Forward Living Column: Take a breath and face the unexpected

01/31/2011 9:27 AM |

Frank and I were heading to his daughter’s home for the evening. To save time, Frank suggested that we order takeout. I nixed the idea, saying that throwing together a quick meal was no big deal. Or so I thought.

I don’t know how it happened. While heating up leftover spaghetti sauce in my microwave, I suddenly heard a “pop.” The dish (supposedly microwave safe) exploded, spewing tomato sauce throughout the microwave. I reached for a paper towel and, wouldn’t you know it, the holder was empty. The only thing immediately available was a clean white dish towel.

I gingerly opened the microwave door, and yikes! The dish towel could not stem the tide of sauce flowing onto my stove. I watched helplessly as bright red tomato sauce continued its downward journey, splattering my wood floor with red dots. (Come to think of it, the whole scene looked pretty gruesome.)

Frank heard my moaning and groaning, along with some expletives. He meandered into the kitchen and suffered a moment of incomprehension and shock. However, being Frank, he recovered quickly. He hopefully asked, “Is that … um, the spaghetti sauce?”

Stony silence.

“Ceil?”

“It’s spaghetti sauce!”

Calmly Frank said, “Ceil, stuff happens.”

I wasn’t in the mood for “reasonable” and snapped, “Why me and why now?”

“Well, I could have gone for takeout.”

Frank recognized the murderous look in my eyes and walked out of the kitchen. He returned with three rolls of paper towels and together we cleaned up the mess.

Frank was correct on all counts (yup, even about the takeout). Unexpected stuff does happen.

My spaghetti sauce debacle was very small potatoes compared with the unforeseen dreadful things that some of us have suffered. You know, the stuff that brought us to our knees, or the thing we thought we couldn’t live through. Enough said, for now.

Then there’s the good stuff, like falling in love. Many folks turn to the match-em-up networking sites, where they have hopeful expectations that they may meet someone resembling their ideal. Or, there’s love that comes from out of the blue. Either way, you’re unexpectedly walking on air and singing schmaltzy songs.

I wasn’t remotely looking for a relationship when I met Frank and, to my knowledge, neither was he. We were seated at the same table at a mutual friend’s wedding. Frank asked me to dance, and love joined in.

The unexpected good doesn’t have to be as big as falling in love. If we’re open to what comes along each day, our brain will signal, “Good stuff!”

I attend a study group that meets on Thursday mornings. This particular morning our discussion veered to an unexpected topic. Our dialogue, although eclectic, was compelling, tender and lively. The class was so enjoyable that we all agreed that our time together passed too quickly.

Here’s more unexpected good stuff that can make our day:

• Receiving a call from an old friend.

• Being paid a compliment, especially if you’re having a bad hair day.

• Hearing a forecast of rain, and seeing the sun.

• Receiving flowers for no reason.

• Your kid shovels the snow without you asking.

• Getting an invitation to an impromptu get-together.

• The gas gauge reads empty, and you make it to the service station.

Well, OK, winning the lottery will do it, too.

Naturally, it’s always easier to accept the good when it comes, and conversely, we gotta learn to accept the bad, with grace. But alas, there are no red lights blinking wildly to warn, “Crisis, crisis, ahead.”

Our carefully made plans may go awry; pain, sorrow, disillusionment and disappointment may occur unbidden. When the unpleasant stuff appears from out of nowhere, the only thing to do is to throw on a life preserver and go with the flow.

But wait! In the event of another exploding spaghetti sauce incident, the said flow will have to go on without me.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

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