Monday, October 21, 2013

SURPRISE! Life Is Unpredictable and That Is Great!

Surprise (verb) strike with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpectedness; to come upon or discover suddenly and unexpectedly                                   --Random House Dictionary


It's been a very surprising two weeks in this part of the world if, like me, you are a Red Sox fan.  The Sox, who this week will start play in the 2013 World Series, are not supposed to be there, playing for a world championship.  Not after just one year ago finishing with their worst record in 47 years, dead last. Not after firing their manager after one truly terrible, awful season. Last March when spring training began, the Sox were 35-1 odds to make it to the October classic and now here they are, after winning more games this year than almost every other team in baseball.  Did I also mention that the team hit not one but two game tying or winning grand slam home runs in just eight days last week?  What are the odds on that? Ask bleary eyed fans around New England who stayed up past midnight to watch those blasts and they'll tell you it's off the charts, unbelievable. 

But that's sports. That's life. SURPRISE!

Because for all we humans think we know about what is coming next in life, about what lies just around the corner, about the next thing, the truth is that surprise is life. That at anytime we can prep and prepare and presume and predict but then there is a surprise, and we are caught totally off guard.

Things do not always turn out according to "the plan".  Randomness, not regularity, marks daily life. So those grand slamming Sox batters could have swung and whiffed and we'd be left to roll out the winter tarps at Fenway Park.  As "Freakonomics" author Stephen J. Dubner writes, "Random is as random does. Which is why predicting the future is such a fool’s errand." Or as Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia concluded, "We’re going to the World Series and nobody saw this coming.”


Yes, surprises can be disheartening.  I think that's why so many of us really don't like surprises. It is only human to remember most vividly the times we have been floored by life zigging when we expected it to zag. Getting tough health news from a doc when we thought it was a routine check up.  Being unceremoniously dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend without warning or getting fired from a job. The moment your kid handed you a report card filled with "D's" and "F's" and all that time you thought they were doing just great. 

SURPRISE!  Then surprises are like a punch in the gut. They rock our world, cause us to reel, even rethink our place in the universe which has just shifted in a second.  Surprises can shock. 

But surprises can be so sweet too, graceful unexpected gifts given to us by the Universe. Like wondering why your birthday has been so quiet then walking into a house full of folks, all of them there for you, all that love assembled in one place. SURPRISE! Or worrying, "Will I ever get pregnant!?" and then one day the test strip turns blue. A new life--wow! Hoping, praying for the best and then actually having that dream come true.    

In the midst of the Sox oh so surprising playoff run, I went to a karaoke party thrown by a local choir I sing in. Normal Friday night. Friends. Beers. Laughs. Nothing out of the ordinary. My friend Jeff got up to sing a song and invited his longtime love Charlene to do a duet. Predictable. And then Jeff nervously retrieved a box with a ring in it out of his pocket, got down on one knee, and said, "Will you marry me?"

SURPRISE! (And yes, she said "Yes!") 

A good life lesson there: to accept, even expect surprise as an amazing part of what it means to be human.  Surprise reminds us that life is finally uncontrollable. So the question is: will we see this truth as a God-given opportunity to embrace the adventure of existence?  Life is an unfolding story.  We never, ever know what's next, not really and that's what makes it so great, so precious, so surprising.

SURPRISE!  Gotta love it. Go Sox!


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