airing out the rugs

Anniversaries are a funny thing in life. And, no, I’m not speaking of wedding anniversaries, the anniversary of a child’s birth, or a new job. I’m talking about those moments in life where you are going along, and in a moment, your life changes beyond your control, and you are left to sort and digest. I affectionately like to call them ‘rug snatch’ moments.

For those of you who have experienced ‘rug snatch’ moments, you already know exactly what I am talking about. You get it without me saying a word. If you are still kinda wondering exactly what is a ‘rug snatch’ moment, or you think that possibly you have experienced one (newsflash..if you think you may have, you haven’t), allow me to explain. Imagine you are sitting at a table having dinner. It’s a beautiful table, with your best china, cloth napkins, an amazing meal that contains everything you have ever dreamed of eating. And wine, there is lots of wine. Good wine, not the cheap stuff. And under the table is a beautiful rug that the entire moment rests upon. Suddenly, some unseen asshole of a thing comes along, grabs the edges of the rug right behind your chair, and pulls the thing so hard that you are flipped out of the chair. The table topples over, china crashes to the ground, food flies across the room and the wine…the good wine..sprays on the walls and ceiling and floor. There you were, minding your own business, eating an amazing meal at the table of life, and here you are, on the floor in a mess, not sure of how exactly you got there and what in the world are you supposed to do now. My friends, that is a ‘rug snatch’ moment.

This major life changer comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Maybe it comes in the form of death in losing a parent, child, or sibling. Maybe it comes in the form of a life-threatening health diagnosis. Maybe it comes it comes in the form of losing everything in a natural disaster. Maybe it is finding out your spouse had an affair. Maybe it is divorce. Maybe it is a military spouse experiencing a major injury while being deployed. Maybe it is getting fired from your dream job. They come in so many forms. The single linking quality is that, in one moment, you are living life as you know it and as you formed it, and in the next, everything you knew as solid and real and stable is gone.

Rug Snatches are beyond our control, and we certainly do not plan for them, nor do we expect them. In an instance, they change everything about everything we thought about our lives. Prior to a rug snatch, I think most of us truly believe we are ‘semi’ in control of our lives. We have ultimate choice over simple things like what we eat, where we shop, who our friends are, who we marry, where we live. After one? We are keenly aware that in life, there is no such thing as control over anything. Yes, you can have the best intentions and plans, but they are merely guidelines. They certainly do not rest in stone. Your future plans are no longer worded as “I will be doing blank by blank time.” You word them as “Well, I’d like to be doing blank one day.” Ever tried to ask someone who has been through a rug snatch to make a 5-10-15-20 year life plan? Folks, it ain’t happening. It’s not because they don’t want to. They just know that the best laid plans sometimes don’t work out. Planning is a hard, hard thing for these people.

And rug snatches do this crazy thing with time. Once you have experienced a rug snatch, time becomes marked in a very different way. Whereas before, you mark time with things like age or graduations or births, now you mark time as ‘before the rug snatch’ and ‘after the rug snatch’. It’s a very weird thing. You can instantly look at a photo and say “Oh, that was before X happened.” or “That was 3 years and 2 days after X happened.” Think there is no way that your mind can catalogue time in such an exact way? You’re wrong.

When they happen to you, you basically have two choices. But first, you look around your mess of a table and begin to clean. Some of the china isn’t broken. Save it. The food is now covered in dog hair. Toss it. The napkins are filthy. Wash them. There is a small amount of wine left in the bottle. Drink it. The table isn’t broken. Set it straight. You pick up your chair, pull it back up to the table, and sit.

Here is where the divide begins. Now you know it is possible that your life rug can be snatched out from under you. Do you sit in your chair with toes dug deep in the fibers of the rug, fingers white-knuckled from grasping either side of the table, plates and glasses glued down to the table with construction adhesive, wine in a no-spill container, food consumed so quickly it can never risk falling on the floor ever again? Do you allow the rug snatch to consume every fiber of your being for fear that it may happen again? Or do you set everything back and begin eating again, with the knowledge now that nothing is perfect, nothing is planned, and nothing is truly under your control? Do you allow the rug snatch to define you, or do you allow it to mold you into a stronger version of yourself?

I’ve had two rug snatch moments in my life. And they were big ones. Moments that I have chosen to share with some and chosen to keep personal with the majority of others. To be nakedly honest, I would give anything not to have had them happen. You see, rug snatch moments are ugly. They take away your sleep. They age you. They take away your security. They change relationships. They consume you. But, there is a light after the darkness, and there is a certain thing that happens to you after the moment…if you choose not to hold onto the table and the rug for dear life. I am a firm believer that rug snatches have the ability to destroy your soul, but they also have the ability to transform it into a form that you were not able to see with your previous eyes and not able to comprehend with your previous mind. For that reason, I am able to make peace with mine. And, I am able to help those around me in whatever way that I can. You see, currently I have four close friends who have had the rugs of their life snatched out from under them. Three had spouses do the snatching. One has Mother Nature to thank. When you have been through a rug snatch, it is hard to watch the ones you love go through them. Of course, some of it is because you have sympathy for their situations. More importantly, you have empathy, because you have been there, and you know what they are dealing with. Rug snatches sew common threads through people. Your event may be different from their event, but the feelings and emotions are the same. It’s like a secret society, minus the cool handshakes and robes. It’s a look and an unspoken word that you understand and know.

For those of you who have not experienced a rug snatch, do not let the fear of something possibly happening taint your rose colored glasses. Continue to love life and send your love into the world. Eat at your beautiful table, and invite those that may need you right now to join you at your table. Make your table a safe place for those who may be afraid of their own tables.

For those of you who have had your life rug snatched out from beneath you, chin up. If you are in the middle of the darkness, know the light is around the corner. If you are struggling with fear, allow it to ride in the passenger seat of life and acknowledge it there, but do not let it drive. If you are struggling with sadness, let the tears flow, but do not let them cloud your ability to see the beauty in life. If you are unable to trust, keep people at a distance for now, but do not seal them off with a wall. If you are unable to love, do not let your heart harden, but instead, allow it to love yourself. And, most importantly, above all, pick your chair up, take a seat, and pull yourself back up to your table. Some of life’s best things are there waiting on you.