Hot Water Lessons...
Yesterday I wrote about believable delusions. Today, I have a real life experience about this that happened on the very day that I wrote about such a subject.
I am not stymied by much in life. I am a solutions oriented person and almost always find the path through. This is not to say that I am not in my own way, I am a lot actually, but it seems lately that I am really working towards seeing my own dysfunction and growing beyond it. Yesterday was a perfect example.
It started innocently enough, I wanted to take a bath. So I ran a bath and waited for the tub to fill. I put in my bath salts and waited some more. When it was ready, or so I thought it was ready, I got in. I was shocked to find that the water was tepid, cool even.
Now I had just run an entire bathtub full of water and was so looking forward to a nice long, hot soak. And that was not going to happen because, so it appeared, I did not have hot water.
I was immediately annoyed. Annoyed about the bath or rather now the lack of a bath. I was annoyed that I couldn’t proceed with my plans as planned. But mostly I was annoyed that I now had to find a solution to a problem that I didn’t want to have. This is a metaphor for my life...me having to find solutions to problems I didn’t know that I had and then upon learning that I have that problem being even more pissed off that I have it...
But there I was. Without the hot bath I wanted, and now a problem to be solved. Here is my thought process in order of appearance in my head:
"Well, if I just leave it alone I am sure there will be hot water tomorrow."
"Call the plumber, he can come tomorrow and figure it all out."
"Call a friend to come help you deal with this intractable problem."
I quickly eliminated option #3 because I could think of no friend that I could call to ask for help. This isn’t because I don’t have any, it is just that I could not get out of my own way to bother someone with an issue that I was pissed off that I was having. I was inconvenienced and I would be dammed if I would drag someone else into it.
I then revisited solution #1, I mean I do believe in miracles but I am pretty sure never in the history of the world has a hot water heater pilot light ever just relit itself. So my magical thinking that if I just ignored the issue (believable delusion), it would go away was just folly. And a long standing methodology for me to skip over that which I do not like or want to deal with...
So that landed me on option #2. And to be honest, if I would have been employed, this would have been my go to option. I would have called Mike and that would have been that. The fact that I needed a shower first thing in the morning would have now been a problem I transferred onto Mike. Even though it was totally not his problem. I would have wanted and somewhat expected that Mike change his entire Thursday so that I could have hot water when I wanted and needed it. The level of selfishness was too much even for me, so I began, totally begrudgingly, to consider any other possible options.
I had the thought that maybe I could fix the problem on my own. (Shocker!) The truth of the matter is that I am pretty handy. I can and do fix a lot of things. I am not helpless. I am competent. But I prefer, and I am really not sure why, to have others handle these types of issues. I need to look at this.
Now keeping in mind that I was naked, getting into the bath, I was immediately irritated that any other solution would require me either putting on clothes that I just took off or going outside to the front and side of my house naked. I mention this only because the struggle to put back on clothes was real. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to take the bath, put on my pjs and be done with the day.
I would not subject my neighbors to me heading out the front door naked, so the second major hurdle was to put back on clothes. The first one being accepting that I had a problem to begin with...
So I put on clothes, got my phone for a flashlight, got a lighter (who knew that you don’t actually need a lighter to relight a pilot light on a hot water heater!?) and my readers and headed out to do battle with the formidable hot water heater. I immediately assessed that this would be a longer job, so I returned back inside to get a stool so that I could sit while I did the most ridiculous thing...read the directions for relighting the pilot light...
And I can’t tell you how much I didn’t want to do this. I at first tried my own ideas about relighting the pilot light. Those, of course, failed. Apparently, the directions are there for good reason. Again, who knew?
So I read the fucking directions, while being so irritated that I was being forced to take time out of my very busy life to do such a mundane thing. And I had to read them several times because I just read a couple of sentences, then thought that I “had it” and so I had to do it several times because that is how long it took me to accept that I had to read the entire instructions (I will throw myself under the bus here and admit that the directions were three lines long. Three fucking lines that I would not take the time to read! What the fuck is even wrong with me!?).
So I read all three non-lengthy or complex lines. And then I did the very hard thing of following the instructions precisely. I did not read all the other instructions about what one, two, three, up to eight blinking lights meant. I just read the pertinent instructions and ignored all the other writing that made me a little panicky.
And guess what? I lit the fucking pilot light. First try after reading the instructions. And had hot water before I crawled in bed. Who the fuck knew?
Why am I telling you all of this about a stupid hot water heater and total first world problem?
Because this is what plagues humans every day:
First our inability to admit there is a problem “perhaps I will have hot water tomorrow if I do absolutely nothing to fix the issue.”
Second to seek help from others when we haven’t even really tried to solve the issue ourselves “Mike the plumber will come and fix it for me. I am sure he is just sitting around waiting for my call and my $150 to do something that if you know what you are doing takes like three minutes”
Third to not make your problem someone else’s problem “My friends have better things to do than to uproot their evening to come to my rescue from a problem that doesn’t require rescuing”
Fourth, to admit to myself that I am in full flight from reality because I am irritated, pissed even, that reality doesn’t match what I want.
Fifth, to just get out of my way and try.
And last night was a major fucking victory on several levels:
1. I admitted there was a problem.
2. I saved $150 by not calling Mike.
3. I preserved my 911 call to friends for an actual emergency.
4. I slowed myself down and read the instructions and fixed the problem myself.
5. I had hot water this morning for my shower.
Win, win, win, win, win!
How often does that happen in life? Five wins in a row. Miraculously really.
Perhaps finding yourself without hot water is a lesson that is universal. It is an unpleasantness of life. To be inconvenienced by life’s random interruptions and issues. But perhaps persevering, is all about the process of acceptance. Accept there is an issue and with that acceptance give grace to yourself that you really, really wish it to be otherwise. And then allow yourself more grace to see what solutions might be available. Then relax enough to grant yourself permission to get out of your way and do the thing that seems like the most difficult. Handle it yourself, then ask for help if you can’t resolve it on your own.
Sometimes finding yourself without hot water, shows you how easy it is to put yourself in hot water when you are actually, really without hot water...
Which leads me to my ultimate conclusion:
Life is going to keep bringing issues, problems, irritations all to give me practice to come to know myself better, and conquer those parts of me that are in my way. Last night in the way of me getting to take a hot bath. And so very often in life, on other days, stand in the way of so much more: intimacy, healing, growth, and just about everything else.
I am learning, albeit slowly, that curating your life is a process and one which, if you are paying attention, you find that you are your biggest obstacle...and getting out of your own way, the hardest, toughest, most challenging thing you will ever do in this life. But, in those moments you can and do, great events will come to pass, like a hot bath after solving a problem that felt insurmountable just minutes before. Gotta love life and a hot bath, most especially when you are the one that got yourself there and learned a few things along the way.