Our furniture budget ended before we could buy a coffee table and I needed to find an inexpensive resting place for books, feet, drinks, and family-room-approved craft supplies. To make my quest more difficult, I needed something that could survive life in the main room with two dogs, three kids, and Keith. (Just joking, in all actuality, Keith very rarely dances or does crafts on our furniture.) So, when I found these wicker storage cubes, I’d hit the jackpot. They even gave me a place to store blankets. Bonus!
I felt good. I’d found exactly what I was looking for and spent way less than I’d planned so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the storage cubes were ever damaged or glitterized (see above comment re Keith’s dancing and crafting). Things were going my way and I left the store at a pretty brisk pace. I tend to walk fast when I’m running errands because I normally have a kid to pick up somewhere. You know how that goes …
As I quickly pushed the cart out of the store, the view in front of me was completely blocked by the two cubes. I could see around them enough to know that there weren’t any cars coming so I aimed for the crosswalk.
I could see the cars around the cubes. I could see the crosswalk under the cart. But, thanks to the storage cube tower, I couldn’t see this:
That concrete post never saw it coming. I walked right into it at full-speed with my cart. The concrete didn’t give an inch. The cart came to an instant dead stop. The only thing that kept moving was my body as my stomach slammed into the handles of the cart taking my breath away and my shin crashed into the cart’s bottom bar.
I did what any adult would do, I called my mom. I informed her that I most likely have internal bleeding because of an accident. (That normally gets a mom’s attention.) But when she heard it was a shopping cart meets stationary object accident, she seemed less concerned and more amused. So, I called Keith to tell him the same thing. He laughed too. Apparently, the people in my life find internal bleeding funny.
As I drove away with my storage cubes finally loaded in the car and my pride left at the crosswalk, I thought about how much it hurt to walk quickly into a concrete post. And I thought about how it wasn’t just the concrete-post-meets-metal-shopping-cart-meets-flesh impact that made it so painful. It was the suddenness of the full stop. It was the complete shock that I was no longer moving forward. This was starting to sound familiar to me. How many times in the past year have I made big, life plans only to be stopped suddenly by life events? How many times do I rush to the next step only to slam into a life-altering reality?
I learned a few things courtesy of that randomly placed concrete post. I learned that it’s best to know what’s directly in front of you. (Literally as well as metaphorically.) I learned that my loved ones laugh at internal bleeding. (Good to know.) I learned that I love a good life metaphor. (Okay, I may have already known that one.)
The reality is that I frequently walk full-speed into life’s concrete posts.
My plans and excitement over “next steps” slam full-speed into the winds of a storm, the unexpected words from a doctor’s mouth, the reality of passing time, or the shock of sad news. I’m stopped in my path just as surely as I was stopped in the parking lot.
So what’s the point of this metaphor? Where does it take me? Stop planning for the future? Don’t get too excited about what’s to come? Spend more time looking out for concrete posts?
Beware because life can hurt?
I will still move forward with excitement about life. Because the alternative is to remain at that metaphorical concrete post and tell everyone who passes by that “This post really hurt me.”
The real story here isn’t just about the one time I walked into a concrete post. It’s also about all the other shopping trips when I’d left that same store and walked through the parking lot successfully. I can barely remember all those other times. Nothing happened to make those moments memorable. Nothing happened on those trips to make me drive away and think about things like physical pain and metaphors, human plans and God’s plans, and the abruptness of change.
Pain sharpens our experiences.
Moments of pain are memorable. They provide us with perspective. The next time I go to that store and walk around that concrete post, I will remember how much it hurt when I slammed into it. I will remember to savor my pain-free walk through the parking lot. I’ll remember the thoughts I had in the car as I drove away with my throbbing leg and aching stomach about how quickly life can change.
I may even become so caught up in all this remembering that I unknowingly step in the gum someone threw on the ground.
Pay attention in parking lots.
Stepping on gum is like finding yourself in one of life’s sticky situations … (I know, I know. I’ll stop now.)
Here’s where my metaphors always fail me: They’re too simplistic. All pain is not good. Sometimes it’s just brutal and hard and ugly. The bruise on my leg healed in a couple of weeks; true grief and loss can leave lasting scars. Pain is not here simply to give us perspective. That would be too simple. Stinking metaphors.