I used to live in the quaintest, cutest, most darling brick Gingerbread house. It was old enough to be charming, and not just old. I really enjoyed that house. The detailing in the house was outstanding and while it had been well taken care of before me, I took it even further, adding my own personality and flair. One of the points of character of the house was that it had plaster walls, which are much less forgiving than drywall, so I took great care to hang all artwork from the crown moulding rather than marring the wall itself.
One particular painting that I had was very large and dramatic, and I had proudly placed it above the couch, hanging it from extra, extra heavy duty fishing line, secured by a decorative D-ring anchored in the moulding. One day, as I passed through the living area, I noticed that the D-ring was showing tiny signs of stress and had actually begun to separate. I think it was trying to become a C-ring. I said to myself, “You should get a heavier D-ring and fix that.” But I didn’t.
The next time I passed through the living room, I noticed that the gap in the D-ring, now C-ring contender, was ever so slightly larger. I said to myself, “You REALLY should get something and fix that. Soon.” But I didn’t. Did I mention this was a really large picture with a very heavy frame?
This went on for a while, I cannot say how long. Then one day, feeling uncharacteristically tired, I took a break from my busy weekend activities, and sat on the couch, indulging in a little rest. Felt good. The sitting turned into lounging. Felt even better. The lounging turned into napping.
It was actually quite rare for me to take naps in those days. This was unusual that I would take a nap in the first place, but it was extremely unusual to be awakened suddenly and with acute and substantial pain. Once the shock and confusion cleared, I realized that the D-ring, which had been calling to me softly for weeks, was now screaming. It failed, the picture fell, and rapped me sharply over the head.
The lesson of this story is pretty clear, take care of things when they whisper to you that they need attention. I have no statistics, but I would bet a substantial amount on the fact that most people had soft whispers of warnings to take care of things before they blew up on them “out of the blue”. Your body whispers to you, louder and louder over time, that you’re not taking care of it. Your finances whisper to you that they need attention. Possibly most importantly, your relationships whisper to you that they need nurture and care, possibly more engagement or consideration, or even more space, long before the relationship blows up and people act all shocked and surprised.
If you look back on the last thing that blind-sided you and get brutally honest with yourself – did it really? Is that really true? Did it not give you any clues at all? Or were you just not willing to address the issues and make some changes because it was easier to stay on the path you were on, preferring to address it at some time off in the future, just hoping it will be easier or more convenient then (it won’t)?
I replaced the D-ring very shortly thereafter, and the picture hung securely there until I took it down when I moved. Although I don’t live in that house anymore, the memories and lessons still live in me. Whenever I am tempted to procrastinate or ignore the signs and whispers this world so lovingly provides, I try to remind myself that I can take care of it right away or I can nurse a knot on my head.