Last Wednesday as I was rushing to get the kids out the door in a timely manner, the doorbell rang. This was odd because we NEVER have company and especially not at 7:30 a.m. on a weekday morning. I was tempted to ignore it and load the kids in the car but knew whoever it was had most likely parked behind my car anyway so there was no getting out. I grudgingly trudged up the stairs to the front door and opened it to find two city guys patiently standing there. They proceeded to tell me that this was a courtesy call to let us know that we were using approximately three times our usual amount of water. Being that it was 7:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, I wasn’t sure how to process this information, stared at them, mumbled something about my husband being in the shower, and thanked them for stopping by as I shut the door.
Apparently when you use that much water, the city will send someone out to check for leaks and as I later found out, to provide false reassurance that you are fully capable of your own home repairs. Two days later, the doorbell rang again and there stood Bob, a friendly repairman from the city. I fought the urge to apologize for the disaster which is my house recently and led him to the basement where the water gauge (or whatever it’s called) lives. Sure enough, the dial was spinning like crazy even though there was no water whatsoever running in the house. I led him to the basement toilet where he quickly determined that a new part was needed. Bob proceeded to show me the steps for replacing the part as he explained “how easy” it was and that “you don’t need a plumber to do this.”
Fifteen minutes later, he had determined that three out of the four toilets in our house needed replacement parts. Bob was about my father’s age and very likeable so we had chit chatted a bit and I had told him that I was in school to become a nurse practitioner. Several times he had reassured me that this toilet repair was way easier than obtaining a graduate degree. I was a bit skeptical but his fatherly confidence in my skills rubbed off and by the end of his visit, I was absolutely convinced that I could easily repair these 3 toilets in under 45 minutes. After all, I had replaced my own wiper blades a few months ago, so how hard could it be?
Saturday morning, my husband and I, accompanied by our 3 rambunctious little ones, entered the wide open spaces of Menards. I stood in front of the toilet section for at least 20 minutes before selecting what I assumed were the correct parts. I had every confidence in the world in my ability to not only select the correct parts, but to quite easily install them in our toilets in under an hour. Two hours later as my husband and I were covered in sweat and listening to the sounds of our 3 kids running amuck as only kids whose parents are fully occupied by a task can be, I realized just how wrong I was. Water was spraying everywhere and our sad, pathetic tool supply was nowhere near ready to assist us in remedying this situation in any meaningful way. And I felt a deep sense of failure.
Two hours wasted and nothing but cranky kids to show for it! Two hours wasted and a completely non-functioning toilet. Two hours wasted when I felt like I didn’t have 2 minutes to spare in my already packed schedule! Not to mention the fact that we now needed to invest in a plumber to restore the functionality of our three toilets. It seemed a very tough pill to swallow. Given my perfectionist tendencies, giving up on a task which hasn’t been completed is very tough for me and evokes a great deal of anxiety and regret, even if it involves a failed plumbing experiment for which neither my husband nor I had any previous experience.
I was still reflecting on the plumbing failure during my workout the next morning when it dawned on me. My husband and I had never once gotten angry or upset with each other at any point during those two hours we worked to restore flushing function. In fact, I felt that in a small way, it had brought us closer together. We had truly worked as a team instead of individuals to accomplish a goal. No, we had not ended up accomplishing the goal, but we had worked together without anger or frustration at each other. We did, however, have a simultaneous sense of frustration toward the toilet and toward Bob who had implanted this false sense of home repair ability into me. This was success!
Later that morning as I played organ for my church’s 8:15 service, I had another realization and this was that we are all given different gifts and abilities. Playing a church service for me was the equivalent of Bob’s “easy” toilet repair. Things that one person considers easy are challenging for another person who may lack the tools or expertise to do it. I am thankful for the gifts that I do have and need to let go of the ones that I don’t have in order to have peace. Just as we have strengths, each one of us has weaknesses and we need to rely on the strengths of others to fill in where we lack. We cannot possibly expect to excel at everything and it’s unhealthy to try.
Although I can never get those two hours back, I can move forward with multiple lessons learned. Sometimes in life we have a tendency to dwell on what we consider to be failures because we don’t accomplish the one thing we had initially aimed for. However when you stand back and look from a distance, you quickly realize that although you didn’t accomplish that one thing, you did accomplish ten other really valuable things that move you forward in your journey toward a better version of yourself. So the next time you are faced with an irrational level of confidence instilled in you by a well-meaning Bob and then find yourself covered in toilet water surrounded by screaming kids, smile, embrace the “failure,” and look beyond your initial frustration to find the real triumphs in the situation. The successes are there – you just may need a little creativity to find them.