Lessons From A Spraying Toilet
This morning on my walk, I stopped at a public restroom. Bending slightly over the toilet to reach the lever to flush, a few drops of toilet water sprayed in my face. Oh horror! Thoughts of being infected with horrible diseases coursed through my mind as I wiped my face strategically.
I felt dirty, and yucky. Went and washed my face at the sink. I looked to see, were there any visible signs of flesh-eating bacteria? Thankfully eyes, nose and mouth were all still in their expected places – my face had not suddenly melted like a Salvador Dali watch – or become a Piccasso portrait. Everything looked normal even though my eyes had a bit of deer-in-the-headlights panic in them.
Inside I felt emotions that sounded whiny:
– Now everything was going so well, and then I got sprayed on by a stupid toilet! Boo-hoo….
It is a common thing. Our neurology is wired to be alert – to avoid danger. It is our default reaction to what happens in life: We are evolutionarily wired to be on guard and expect the worst. When bad things happen, we react instinctively to run to perceived safety. The “bad things” take up our entire field of perception.
And then, it was almost as if I could feel the other half of my awareness kicked in. Panic and disgust was tempered by reason. And reason said:
– Now look, you are probably fine. And just because you got sprayed and it was yucky doesn’t mean that you will get ill – in fact that is probably unlikely. It was a very clean place after all.
It takes effort to bring myself back from panic, activate my rational mind, and modify my reactions so they become mindful responses rather than gut-level reactivity. And I stepped back and saw the context:
I am in a time of my life where things are going well. Walter is consistently better all the time. He is stronger. He is more himself. We just had a wonderful visit with our oldest son, and our family is recovering from the last year of uncertainty and fear. My work is getting done, things are normalizing all around – and it is exhilarating!
And a part of me fears that it cannot continue like that. The “what if’s” are still right under the surface in my thought process. What if one of our sons gets hurt? What if I get sick? What if I don’t pass my exam? What if something happens to Walter now? What if getting sprayed in the face with toilet water is the first sign that more shit is about to hit the fan?
I admit it: the thought process is ridiculous – but nonetheless real.
I will never know what is around the next turn. I cannot insure or guard my family or myself. From the benign to the serious. All I can do is to live in awareness of my neurological wiring that has me always expect the worst. And then deliberately counteract it with reason.
Now getting sprayed in the face is a wake-up call. A reminder that whatever happens, it is just a part of life. The less time I spend fearing it, the more able I will be to deal proactively. The more I appreciate the good things, the more strength I will have to face the bad. And in all honesty, even when the worst happened last year, I encountered more “good” in the midst of “bad” than I could ever have imagined.
I continue the journey one step at a time… boldly and with determination.