The other day, right before the Fourth of July weekend, the ice maker in our refrigerator died. The weather was hot, and the gin and tonics were ill-suited to warmth.
Later that evening, I quipped on Twitter, asking if anyone had seen that kid Red Grange delivering ice lately. Of course, football fans will know that this was how the great running back of the University of Illinois (and later the Chicago Bears) kept himself in shape nearly a century ago, delivering great blocks of ice to houses in his hometown.
Days later I called a repair service, noting lightheartedly that not having an icemaker was hardly a big deal. The service rep lowered her voice, saying that I would be surprised at how many people regard having a broken icemaker as a catastrophe. “If not having an icemaker is the worst thing to happen to me this year,” I quipped, “then it will be a good year.” The service rep laughed in agreement.
Too often, we get distracted, annoyed even when things, little things, don’t go our way. It’s easy to become frustrated, and in doing so, we forget just how fortunate we are. A flight delay. A missed dinner. A dying appliance. These annoy us, but in the grand scheme of life, they are trivial. In years to come, such inconveniences are not likely to be remembered.
We must put life into perspective. Easy to say. Our irritation blinds us to reality.
We have endured a year and a half of disappointment and delusion—as well as exclusion and isolation. And we’re still here. The pandemic persists, but we are coming back slowly to a different form of life. Not the same, but different. In some ways, it is richer because of what we have experienced.
We have been tested, and we have survived. Not everyone did. More than 600,000 Americans died. Millions lost their jobs. Three million women exited the workforce. Those are tragedies. They are benchmarks of actual loss. Annoyances come and go. Losses live as scars in our memories.
A novel lesson
The novelist J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Hobbit, “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.” For him, this statement was true. Tolkien was a young officer in what his generation of Britons called The Great War. He fought at the Battle of the Somme. After the war, Tolkien returned taught medieval literature at Oxford. He also raised a family and told his sons stories that would become great novels of fantasy in time. Fires and dragons do die out, leaving in their wake the possibility of renewal.
So, take a deep breath.
Remind yourself of your blessings
Take another deep breath.
Smile in gratitude.
The repair person finally arrived. With a quick look inside the fridge, he shook his head knowingly. The icemaker was genuinely dead. Good news, a replacement would cost only $75, plus another service fee, of course. So, again, if this is the worst thing to happen to me this year, sign me up now.