How An Ugly Toe Turned Into A Great Opportunity

“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.
– Mark Twain’s Autobiography

Sunday afternoon I got out of bed and my legs gave out from under me. It was mutiny most foul and I haven’t a clue why it happened. What I do know is that I tried to catch myself and failed to do so. These arms have ample strength in them and could easily have held me up but there was nothing to grab or hold onto.

My attempt to defeat gravity by levitation and flight also met with defeat and as a consequence I bent my left pinky toe backwards. It is now swollen and looks a bit purplish. That is  a fine color for an eggplant but not so attractive for a toe.

I took my legs to task and threatened them with swift and severe retribution for said mutiny but they simply laughed at me. Collective punishment is all they said and I had to nod my head and curse. What can I do to them that won’t hurt the rest of me. I can’t talk to my children about being smart and do something so foolish. Can’t tell them that one should never cut his nose to spite his face.

Actually I can. Actually I can tell them to do as I say and not as I do.

Recognize Opportunity

I shared the story of the lower body mutiny because it is an example of how sometimes we don’t see things coming and that sometimes our best effort isn’t good enough to prevent bad things from happening.

My children are still angry about moving and have asked me to buy back our old home. I told them it wasn’t going to happen. I said I was sorry that they were upset and asked them to trust my judgment. We moved because of missed opportunities and because of future opportunities.

They don’t need the specific details or the how and why. It wouldn’t make them feel better nor would it make it easier for me. I won’t tell them about my frustration and anger. I won’t say that I feel like I blew it in a couple of areas.

On the other hand I can look at this truly ugly toe and be reminded that I made choices and did things that I thought were smart. Yet we got smacked in the face by the same economic tsunami that hit many others. It was unavoidable. I could have chosen to try to fight through the storm but the thing about a tsunami is that it is a unfeeling juggernaut of exceptional power.

So instead of trying to build a wall that would withstand the raw power and fury that I saw coming I built a surfboard, grabbed the family and said “hold on.”

Maybe if I would have been more alert I would have built an ark or some sort of luxury yacht but I didn’t. So we jumped on my board and hung fingers, feet and paws.

Good Times. I tell you it was all sorts of fun.

It is Called Parenting

My daughter screamed at me. She told me in no uncertain terms that she thought I had wrecked her life. I looked down at this girl of mine and saw a different sort of tsunami coming towards me. The dark haired beauty is smart and beautiful. She has a presence to her and when she is angry she comes at you like a battering ram.

She accused me of not caring about her and I laughed. I didn’t mean to, but if she had any sense of the beating I have taken on her behalf and her brother she wouldn’t say it. I told her that she needs to think very carefully before she speaks and that her lack of gratitude was irritating.

That laughter didn’t help her to hear or accept what I was saying and I probably shouldn’t have done it, but we all make mistakes. So I pulled her into my arms and gave her a big hug and told her that I keep my promises. She asked me what that meant and I told her that on the day she was born I promised to take care of her. She said that she didn’t get it and I said that was ok.

“You don’t have to understand or like everything I do. You just have to believe/trust that I am doing my best to take care of you.”

And then I reminded her that I am not her friend and that she shouldn’t treat me like one. I am her father and that means that I am required to parent even when it is hard and or uncomfortable.

The Basketball Game

In spite of my ugly and swollen toe I still played three games of basketball. It is my sanity and one day my body won’t let me play but I wasn’t going to let the toe stop me. So even though it hurt to run and I had trouble pushing off I still got my time on the court in.

Except this time I played a slightly different game. I adapted and adjusted. My team won two of the three games and I scored more points than I normally do. The increase in productivity came because I had to adjust and I recognized that I had an opportunity that I could take advantage of.

Sometimes pain leads to something better. The important thing is to remember to keep your eyes open because you never can tell what the universe will send down your way.

Thank you universe. You have given me more than I shared and more than I realized.

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  1. Jens P. Berget February 2, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Most of the time, I feel that I’m a friend and not a dad when it comes to my kids. I don’t like to be hard on them, even though I know that I should. Right now, it feels that my wife is the parent, and I’m their “invisible” friend. I’m the one they go to when their mom is going crazy 🙂

    I can truly relate to what you’re saying about basketball. I used to play basketball for hours, every single day. And I also remember how I used to play a lot better when I had a sprained ankle or something, because I had to adjust and start shooting a lot more instead of trying to drive.

    • Jack February 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      My kids told me that they hate it when I yell at them. I don’t have to do it very often in part because of genetics and more importantly because they are good kids.

      My voice is deep enough I don’t have to raise it much to get their attention and when I do it tends to “boom” so they always hear me.

      They may not always respond as I want, but they hear me.

      In regard to basketball I was never one to drive much because my handle on the ball isn’t as good as I want.

      Lately I have been working on changing that. But last night was fun because I spent the majority of the time posting people up.

      I don’t do it very often because I don’t find it to be very challenging. Most of the guys I play with aren’t big enough to make me adjust my shot without fouling me.

      But last night I couldn’t run very well so I just spent all sorts of time on the block punishing people.

      It was fun.

  2. Hajra February 2, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Hey Jack,

    I loved this. My parents moved out of the house we grew up in and all of us were upset. We thought that it was the last connection to your childhood but they had better reasons. I am an adult, I do feel guilty about been upset when I visited them and saw how crappy the house had got and that they deserved something better and were moving into it.

    It is tough with kids. Though I don’t have kids; I was a tough child to take care of. And now when I have similar difficulties of finances, jobs and those I realize what my parents must have been going through when they had four little ones to answer to.

    Pain is tough but if it makes us stronger then we have been our best.

    Thanks for this Jack!

    • Jack February 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Hajra,

      It is hard to appreciate certain experiences unless you have been through them.

      As a father I have come to have a much deeper appreciation of what my parents did for us.

      We were quite lucky.

  3. Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson February 2, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Nice piece.

    You are lucky you just hurt your toe. It’s not like you were diagnosed with metadtatic cancer. But yes, the universe provides us with opportunities and challenges. It is up to us to figure out how to respond to these unforeseens.

    May the force be with you. And stay away from the eggplant.

  4. Stan Faryna February 2, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Writes Jack:

    “Sometimes, pain leads to something better.”

    Perhaps, it all depends on what we do with that pain.

    Do we correct the course? Fill the sail? Turn right more often than spinning around and around?

    It’s something to think about.

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