Megan and I just finished entertaining a house full of company, including two of our very best friends. We had a blast! At one point, I decided to go out for a canoe ride. Concerned that it might be dangerous for me to be out on the water alone, were I to have a seizure, Jennie asked her 13-year-old daughter, Ksusha, to join me, to keep an eye on me, and to help me if I had any problems. The good news: I didn’t have any problems. But that didn’t stop us from having a phenomenally absurd and ridiculously funny adventure. Read on if you want to learn the story and a few of the embedded life lessons. Enjoy.
So this has been a crazy, crazy time for someone with a crazy, crazy brain. Over the last few weeks we first had Jim, my best friend from high school, come and visit us to help around the house – so we worked with Jim to wash the outside and inside of all our windows and storm windows. That’s no small project for an old house the tour dé force of which is its never-ending windows and storm windows, both large and small, on two stories overlooking a lake. It was a labor of love that he did with grace and good humor.
As if that wasn’t enough, we also decided to haul out our seldom-used power washer to remove not only the grime but also the flaking paint from our decks. That, too, was no small project. Our house is not only the house of never-ending windows it is also the house of countless decks and steps. The decks surround the entire first floor of the house, on two sides, including one large patio, before they descend with a long flight of steps to another large patio which descends, with even more steps and landings, until they come to rest on a wood dock at the bottom of a hill.
All those porches, patios, steps, landings, and dock all require spray washing periodically as well as occasional refinishing. So we decided that now was the time to get both jobs done. I took on the job of doing the power washing and we hired a contractor to do the subsequent refinishing. Little did I know what I was getting into! I spent two solid days on the power washing and I only got to the top of the hill! Still, it was a job that needed doing and I was pleased to get that far.
At the conclusion of our work project and days together with Jim, Megan’s best friend from college, Jennie, arrived to stay for 4 days with two of her five adopted children. These two children, along with one of her other ones, were adopted from Russia and they all came with a unique combination of endearing personalities as well as significant behavioral / emotional difficulties. It has been a gift for us to both support our friend in her calling to adopt challenging children and to do what we can to facilitate their growth and development into capable and competent adults. Although Jennie does all the work, we share a common joy in these children.
This time around we shared the joy of receiving help from an unlikely stranger. Jennie’s 11-year-old son, Sergei, and I were fishing on our dock, getting ready to go out in our canoe, when one of our neighbors from across the lake came along in his Jon Boat, casting from the lake toward the shore, in a way that can only be described as a true art form. I know how to bait a hook and drop in a line. I even know how to cast and reel in a lure. But this man was casting out rubber worms, bringing them back in with a tug-rest-reel motion, that I have never tried and that took a measure of skill.
Sergei took one look at this gentleman’s craft and begged to be shown how it was done. At first the man begged off, saying that he had work to do. But Sergei persisted, using all of his natural charm, and finally our neighbor across the lake relented. So off they went, presenting Sergei with the opportunity to really bump up his game when it came to fishing.
With Sergei off on his own adventure, I decided to go out for a canoe ride of my own, just to relax and have some fun. As I was preparing the canoe, getting it off the dock, outfitting it with our battery-powered trolling motor, setting in the paddles (in case the motor went out) and putting on my lifejacket (in case the canoe tipped over), Megan and Jennie decided – appropriately enough – that I really shouldn’t be out on the lake alone (in case I was to have a significant seizure). So they asked Ksusha, Jennie’s 13-year-old daughter, to join me on the trip. She agreed to do so because of the love we share between our two families and because we wanted to minimize the chances of my getting hurt.
So off we went but little did we know the crazy fun we would experience together. While Sergei and his newfound friend went in one direction, towards the reeds and rushes, Ksusha and I went in the other direction, towards the small dam and spillway that created our lake in the first place. Otherwise, it would just be a creek feeding continuously into the York River. Thanks to the dam and spillway, however, a beautiful lake was created and lakefront community developed that people like us have enjoyed for many, many years. We were grateful to be able to purchase such a home in such a lovely community.
When Ksusha and I arrived at our destination it was time to turn around and go back, but I noticed a log – about 6 feet long and 6 inches in diameter – that was blocking the water from going over a good portion of the dam and spillway. It seemed like an easy enough project to pry the log loose and push it along, so I decided that we would give it a try before heading back home. Little did I know what we would be getting into! It turned out to be a wild and crazy adventure the likes of which neither one of us could have ever imagined and neither one of us will ever forget, even with my brain injury.
We worked for a long, long time to pry loose that log and to push it over the dam and spillway. I would use the canoe’s motor to get us into position and then I would turn off the motor so that we could start working the log with our paddles. First we would put our paddles under and start prying from one side and, when that didn’t work, we would try from the other side. Time after time we would get a portion of the log on top of the dam and spillway only to have it slip back into the lake. Then we would try again, and again, and again.
Or perhaps I should write that I would try again and again and again, with Ksusha’s help, because she increasingly saw no point at all in this wild, crazy and I’m sure she would add pointless adventure that seemed to go on forever. After about 15-20 minutes of trying and prying, Ksusha started to point out four key points:
1. This wasn’t our responsibility.
2. Things seemed to be working just fine the way things were.
3. We were taking risks that might tip over the canoe.
4. It was all really stupid.
In fact, to emphasize the last point, Ksusha kept pointing out, with increasing vigor and volume, that “It’s just a log!” “Why, again, are we doing this?” “It’s just a log!” “Let’s stop this, turn the canoe around, and go home.” “It’s just a log!” But I was not to be dissuaded. I was in classic “Bob Tschannen-Moran mode”. Once I get my mind focused on something, it is very hard for me to let go.
