A famous quote once had it that "life is like a box of chocolates – 'cause you never know what you're gonna get" – and while I agree that there is a lot of truth to what the character of Forrest Gump had to say about that in the movie by the same name, I'm thinking that there's perhaps a more apt analogy for many of us living in these fast paced and challenging times, and it's this: life is quite possibly more like an arcade game called "Whack – A– Mole"… (…yes – there's the "first impulse" thinking about this, as in: "sometimes you're the 'whack-er', and other times you're the 'whack-ee' -- many of us can relate to both sides of that, actually!… and along those lines it's also true that some of us recently seem to have gotten 'whacked' a lot harder than others of us recently [especially along parts of the Gulf Coast]… but I'm thinking of something else in this regard – see if you think it fits too!)
First – a bit of background for the uninitiated: "Whack-A-Mole" is a mechanical game which consists of a large flat horizontal board with six or seven holes in it, and out of which randomly pops the head of a surprisingly large mechanical "mole" (… mole – as in the furry little animal…actually it looks more like the gopher from a Bill Murray movie, but that's for another essay…),… Anyway - the object of the game is to literally WHACK said mole on the head when it pops up, hard, with a large padded bat, and thereby gain points. In all honesty, it can be a surprisingly fun and weirdly satisfying endeavor to attempt this whacking business… Taking on the task of splatting as many of these guys as possible is rewarding in it's own right, but they also yield a very satisfying "mechanical -squeal" when they're hit, you see (they don't actually go "splat")… But more often than not, the moles actually win by ducking back down into their holes before being scored upon…
However, I'm not really here to promote an arcade game (though it is a fun diversion should you get the chance to play it!) …. it's just that it seems to me to be the perfect metaphor for what life has been like lately for both myself, and for people I've had the honor and privilege to be in contact with recently, from all over the United States, India, Spain, England, Canada and parts of southern China… and I'd venture to suspect that most anybody who's human can relate to some part of it…especially lately…
There are times we may like to think are the "normal" ones, when our days pass smoothly and without interruption or challenge to our "plans" and expectations… and then there are times when it feels as if it's the complete opposite – suddenly it seems there's a challenge to every little thing where there never was before – and we find that our "plans" get tossed in disarray (if not outright blown up), … speed bumps pop up… seemingly out of no-where… and none of them are "on the map"! (Know what I mean?!)
Like with that "Whack a Mole" game, even as we know specifically where "something" is going to "pop up" in our lives (literally and/or metaphorically), and we stand ready to take it on, we don't know (sometimes we *can't* know) exactly when and where what is going to appear – we only know we have to contend with it when it does… and also with whatever it may bring along with it in its wake. We can generally know what we need to do to prepare for some things (like with an approaching hurricane, or a probable job termination, or the arrival of a new family member, etc.), but there are other things too that "pop up" as if out of the blue and while there are some steps we can take to hold such things off, they can still surprise us (for instance, we can keep the oil changed and the tires checked on the car, but we can still catch a nail on the road and have to deal with a flat – or worse – and usually when we think we can least afford for such a thing to happen).
…Generally speaking, there's lots of things which pop up and change our lives, big and small, expected and unexpected, alone or in bunches, … just like these arcade-game-"moles"… …they come randomly into our lives, always in their own time, in their own order, and all of them without the courtesy of having consulted with us first about their upcoming appearance, so that we might have had the chance to have said – NO! DON'T! (…as if that could have stopped them…we wish!).
What kinds of things are these metaphorical "moles" I'm talking about? To begin with, there's family crises of all shapes, sizes, and dimensions… you discover that the gold fish is swimming upside down this morning, the kids just missed the school bus and the dog is puking; somebody forgot their lunch or their backpack (again!) and you're late for work; or you notice you've wearing one blue sock and one black one and it's a day where it matters and there's nothing you can do about it; … there's all manner of "incidents", of big or small magnitude that can be a "mole" if they are something that has to be dealt with, coped with, or managed to any degree! … There are huge powerful things with lives of their own like California grass fires and gulf coast hurricanes, and all the attendant artifacts that these kinds of things can bring if you happen to live on the "wrong" block; and small things like a leaky faucet or a suddenly dead computer or lifeless internet connection… "moles" can be a nuisance, a problem, or a life changing event… ( …to put it another way, moles come in all shapes and sizes…)
It's worth knowing, paradoxically, that even "good" things can be this kind of "mole" too – …I mean things like that promotion you've worked so long and hard for finally coming through (…or not…); or actually winning the lottery … Or the paradoxical and mundane things can be "moles", like suffering indigestion hours after having totally enjoyed a particularly wonderful (and filling!) meal … Or the seemingly senseless things - the car breaks down again after having just spent all last week in the shop, or the company whose bill you thought was paid notifies you that they never got the check even though it's noted by your bank as "paid" – …. "moles" all those kinds of things which make up the challenges of our days and nights, and the times in between …
Also - there's times too, when the "moles" just stop coming which can be hard to get through too… there are the "dry spells"… no moles… nada… nothing is popping up! … those kinds of times can be part of this analogy too and they can feel just as overwhelming and challenging as the converse, when the "moles" seem to have ganged up on us in a concerted assault (Picture it, metaphorically speaking: "Revenge of the Moles - Film at 11!"… or not: "Where the heck did all the moles go??!! Watch our Investigative Report, tonight at 11!)
SO – if life has been feeling to you (too) like a game of "Whack-A- Mole", I hope there is some comfort in knowing you are certainly NOT alone! – It's too soon to tell if this pace of life is the "new normal" or not – I do know that it can be a helpful thing to remember that – despite our best intentions and planning - things are gonna change and they might not turn out exactly like we thought they would – … BUT *IT ALL CAN STILL TURN OUT TO BE TOTALLY OK! *
Some things, we can only wait and see how they turn out… and that's not always easy to do, but it may be what's being asked of us – in those times our only job is to do our best to "hang on", "stay tuned", and keep helping others when we can and being ready to roll with whatever is asked of us…. But in the mean time, if it helps, think of each new thing that pops up for you ("surprise!!!") as if it were one of those "mechanical moles" and give it your best shot!
A PERSONAL NOTE -- Speaking of metaphorical moles..., I can give you a personal example and a case in point: first, if our paths didn't cross, as I had hoped they might, at the NFA Convention in San Diego this past August, please know it was only because our plans changed unexpectedly and totally at the last minute because of something that was semi-expected, but had the effect of coming up for us as if "out of the blue"! See, while Jerry was indeed there in San Diego representing us, I was called to Florida instead, helping my Dad to sell his place and move out to California with us (a very good thing!) And likewise, due only to the host of "attendant artifacts" of all that, we weren't able to keep our planned press time for the planned September issue of Flute Network.. and that is why this one is the September/October 2005 issue. It's the first time in our entire history that, due to the "having to roll with the surprises" nature of the way things went, we weren't able to give you any fore warning about this shift in publication dates, and I deeply regret any inconvenience that may have caused! Actually, it was in talking with folks all along the way that I learned I wasn't alone, either, in having to focus so hard on "whacking those moles" when there were other things I may have much rather been doing – hence, the core message in the Greetings for this issue (Thank you so much – you know who you are! Your kind words and understanding mean more than you can possibly know!)
ANYWAY - We have every reasonable expectation of returning to our usual press schedule at this point – our next issue is the November issue which will be going to press at noon on Nov. 5th – then Decembers issue goes to press at noon on December 5th – and so on. In good faith and again, with all best wishes – Jan Spell Pritchard
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