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In a Roundabout Way

By Teresa Bruce

Whenever I have one of those days (or weeks), my inner narrator recites a pair of unrelated adages:

Trust in God, but tie your camel. — Arab proverb
Man plans, God laughs. — Yiddish proverb

In spite of these sayings inside my head, I’m not one who thinks Deity intends our misery or sets it in motion (by leading our camels astray or otherwise thwarting our navigation through life’s carefully laid travel plans). And I certainly don’t think God laughs at us. Rather, I trust that our Father’s big, Big, BIG picture plan (for all his children’s long-term happiness) includes his awareness of everyone — including me and mine — and I (try to) remain grateful for the learning experiences mortality and agency offer.

Nevertheless, I’m ready for my narrator to read from a new road map.

A couple of months ago I fortuitously encountered a delightful, entertaining, and funny General Conference talk by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (October 2008) that’s beginning to provide replacement navigational lines. (No, you’re not having technical difficulties. I did, in fact, use “delightful, entertaining, and funny” to describe an inspirational General Conference message. Enjoy the full text for yourself at Come What May, and Love It.)

I’m trying to apply Elder Wirthlin’s mantra-worthy mini-messages:

Come what may, and love it.
Learn to laugh.
Seek the eternal.

I’ve never felt the ambiguity many express about advancing birthdays — until this year. I approached mine with graceless flailing as the calendar dragged me over the hump of a new decade — one my late husband never entered and my late mother never left. As my new year’s beginning approached, my over rehearsed narrator said, Why plan ahead for what will probably unravel anyway?

Come what may, and love it, my narrator-in-training answered.

One day last week, while Doggie Dear pulled walked me home, I mentally mapped out my client work, bill paying, calling tasks and housework for the day with a precision that might have made a rocket scientist envious. I felt confident — until I rounded our house and heard the backyard geyser.

My first thoughts veered toward words I’ve convinced my narrator we don’t use, so I cast about for replacement words.roundabout_yield
Learn to laugh, the trainee prompted.

So I did — hoping my neighbors were already at work, because I teetered between forced chuckles and maniacal guffaws long before my attempted laughter yielded to genuine mirth. I filled every drink pitcher in the house, turned off the water supply, cleared out the closet for access (where outside pipes entered) — not in my day’s precisely plotted plan! — and paid the plumber (ouch!).

By then, my day (and bank balance) were half what they’d been before, but instead of fretting … I felt strangely grateful in a roundabout way — for having a house and plumbing and for having found the leak in the morning and outside instead of inside …

Not long after, bombarded by a series of unrelated, increasingly time-consuming detour impositions options service opportunities, I laughed again. The physical impossibility of managing any one of them — let alone all of them — made the latest route change as ridiculously out-of-the-way as the rest. Yet the still, small Voice I’ve come to trust (far more than my own) whispered that yielding and doing would better help me “seek the eternal.”

Sure! Why not? Come what may, and love it, my new narrator cheered.

How do you reframe challenges? What adages or mantras get you through unexpected detours?

About Teresa Bruce

Teresa TL Bruce burrows into stories for work and fun. She’s published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids, Florida Writers Association Collections, Florida State Poets Association anthologies, Segullah's Seasons of Change, and Orlando's The Community Paper, and she was a finalist in NYC Midnight’s 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge. Teresa advises “What to Say When Someone Dies” on TealAshes.com. She’s proudest of her three dynamic daughters, super sons-in-law, adorable grandchildren, and spoiled rescue dog.

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