Head Coach: When life gifts you with lessons, grab it

By Lane Johnson
May 9, 2013 at 12:09 a.m.

Saturday mornings are a special time in our home. It's the only day of the week my wife and I get to sleep in - so that's the first thing we do. Once we're done with that, we make coffee and fetch the newspaper.

There is no dog in our household, so the fetching is my job. We have a cat, but Jake doesn't fetch. In fact, before fetching the newspaper, I fetch breakfast for Jake.

I've never noticed - until just now - how much of what I do on a Saturday morning resembles a family dog. Although, I bet no dog can slip the newspaper out of its plastic wrapping and read the headlines on the way back into the house before dutifully laying the unfolded edition in the lap of its mistress.

The Saturday morning paper over fresh coffee is a routine we cherish. When the weather allows it, we exercise this ritual in the backyard. We have a delightful deck in a far corner of the yard nestled against the privacy fence under this beautiful mulberry tree.

It's a great place to find out what's going on in the world, sip coffee, listen to the morning wake up and watch the birds feed.

Interesting ... I fetch the birds their food, too.

Most Saturday mornings, we are also visited by a gentle southerly breeze. Sometimes, however, the breeze is more active than gentle. One morning I would have to describe it as active with gusts of irritation. The irritation comes from trying to maneuver newsprint in this wind.

I've gotten pretty good at it. A decanter of coffee holds in place the unread stack of area newspaper and yet-to-be-read issues of Wall Street Journal. Jake paper-weights the finished sections. I get to wrestle the section I'm reading from the wind. This particular morning, the wind was winning.

My irritation quotient was high and climbing higher. There was this tipping point when the only alternative that made any sense was something I have fine tuned from years of practice since infancy: temper tantrums.

Frustrated from trying to read newsprint while it flapped around my arms, I flung it off the deck. Just then, a gust of wind, as if purposefully seizing the opportunity it had been waiting for, grabbed the paper and carried it over the fence into my neighbor's yard.

I sat there, motionless. It was one of those boiling point moments when the very next thing that happens will either diffuse the situation or send it into a flurry of chain reactions. I glanced at my wife. She had been quietly watching.

She grinned and said, "problem solved."

We broke into laughter. I hope nothing important happened that day because I never got to read about it.

I have pondered the plethora of lessons from that brief moment when my newspaper went flying over the fence. Temper tantrums seldom improve a moment. But they sure feel good at the time. Although we really should manage our anger a little better than that.

Tantrums usually do more harm than good and can't be taken back. I was lucky that day. The cost was minimal. Tantrums don't ask that question, though, before wreaking havoc. So, I try to check myself these days when I feel a boiling point approaching.

Sometimes life gives us benign, almost cost-free lessons when the results of our knee-jerk reactions aren't all that expensive. Yet the lessons are rich. It is almost like life is giving us a gift. Pay attention. You are being mentored. Learn something.

It helps to have someone around during those pivotal, boiling point moments that can say or do something that cools rather than enflames.

Those people are also gifts. Cherish them. If no one like that is in your life, then make cultivating a good friend like that your first priority.

One final thought: I think I need a dog - someone to fetch newspapers from my neighbor's yard.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.



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