Excrement happens, but so does friendship

Posted Oct. 03, 2008, at 5:53 p.m.

There probably cannot be a more fitting topic for a column called “Notes from the Deep End” than this one. The column was conceived as a weekly piece offering advice for times when life throws us into the deep end, practically and emotionally. Well, both deep-end experiences occurred in spades when a sewer pipe failed at my home.

Call me Pollyanna, but I have to say I was glad the problem was discovered immediately. But my Pollyanna persona paled — and failed me — when the plumber told me he’d have to call in yet another expert. The best but least likely scenario, he said, was a blockage that could be blasted away. The worst and most likely possibility was that the 111-year-old sewer pipe that runs from my house to the street was broken by the roots of the huge oak that grows my yard. I’d like to say I stood tall as he likened my pipe to a brittle, clay flowerpot. But in fact, I crumbled and actually wept as visions of dollar signs danced in my head to the imagined sound of expensive equipment excavating a trench through my front yard.

Because the second expert would not come over the weekend, I had three nights to entertain nightmares about the cost. I knew there was no possible profit in worrying over the mess until I had more information. But I’ll admit it. The worry won out over all of my pep talks along those lines.

This surprised me, because as a single parent for many years, I have faced and conquered numerous financial challenges. I consider myself a paragon of pep talks, a master of managing on a dime, and constitutionally optimistic, to boot. My emotional fragility scared me, because it was unexpected, because I began to doubt I’d have a dime left to manage on, and because for once it seemed the deep end was just too deep and reeking to surface from gracefully.

But then that’s where grace stepped in, in the form of friendship. One hero actually offered to help me out with the cost. Several others offered me the use of their bathrooms, showers, even homes while I waited out the repair. Close friends, new friends and business colleagues alike all offered their shoulders to lean on, and tips about good local workmen, too.

As it turned out, my front yard did not need to be excavated. But during a week that also held daunting financial news for so many Americans, I did realize that bad news can sometimes throw one for a loop. Allowing myself a good cry and confiding my fears took the edge off my vulnerability. I discovered how many friends I really have and I gained information so I was not quaking in a void. In the end, I learned that while it’s darned uncomfortable to worry before all the information is in, it actually did help to discover the support that is out there when one needs it most.

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