I like surprises. Well, I like some of them. There are those pleasant wonders that come when you least expect it, and they are great. But some come with all the force of an anvil toppling on your toes and they are terrible.
I don’t mean when your opinionated Auntie Agnes declares she’s coming over to stay for 3 months. That’s hard enough. No, I mean the news that a loved one has been in a bad accident or something you’ve silently dreaded has come to haunt you (Hmm, perhaps Aunty Agnes’s visit does fall under that category).
According to ABC News in Australia today, it seems that back in January 1961, a B52 plane flying over North Carolina USA, crashed with two atomic bombs on board. Despite reassuring noises from the government of the day it has now been revealed that three of the four security fail safes on one bomb failed, leaving the lives of millions of Americans right up to New York reliant on one primitive little cut out switch that (thankfully) worked. Whilst catastrophe was averted, it’s a frightening surprise, even after all these years.
Yet they are not all high drama. Surprises can even be quantified and used to manage money. Stock market investors even have a chart for measuring “earnings surprises”, to reveal when respective companies outperform or underperform expectations. Shareholders discover the nice news and nasty as trace these events on neat little charts.
Closer to home, those having a birthday also know a thing or two about surprises and, hopefully, none of them are nasty. Like being taken on a sneaky outing and then coming home to fumble for the light switch as you suddenly discover thirty people jumping out from behind the couch shouting “Surprise!”. Embarrassing? Maybe. But it’s all in good fun.
However, it’s not the surprise value of situations that matters so much as how we handle them. Especially the unwelcome ones.
It seems to me that many people struggle with unexpected events. Challenged by unwanted news, individuals will display all kinds of reactions that superficially are also quite surprising in themselves. Like the father of a teenage daughter who discovers his dearest child has come home two hours late from a date. In some homes the matter would be dealt with through discussion. But some Dad’s feel it’s appropriate to blow a hole through the roof with their fury (and fear), causing a domestic chain reaction that the whole neighborhood can hear.
Husbands who start ranting about their partner’s excess credit card use or parents who lose their cool when the door gets left open for the hundredth time predictably detonate with next to no consideration. While, an unexpectedly bad school report can cause rash reactions throughout the house.
Over a lifetime you can expect there will be many surprises to be had. Some will be beautiful, others benign. Whilst plenty will definitely be distressing. So it makes sense to develop a cool head for unexpected events to avoid reacting and to give ourselves time to process the new information.
No doubt you have seen people who always appear to be carrying a firecracker attached to a very short fuse. Every time an unwelcome surprise arrives they emotionally explode, losing any grip on rational thinking at the precise moment when they really need it most.
Despite having unhappy situations pop up time and time again in life these people refuse to learn better of handling these situations. Apart from the thick-headedness of failing to adapt, maintaining a reactive personality also happens to undercut their ability to be constructive adults.
We may not be able to know the scope of life’s surprises until they arrive. . But we can decide to choose a more resilient stance. Not for the joyful surprises that gladly come. But for the ones we least appreciate. Because handling the rough stuff is just part of truly growing up.
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