There’s nothing beautiful about this! This situation is a symbol for all things that can ‘go wrong’. This is one of countless conundrums that can take over time, temperament and wallets, in the swoosh of a moment! This is the babysitter calling in sick early morning. It is the tire that is flat after you’ve fixed the perfect lunch and feel that you’ve got life by the tail. And in this case, it is the hoses on my thirty-year-old washing machine on delivery day!
The single day that I don’t teach this week and it was my intention to paint in the studio and wait for the call about the delivery of my brand new washing machine. This is the day I decided to visit the hospice for afternoon Thursday tea. It is the day when I was starting my day with a poached egg and a piece of whole grain toast. It is wild how perfectly we imagine our days. Well, at least I do.
But sometimes…and not always…there is a challenge lurking around the corner. It is the news that my loved one is going to die. I stare blankly at the doctor. I feel that I am being dangled helplessly over a giant precipice.
It is that full glass of Pepsi that I perch on the counter. I put the ice cube tray away. The popcorn is hot. I knock the glass over and on to the floor. Broken glass and sticky bubbly, everywhere! Ouch!
At the point when either event (or something far worse or something much more benign) happens, it is my choice as to how I respond. My own responses are often surprising, but also, during a certain set of circumstances, perfectly predictable.
I thought it would be a simple thing to disconnect the hoses on my washing machine. It’s hung in there for so long. I’ve lived in the same place of 20 years and I’ve never turned off these valves, NOT ONCE. So, with delivery to happen today, I decided to go to my laundry room and turn off the water and disconnect my hoses before bed last night. I was already in my pajamas when this story unfolded.
It was 10:45 when I made my first clockwise turn. I noticed for the first time ever that the handle for one of my ‘nipples’ (I’ve learned that this is what they are called) had broken off. But, this is what the other one looked like after that clockwise turn.
Panic set in at this point. As my readers might surmise, the next step was naturally to go to my tool box and to find a set of pliers. Surely I could turn the nipples to the right, with pliers. As I madly gripped the first nipple, the pliers slipped around the metal and nothing seemed to move.
I think I made my first cry out to the universe at this time. It was 11:03. Trevor’s name appears in my cell phone contact list as THE PLUMBER. So what if it was after eleven at night, right?? I texted Trevor in a wild breathlessness. I don’t know what I thought he could do from the warmth of his bed. I just needed a plumber-connect like one might need a psychologist-connect.
I took photos (these photos) and began to communicate a narrative of panic through the medium of text. When I clicked SEND the photos whirred around and around and never did leave my phone, a feature of my phone/text/approach that is consistent with every other time that I am given one of these life situations. I was given a message that I could try re-sending. Over time, I deleted the photos and settled back into a state of self-actualization. (At this point of writing I laugh out loud. I think that in the panic, choosing to write is a real stumbling block. Couldn’t I be painting? No. As this story continues to unravel for my readers, you will all see that presently I am in a holding pattern. I can not paint while in a holding pattern.) From Trevor, I learned that indeed, I needed to turn off the water. And yes, the faucets should be turned clockwise.
Phone put down, I began to look for a water turn off valve. I walked upstairs to my computer where I began watching Youtube videos about replacing washing machine hoses. Oh my goodness. There wasn’t a single set of valves that looked like those on my machine. Click Click Click…minutes rolled by as I became saturated with too many ideas, too many calm confident male voices performing such ‘simple’ procedures on their washing machines.
Max, my border collie, looked on with a particular look. I know he was quietly thinking, “I wish I could roll my eyes.”
I explored my house for all of its personal plumbing lessons. If I didn’t know my pipes before, I think I do now.
By 11:50, I texted my friend, Wendy. Her partner is a phenomenal fix-it guy. But, again, what was I doing sending out SOS messages to my dear friends in the middle of the night? Wendy is an amazing woman who is busy, with her fingers, hands and arms in so many things! I thought, too late, ‘Wendy is probably sleeping.’
I went to bed, feeling exhausted and defeated, but not after having a chat with my son in the cold dank laundry room. He made all of the right recommendations. His first inclination was to ask for pliers in order to turn off the valves. (I told him I couldn’t bear any more drama before sleep.) The second suggestion he made was to turn the water off at the main valve. I told him, in my small voice, “Let’s just go to bed.”
This morning, at the crack of dawn, I left a phone message with Dan at Dr. Heat and Air. I thought it best to get calls out to all the perfectly wonderful guys in my life. On my own, I have learned to rely on my village a little. It’s taken time to feel confidence in doing that when in life, I always, in every circumstance, relied on myself. Certainly, on days like this one, it is good to know really competent people in a variety of fields. Beats GOOGLE all to heck. While plumbing isn’t Dan’s expertise, he always gives me an ear and has wonderful recommendations. Most important, he offers a voice of calmness and causes me to feel that I still have control and I can still solve problems. He gave me that this morning, as well as another recommendation for a plumber.
I emailed Trevor the photographs. I asked him for recommendations on name brands for good valves and asked if he would suggest any good ones. I told him I’d keep him up to speed. (poor guy)
By this time, my friend Wendy was awake. She sent me a calming message (as only Wendy can do) suggesting that, these challenges are tough. (EMPATHY, right from the get-go) Turns out she had put in a huge shift the day before, but that she would leave a message for her partner to contact me.
That brings us HERE. I poured myself a cup of coffee and made a decision to ground myself. I began this writing.
And since beginning this writing at around 9:30, Max barked at the front door. My dear friend and Wendy’s partner arrived, two wrenches in hand. He was in the lowest level after giving Max’s rope a playful tug, two minutes later. Five minutes after that, with water spraying a bit here and there, he completed the task and gave me directions for turning the water back on. I stood in my tracks and wept, saying again and again, “Thank you. Thank you. It was so hard. It was all so hard.” A supportive hug and he was on his way to plant tomatoes and I was left standing, asking…
“What was that all about?”
Challenges are a part of life. We can discover new things about ourselves by tackling them. We can connect with people through our challenges. We can be creative and we can create. Obstacles are not put in front of us as punishments or to make us stronger or even to teach us lessons. Obstacles and challenges are just a part of what life is. In the past twenty four hours I’ve learned a lot about washing machines, hoses and a little more about plumbing.
As my friend said, before leaving, “In the end, it’s just water.”
My washing machine has been broken since just a week before my brother’s diagnosis with Stage 4 Cancer. The fact that a new washing machine will be here by evening causes me a strange bubbling up of emotion. I know that John’s death and this story are not connected at all. But, they feel connected. It is ironic that it took so much energy, brain power and community support to get these hoses disconnected!