Thoughts: A Lack of Lessons

WPawlet in snow.jpg

Today I start to put my house back together.

It all began last weekend. I was traveling, taking a rare weekend off to go listen to some jazz with the woman I love. Friday night, I get a call from my son. There is no heat on his side of the house. There is no hot water on his side of the house either.

Perhaps I should explain. I am what my kids call “a paranoid old broadcast guy”. In broadcast, your mission is to be on air 24/7. You can’t afford to be off air, because every minute you are off the air, you are not broadcasting commercials. You are losing money. Viewers are going elsewhere. So there is a tremendous investment in backups and redundancy.

I’ve kind of done that in my own life. The house I live in now, a simple built in 1800 post and beam house, was duplexed in the 1920’s, and so I have two complete heating systems, two hot water heaters, two kitchens… you get the idea. It’s a little more expensive to run, but there are some advantages, including the fact that if a hot water heater goes, I still have one running on the other side of the house. If a heater goes, I still have enough heat drifting around that nothing freezes.

I had my son check the big propane tanks out back, and somehow, one set was empty. It seems that the last time Suburban came to refill, they only refilled the tanks for one side of the house. So I told him to take his shower on my side of the upstairs, and I’d get Suburban. I got them and they came, filled the tanks, but forgot to relight the pilot lights, so a few phone calls later someone came out to light them, and that is when all hell broke loose.

It seems that my 1940’s vintage heaters and not quite but almost as old hot water heaters were venting directly into the basements, and all that lovely CO2 was likely making its way into the house. I have CO2 alarms and they had not gone off (but then, they were a bit long in the tooth as well). One of the heaters and one of the hot water heaters were so worn out that they were about to come apart and fall over. My lovely, peaceful little house was it seemed, a death trap.

In short, new furnaces (2 of them) and hot water heaters (2 of them too) for me. While I was at it, it was probably time to update the CO2 alarms as well. All that takes a few days (Not to mention way too much money). It seems the new furnaces had to be in specific places to work, and that meant re-arranging all the furniture and stuff in both my office and my studio.

The next time I tell you I am a minimalist at heart? Don’t believe it. I have way too much stuff. I just hide it well.

And so, a few thousand dollars later, and a few days of chaos later. I have heat. I have hot water. All that to be basically, where I was a week ago. Minus of course the CO2 and near death experiences.

Everything has a lesson. That’s what they tell us. That’s what I tell people too. That’s how I live too, looking for the lessons that live in the events of my life. But this whole experience? I’m just not feeling the lessons.

I could stretch it, twist it, be all super philosophical, but the truth is. Stuff happens. Stuff falls apart. Sometimes in dribs and drabs, sometimes in a massive all-at-once kind of mayhem. That’s not a lesson. That’s just life.

And maybe that is the lesson for me. Not everything has a lesson. Some things just are. And rather than spend time and emotional energy trying to figure out why, or what you can learn from it, you just deal with it and go on. Pretty boring. Hard to accept for a why guy like me. But there it is. All that mayhem just to be where I was a week ago, and not even a lesson to show for it.

There are some plusses they tell me. All these new systems are about 35% more efficient. In about 10 years that will pay for the systems themselves, they say. My hot water tanks are 30% larger, so showers can be very, very, very long (My kids will like that.). The heat seems to be heating a bit better than they old systems. So there is a trade off, I suppose. But still no lessons.

I like lessons. I look for them in everything. Lessons give me meaning, even from bad stuff. I count on there being lessons, count on growing from almost everything in life. I am not sure what to do when there isn’t a lesson, when it just is. How can a big event be lessonless? What’s the meaning? I live for meaning.

But not today.

Today I have heat. I have hot water. That has to be enough. “Just be grateful,” my brain tells me, “that you have those things. Not everyone does.”

And that might be the lesson. That at times, we need to stop bellyaching and searching, and simply accept and be grateful. Life really is simpler than I make it.

I’ll learn, eventually.

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. Maybe lesson – once again and for always, God is in control…continually protecting you and yours when you didn’t realize there was a danger……He loves us so.

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