You might be wondering about the odd little plaque in this photo.
I’ll come back to that. First, a little side trip:
Let’s start with the premise that trust is hard. Belief? We’re handed those all the time. Knowledge? Read a book. Understanding? Give it time to percolate. Wisdom? Have the good sense to employ what you’ve learned.
But trust? In a world where newborns have been traditionally welcomed first-thing with a swat on the butt, it doesn’t come easy.
So when great ideas come to us, they come on the tops of mountains. The clouds part, and choirs sing. A rainbow appears, and we know we’ve just stood in the bathing brilliance of inspiration. Except that’s not how it happens, and I know this – because one of the best ideas I ever had came to me while I was sitting in the bathroom.
Long ago, right after Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys, I came up with a silly idea to parody him via a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” serial-style radio bit called Arkansas Jones. Long story short, it proved to be a hit – and changed the direction of my life. But what you really need to know is how hard I tried to talk myself out of it.
It required time. It required creativity. It required commitment. And even after all that, what if no one liked it? Besides – great ideas don’t come to you while you’re sitting in the bathroom.
There’s an old story that by the time George Handel was about to compose Messiah, he was essentially broke and on the run from his creditors. After 24 days holed up in his Dublin apartment, chambermaids heard laughter from the other side of Handel’s door. Opening it, they found Handel sitting on the floor in his nightshirt, giggling that he’d seen the heavens opened and Christ seated at the right hand of God. On the papers scattered on the floor around him was the work by which he became best known. Handel ended up buried with honors in Westminster Abbey. Few would have guessed that outcome for a man who’d stopped eating or washing for three weeks, sitting there in his pjs.
We can all probably point to that demotion or reassignment that, at the time, we took as a setback – but which later proved to be one of the best things that could have ever happened. Sometimes to climb a mountain, you have to climb down before you head to the top. It’s not like we haven’t done it before. Why is it always so hard to trust that we can do it again?
Which brings me back to the plaque. Years ago when I found my birth family, I became acquainted with my birth father’s wife – the woman he’d cheated on while conceiving me. Her name was Glisten, and she turned out to be one of the kindest, most forgiving people I’ve ever encountered. Though my birth father went on to marry three more times, she never did – and loved him until the day he died. She also couldn’t live with him, and got out before he drove her completely crazy. But she knew he was, and by extension, helped me figure out who I was.
One day, shortly before Thanksgiving, Glisten and I were on the phone. “I have something I want to send you,” she said. “I found it at a garage sale thirteen years ago,” she continued, “and thought it would good in the bathroom. So I bought it, and that’s where I’ve had it. I’d like to send it to you.”
Now, keep in mind, my birth father and his family had no idea I existed. My birth mother never told my biological father that she was pregnant, and I was taken away by my adopted family at 4 days of age.
A few days later, I got a small box in the mail with a funny-looking little plaque inside. On plaque, a single painted rose. And below the rose, a name.
Purchased by a complete stranger thirteen years before her side of the family and I even knew about each other.
On the long list of Hard Things In Life, change is somewhere near the top. None of us always has a plan, and plans don’t always work out. Plus, we humans are all pretty much control freaks – and some of us more than others. But I have a little plaque in my kitchen reminding me that even when it feels like my plans have been blown apart, there is still a plan – and I have learned to trust it.