world’s most revered professionals in the classical music field, deeply talented if a little rough around the edges. That’s the bad kind of surprise. I’d have a mammogram every day for the next month if it meant this person would suddenly be well and walk out of the hospital.
The trick to dealing with surprises is to befriend reason. In any highly emotionally charged situation the risk of doing foolish things is alive and well. We all have the capacity to stand outside the situation, examine it as though we were looking on it as strangers to the participants, and see the circumstances through a new and dazzling prism that refract our behaviors and biases so that we can see them for what they really might be. Suddenly we are opened to a new world of possibility, opportunity, and intelligent action. We may not always act with intelligence but the opportunity is always there, as it is with kindness and discretion.
In short, there are no surprises. Just, reactions to them.
I hope my two friends who went along with me today aren’t holding any surprises to report. And I hope that whatever surprises you face this week are the good kind, and if they're not, that you find what you need to get through it.
Here's a helping hand. The jazzy piano solo that backs up Warren, Ohio native and dobro master Jerry Douglas on this version of James Taylor's sweet, skippy tune, "Sunny Skies," from Jerry's 1987 release, Everything Is Gonna Work Out Fine, came as a really pleasant surprise to me. I was grooving on the way home this evening to Jerry, whom I just adore, and found this treasure while looking around. Take this tune with you and it's no surprise you'll find it easier to get through just about anything.