Embracing the unexpected

“That’s an old-timer,” said Curly. I looked over at the piano parked against a wall of the car dealership. It reminded me of the old and out-of-tune upright that sat on the stage of our community hall when I was a kid. “Do you play piano?” I asked as we strolled over to it.

“Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.”— Dr. Wayne Dyer, PhD, internationally renowned author and speaker

“That’s an old-timer,” said Curly.

I looked over at the piano parked against a wall of the car dealership. It reminded me of the old and out-of-tune upright that sat on the stage of our community hall when I was a kid.

“Do you play piano?” I asked as we strolled over to it.

“A little,” said Curly, plunking on a couple of the keys. “It’s in pretty good tune for an old-timer.” That was the second time Curly had used the term “old-timer.” I was barely out of my teens (and fresh into my radio career), while Curly was an “old-timer” whose radio career had begun back in the 60s. Curly was a radio salesperson and we’d gone to the dealership to sell advertising. I liked Curly. He was quirky, often inappropriate and forever snapping his fingers to some catchy tune on the radio. Curly liked the old songs and would often lament how “They don’t write ’em like that anymore.” His suits had a distinctive western cut and were more than a little out-of-date, like something Hank Snow might have worn on stage back in ’62.

“Looks like our appointment is going to be delayed,” I said, noting that our client (the owner of the dealership) had just gone into his office with another gentleman and closed the door.

“It does indeed,” said Curly, pulling out the bench and parking himself in front of the piano. He ran his index finger along the keys then leaned back and rubbed his hands together.

“Hang on for the ride,” he said and immediately launched into a rousing rendition of Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On. He hammered on the keys and unleashed pure rockabilly on the dealership. Things really started “shakin’” when he began wailing, “Come over baby, whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on!” Someone screamed when Curly stood up abruptly and nearly sent the piano bench toppling over. It was damned impressive and left me standing there dumbfounded.

Sometimes life just sneaks up on us from behind and grabs us by the shoulders. “Wake up!” it yells in our ear as it shakes us nearly out of our shoes.

Life is filled with moments that shake us up and beg us to step from our comfort zone. Too often we resist the urgings and stand on the sidelines while the music plays. Later, we hang our heads and look back with regret, wishing we had stepped up and joined the party.

Sure, not every memorable moment is a runaway train of thundering rockabilly. Some moments are quiet, wistful and can slip away unnoticed if we’re not paying attention. Even moments that shake our resolve and challenge us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually can pass by with their lessons still buried because we were unwilling to dig into them.

For me, some such moments were missed because I wasn’t paying attention. Mostly, they were missed because I was far too afraid to seize them. My great fear of being judged prompted me to turn away, run away, withdraw or simply not participate. Even with Curly’s performance, I mostly stood there in shock with my steno pad clutched tightly to my chest.

Most of us are so invested in old patterns and daily routines that life just carries us along, and it is only in moments of reflection that we glimpse the moments of magic.

It seems to me that the better our self-esteem, the more willing we become to embrace each moment or to create a few of our own. Certainly, there are times when we must practice restraint and good judgment will tell us whether we need to step up or step back.

More often than not, however, we need to unshackle ourselves and embrace experiences fully with mind, body and soul. Maybe it is through a willingness to put ourselves out there (come what may) that we learn and grow more daring, more self-aware – more willing to step wholeheartedly into each moment.

Someone told me once that life will whisper in our ear urging us to take note of something worthwhile unfolding. If we’re deaf to its prompting, it may just tap us on the shoulder. If ignored further, it might just pull the bench up to the piano and shake the rafters. In the end, however, it is up to us whether we engage, disengage or ignore the moment altogether.

When the last note faded there was a moment of silence and then huge applause. I had been so absorbed in Curly’s performance that I was shocked to realize about a dozen people had gathered on the showroom floor. No one applauded louder than the owner of the car dealership.

“I’ve never had a salesman get my attention like that before,” he declared.

“Think that was something,” Curly said, “just wait ’til you hear my sales pitch.”

I discovered later that Curly had been a rock ’n roller in the 50s and had even had a record or two on the pop charts. I came away that day with a couple life lessons: not to judge people solely by appearances or the cut of their suit, and to open myself up to being tackled by the unexpected. Even today, I’m still working on the second lesson but I think I’m getting it.

“One’s life is not as fixed as one believes,” wrote best-selling English author Elizabeth Aston. “Surprises may lie in store for you. The unexpected often tends to happen, sometimes bringing in its train the most delightful change in one’s life or circumstances.”

Stay awake. Keep your ears and eyes open. There are moments of amazement waiting for you. The most powerful lessons in life are usually unexpected. When they happen, hang on for the ride.

“Never tell me the sky’s the limit when (I know) there are footprints on the moon.”

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca

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