This week I’m in Auckland, New Zealand on a trip provided by the Universe and which I have gratefully accepted. When I received the offer to come to New Zealand, I wasn’t really sure why I was coming here, but each day of the trip so far I’ve learned something about myself. Today I learned a beautiful lesson from a couple of Kiwi friends about choosing my reaction to life.
I’m staying in a friend’s flat. She is conveniently in Australia this week but when she found out I was coming to Auckland, she offered to let me stay in her flat and use her car. Her flat is one of three in a converted big house. Two flats (one of which is hers) is upstairs, one is downstairs.
Another Aussie friend of mine showed up this week too and ended up staying here with me. This morning when we got up, we put a load of laundry in the washing machine, hit the start button and off the two of us went to a local seaside cafe for breakfast and coffee in the sunshine before going for a walk along the beach.
Two hours later, he went to a meeting. I went back to the flat. When I arrived, I found chaos.
Somehow, the washing machine had flooded. There was water throughout the kitchen (where the washing machine is) and the laundry cycle hadn’t finished. That was strange. But then as I was standing there trying to figure out what had happened, I heard a voice at my door.
It was a plumber. Two plumbers in fact. And the property manager.
None of them were very pleased WITH me, but they were very pleased to SEE me.
See, the water wasn’t contained to my friend’s flat. Most of the water, which had been running for almost two hours, had gone straight through the floor and through the ceiling of the tenant below my friend.
This poor guy had woken up to a shower of water coming through all his light fittings in his kitchen and living room. His carpet was soaked. By the time I saw his flat, most of his possessions had been moved to avoid the shower of water. Buckets were under the light fittings and in the kitchen, one light fitting had actually come out of the ceiling and the water was still dripping from the bare wires.
It was a disaster.
I was horrified. I really don’t know exactly what happened to make the machine flood like that. But as worried as I was about my friend’s flat, when I went downstairs to apologise to her neighbour, I was absolutely horrified by what had happened.
This guy didn’t ask to be woken up to water coming through his ceiling. He had to move all of his possessions and call plumbers and the property management people. Presumably he had to take the whole day off work too.
And do you know what his reaction was?
He laughed and shook my hand.
I was standing there in his flat, absolutely horrified and this guy was laughing.
As he shook my hand, he actually said to me, ‘It’s nice to meet you. I don’t think I’ll forget you in a hurry.’ And then laughed.
As I apologised profusely, he held up a hand and said, ‘I figure you didn’t do this on purpose. Stuff happens.’
I couldn’t believe how gracious he was about the whole thing.
And reflecting back on it this evening, although I would hope to be that gracious, I know in my heart I wouldn’t have been. I would have said something cutting or hurtful. I wouldn’t have wanted to do so, but it would have just come out of my mouth.
Then, besides the other person feeling bad, I would have felt bad too. And I would have felt resentful that this had happened. I can just hear the litany of what I would have been telling myself. “What a huge pain in the ass! Having to take the day off from work. Having my kitchen torn apart. Having to have huge industrial driers to dry out my carpet. Moving all my possessions. Drying out rugs and other soft furnishings.”
I wouldn’t have been feeling charitable or gracious. And even if I could have mustered up a bit of graciousness, I know I wouldn’t have been laughing. At the very least, I would have been cursing the idiot who did this under my breath.
Most of my life has been about the drama. Creating it, reacting to it, being part of it, endlessly rehashing it after the fact with anyone who will listen. Any and all of the above.
Lately, I have stepped away from the drama (for the most part). I removed myself from situations and from people who foster that drama queen in me. I don’t want to live that way anymore, so I don’t.
Today I saw the next step in my journey. To move towards finding something to laugh about in every situation. To move towards living with grace and compassion. To find the silver lining. Because it’s always there.
My Kiwi neighbour told me, “It’s all ok, I had already booked an electrician to come out and do some work on Thursday. He can fix up all of the electrics and light fittings when he’s here. Isn’t it great that I’d already called him?” What a gorgeous way to look at it and find a silver lining.
When I rang my friend to tell her what had happened in her flat, she laughed too. “What is insurance for?” was the first thing she said to me. How amazing. No drama. Just a wish from her that this wasn’t going to screw up my week and that she hoped I was still having fun.
Both responses have made me think about my reactions. Not only do I now need to consciously step away from creating drama, I need to consciously step towards reacting to situations with grace. My Kiwi neighbour was correct. I didn’t set out to ruin his day or his flat. Sometimes things just happen.
My conscious reaction is to learn from this experience and to remember to laugh the next time something happens to me that is outside my control. To remember how I felt today when he laughed and shook my hand instead of shouting at me or cursing me. And to remember that sometimes things just happen. I don’t need to add to the drama. I can take a breath and choose to laugh.
My neighbour might not forget me in a hurry, but something tells me, I won’t be forgetting him any time soon either.