What do you make of the following unrelated events?
My 10-year-old daughter wakes up with a fever and hacking cough. Even she knows she’s sick, and yet she demands she go to school. She bawls. She whines. She throws her body on the sofa. “I have to go to school.” Cough. Cough. “You don’t understand, I HAVE to go to school!”
Three geese walk across a busy road. Hello, geese. Dum de dum de dum de dum. I slow down my car down hoping the guy in back doesn’t railroad me since we are stopped in the middle of the street. It’s morning rush hour and people need to get to work. The geese don’t care. They have all the time in the world — and they take it.
It’s 3 p.m., not a cloud in the cerulean sky. I look up and see the moon, fainter than at night, but moonshine all the same. You can’t help but smile at such a sight.
For three days we wear shorts and sleeveless shirts and flip-flops. We walk without sweaters and run without nylon jackets. We leave the windows open, air furniture on our front porches and lounge on the grass. It’s winter, right?
A couple sitting on a park bench in Denver toast over plastic glasses of red wine. Why yes, they sure are drinking wine in the park, engrossed in conversation and the sight of the ducks and geese on the lake. The woman stretches her legs and slouches against the bench. “So civilized,” I remark.
While walking in this same park, Washington Park, I nearly hit a tree with a happy face painted in black. A tree with a smiley face?
On their own, none of these goosey events (sorry, can’t resist) are worth talking about. It’s only when I group them together that the lessons become clear.
We humans crave predictability. We drive the same route to our jobs, eat peanut butter on toast every morning and sleep, always, on our side of the bed. Consequently, we expect things to be a certain way. Think about it. You know how much peanut butter to spread on your toast and can practically anticipate the first bite. No surprises. No shades of grey. We like what we like, and when given a choice, we’ll gravitate toward the familiar. A 2010 mobility study shows that most people are predictable in the range of 80-93 percent. No wonder why we like being in control!
But what about the tinier percentage of times when the unexpected happens? Geese on my route home from school drop-off? A tree with a happy face? Paying attention makes the days more vivid. We get to be flexible and embrace our own adaptability. We get to laugh at something that strikes us out of the ordinary. We get to devour the new and now and to bask in the sheer oddity of the moment.
I’m hardly a sports fan, but I couldn’t agree more with the writer Susan Orlean. She had this to say in a recent article in the New York Times: “Sports are a thrill, visually — all those amazing bodies, doing amazing things. What makes it appealing is the theater. It’s one of the few things you can watch that is unscripted, where anything might happen.”
Like last night’s Denver Nuggets game against the Sacramento Kings. With only seconds left on the clock, the Nuggets came from behind to beat the Kings 119-116. No one expected the Nuggets to win; fans watched on the edge on their seats — or pillow, in my case. This was pure theatre.
Let yourself go the next time you stumble across the improbable or the unforeseen. Be wildly silly and curious about everything that you see, paying attention to all that is quirky because you never know what meaning lies behind.
When has unpredictability worked to your favor?