Expect the unexpected, dear reader.
Expect the unexpected.
OK, now that I’ve got your attention: Expect the unexpected.
We only must repeat this sentence three times because we, as humans, so often long for the expected, the habitual, the comfort zone, the easy path, our familiar ways.
We truly don’t want to be alarmed, alerted, confused, thrown into not-knowing what to do next.
We want our morning coffee. We want to drive to work on the same roads, dodging the same traffic, headed in the same direction. We want to return home to the same loving faces, the same kinds of dinners, the same bedtime rituals.
We humans are lovers of patterns, routines, safe secure habitats.
Yet, Life itself, the sweet pearl of it, is always unexpected.
It never faithfully behaves as we expect.
Change is the only constant, the wise ones insist, and oh how astute this is, isn’t it?
The world changes on a dime. Or it changes, slowly, slowly, slowly, as in our children growing toward adulthood, their faces and lithe bodies imperceptibly growing older, older, a tad bit older, and suddenly they’re graduating from high school and slamming the door behind them as they leave for college and we’re left at home wondering, wondering, where did the Time go? How did this happen? How did we not see this coming?
The Unexpected visits us every day. It visits us with a phone call, a ring on the doorbell, a deer outside the window, a wonderful email, a sad message, a slap in the face, a hug that won’t end.
It visits when an egg breaks, a motor sputters, a child announces wedding plans, a beloved grandfather dies. It arrives like popcorn popping, pop, pop, pop, bursting our bubble of habitual expectation. It comes like an angel or devil, the face of God or utter despair.
It comes, dear reader, it comes.
How can we expect the unexpected, to live with its continual knock-knocks without pushing it away, attempting to blanket ourselves beneath a tent of familiarity? How can we maintain equilibrium as change moves in as our ever-present partner, our unexpected wife or husband, our life?
I decided to count the number of times Unexpected visited our Little House in the Woods recently.
Shall you count her visits in your life as well? And did you welcome her in, heat the kettle with hot water, pour tea for her? Or did you try to push her out the door in denial, in tears, in frustration, trying to keep her away like the most persistent Jehovah Witness who ever smiled your way?
Here are my unexpected happenings:
1) I am now a famous wild leek expert. No kidding. How these things happen is an utter mystery. A month or so ago, in the midst of the Freshly Pressed hoopla, the phone rang. It was the editor of Lake Superior Magazine, a friendly editor named Konnie. She had discovered my blog about wild leeks and wanted to utilize a picture for their glossy magazine. Would I comply? WOULD I COMPLY? Of course, Konnie, whatever you would like. Would you like to know every blessed fact about wild leeks this person has ever gleaned? I sat down and scribbled everything I knew about wild leeks in a notebook and awaited her phone call. Then shared every wild leek fact she might desire, and what other facts would you like, Konnie? And now yours truly has been quoted, not once, not twice, but several times, half an article really, about wild leeks. They call me Kathy Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Leek, no kidding. How unexpected! How fun!
2) More crazy than that–talk about unexpected–my Dearly Beloved has snatched Sunday’s toilet blog for appearance in the local weekly newspaper this week. No kidding. Should I run and hide? Hide behind the locked bathroom door for a week or two before this blows over? It’s one thing to blithely publish a toilet post in blog-land. It’s another to publish this in a local newspaper. My mother-in-law just sighed, “Oh no.” My daughter just said, “Perhaps you should reconsider.” But no! I expect the unexpected. What shall be, shall be. Fame for leeks and fame for toilets all in one week…
3) The Weather. What can we do, we Upper Peninsula residents, we Midwesterners used to shivering in March? It is supposed to be snowing. It is supposed to be cold. It is not supposed to be 82 degrees (27.8 Celsius) with all of us sweating and bemoaning, “It’s too hot!” longing for cold, a tiny bit cooler please, a tiny bit less heat? This is more than unexpected. It’s record-breaking. And we’re wondering whether our trees will die when the hard frosts and snow returns, yes, we’re wondering, this is so unexpected, what are we to do in March when the weather turns into the pinnacle of summer, what are we to do?
3) A friend commented today: she will attempt to read my blog as the beginning of “lectio” every morning. Lectio is a spiritual practice where you deeply pause by a psalm or Bible passage or other spiritual writing and allow it to penetrate deep, deep, deeper still. My heart stopped in utter joy when my friend said she would do this here at Lake Superior Spirit. Perhaps she didn’t know that I often try to create this blog as deep spiritual sharing without using explicit spiritual words (OK, sometimes) and that this sometimes succeeds and sometimes utterly fails, but it’s always an attempt of this heart. That she would perhaps sense this and read this blog as preview to lectio–my God, my heart, I want to cry in the pure amazement of it. How unexpected. What a gift!
4) I bought a book in Marquette last weekend: “The Best Buddhist Writing 2011.” How I want to write the one of best Buddhist writings in 2012! I am not really a Buddhist, although perhaps 52.6% might qualify. Is it still possible to succeed in this goal without being a card-carrying Buddhist? Last weekend I paused to drink in the writings in this book, to attempt to join eternally with the Universe. I poured a cup of tea, and read. A fly arrived, uninvited, in my tea cup. It back-paddled furiously, and then perished. Very unexpected indeed! Did I drink the tea anyway, after fishing out the fly? What do you think? Would a “real” Buddhist drink the tea with equanimity?
5) I reached for an apple. A wasp reached for it first. It is good to see the wasp before one grabs the apple. Years ago I reached for a green onion upon which a wasp perched. Tried to rescue to wasp and shoo it out the window toward freedom. The wasp did the unexpected and stung. I ended up in the emergency room when a red line zinged toward the heart from the wasp sting. Very unexpected. This time I left the apple alone and photographed it instead.
6) I pad out to the mailbox, intending to sit beside a tree before returning to the house. It’s so hot. The snow banks melt. I gather a small pile of mail and lean against a tree. Open an envelope–what? Hey, it’s from a beloved blog reader , wow! And here is a check for a substantial sum made out to my name–what? I read the letter carefully and the blog reader is sending this money for one of my friends who is challenged, suffering. A friend I wrote about in a recent blog. Amazement! I sit under the tree in the baking hot March sun and thank every star in the Universe for people who unexpectedly follow their hearts…
6) And finally, one last bit of unexpected news. My daughter just met one of MY blogging friends from South Africa! How cool is that? How amazing, how unexpected! Reggie, from Grains of Sand, recently visited the United States and sent me beloved post card after post card from a half-dozen locales as she traversed through Kentucky, Washington DC, Gettysburg, other towns. Every day at the mailbox I would almost cry from the beauty of her sharing, her thoughtfulness. Last week, just as she and her husband prepared to return to South Africa, they met my daughter, Kiah, in Manhattan. Is that unexpected, or what?
What unexpected pleasures and pains have roosted in your house, your email in-box, your mailbox, your telephone, your trip to town? Do you cherish the unexpected, or push it away?
We only think we know what will happen next. Yet we never, ever know. Especially now, as the Spring Equinox approaches…anything can happen. Anything can happen, and it just might…