And, in this case, I was in charge. I might have been irresponsible but I was in charge. I was not only the adult, but I had control of the motor. “This is crazy!” Ksusha would keep shouting. “You are crazy!” And, indeed, the whole thing was crazy. I’m sure that if Megan had been in the canoe we would have never embarked upon this stupid adventure at all. But this was my project, I was in charge, and I was bound and determined to get the job done.
Doing so took even more craziness. After more than half an hour of trying it became clear that we were not going to be successful with our paddles. The log was just too heavy and long for our paddles to pry loose from a water-borne, unstable canoe. So finally, with Ksusha screaming as she took seriously her responsibility for getting me back home safely: “What are you doing!!! Sit down! Oh no! We are going to die!! I can’t believe this! Sit down!! You are crazy!”, I got up, climbed out of the canoe, stood on the dam, picked up the log with my hands, and threw it over to the other side – at which point I climbed safely back into the canoe.
All of her screaming and protestations notwithstanding, that was the point at which Ksusha and I looked at each other, laughed ridiculously, raised our hands in victory, gave each other a High Five, and said, “We did it!” Then Ksusha repeated for the umpteenth time, while shaking her head back and forth, “You are crazy! Totally, crazy!” I heard that refrain over and over again, as we motored our way back home, and it was reported immediately, of course, to Jennie and Megan once we pulled up to our dock and Ksusha ran up all those stairs to our house. They were both dismayed and relieved that everything had come out okay. Wild and crazy adventures are part of what make life, or at least my life, worth living. I love them, at least when they work out well.
In this case, the adventure Ksusha and I had can also be viewed as a metaphor of what is happening with my brain. Even though I continue to have small seizures halfway through my current treatment protocol, so small that I typically don’t loose consciousness and can manage them quite well myself, the trajectory is headed in the right direction and I am hopeful that one day my brain will heal completely. There are no guarantees that that will happen but there is hope, especially over the next 13 months. That’s the timeframe they have given us for most of the healing of my brain to take place. By then I would hope to have thrown the log over the dam and to have the waters of my brain again flowing smoothly. I would ask you to keep that in your thoughts and prayers.
One final note on our wild and crazy adventure: after all that fussing around with the log at the dam and spillway, which is so far away that our house can no longer be seen, Ksusha and I pulled up to our dock at the exact same moment that Sergei and his new friend pulled up to our dock, with a mess of fish, from the other direction. The timing of our returns and the sharing of our mutual successes – theirs with the fish and ours with the log – could not have been more amazing. They had had as much fun, in their own way, as we had had in our way and everyone felt great about the time that we spent out on the lake.
I then proceeded to clean the fish and we had a wonderful fish dinner and evening together. It just could not have been more perfect. No wonder we said goodbye the next day with such tearful, happy hugs. We are, indeed, friends forever.
Coaching Inquiries: What wild and crazy adventures do you remember with fond affection? What did you learn from them? Where will they take you? How could you become a catalyst for others to share in those lessons and to take them to ever greater heights of affection and aspiration?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
Your weekly Provisions are always thoughtful and thought-provoking. Your latest message on the futility of controlling our lives is particularly insightful. Your revision of the “Serenity Prayer” is quite helpful in illustrating how to redirect one’s energy in productive ways. You delivered a whole sermon in a few paragraphs. My best wishes as you work and heal, love and live.
Wow, since your comeback these weekly Provisions are better than ever! There is a depth of insight now that touches very deeply. Keep it up Brother! I can empathize with your sense of confinement, being unable to drive a car. Thank you for your openness in sharing that. It’s no doubt worse because the country you live in requires you to use a car to go practically anywhere. By contrast, here in Scotland one could live a lifetime without an automobile and never miss it.
How right you are that our sense of control in life is utter illusion, and how fortunate you are to find that out now, before all of us finally realize that truth on our deathbeds. Control is the stock-in-trade of the false self, the ego identity that we spend most of our lives carefully grooming. Deep down the ego is very insecure, so it hides behind the fantasy of control: control of one’s destiny, control of one’s surroundings, control of other people, control of God.
Our task in the second half of life is to let go of the illusion of control, to discover that the ego-created false self is itself sheer illusion. When we do, we can awaken to our True Self, that Divine Reality which was indwelling in us all along, the Self in whom we live, move and have our being for all eternity. Hardly anyone experiences this enlightenment without pain, without some kind of unwelcome experience, some kind of deep and upsetting loss that so shatters the business-as-usual of our lives that we are finally able to see through the illusion of the false self.
For some the precipitating event is the loss of a career, for others it’s a serious financial downturn, and for others it might be a painful separation from someone much loved. Perhaps, for you, it was this totally unheard of seizure disorder that came out of nowhere. What you are experiencing now is a precious gift from God, and how generous you are to share that gift with all of us! May we not fail to learn what you have to teach us, and to keep these lessons close to our hearts long after your seizures have passed and your health is fully restored.
I love your interpretation of the Serenity Prayer! What a lesson for all of us who think we have to always be in control. I pray for you daily!
I appreciate your insight about inviting and being open to the Spirit of wisdom. I find my need to control is often challenged by the gift of the spirit instructing patience and direction to an open heart. My present journey is calling me to listen to the spirit as it speaks gently from within. I try to accept my journey and to be open to the possibilities that each moment presents. I sense the phrase “being able to embrace sadness and joy at the same time, and knowing that it is good” is my recent challenge. And it is still peace, not that I create. It is the peace you talk about from wisdom knocking at the door of our heart. Peace be with you.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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