Lessons In Serenity… Or, Bad Things Happen in Threes…

In hindsight, what happened the weekend before last was all my fault. One of my core values is serenity. So in my morning meditation on Friday, January 22, I asked the universe for opportunities to strengthen my serenity.

Well.

The universe answered. And it affected not only me, but my poor roommates as well. (Sorry Erin and Marin!)

First, some context.

For the most part, the winter here in Prague has been incredibly mild. It rains more than it snows, which drives me crazy. But no matter how cold it gets (or doesn’t get), it’s not like I have to actually deal with it. I have a cozy apartment, warm clothes, a winter jacket that I hardly ever have to wear, and all the other first-world amenities.

One of the coldest days of the winter so far was Friday, January 22, when it dipped down to -12 degrees C, with a biting wind. (I can hear my fellow Canadians laughing and saying ‘that’s not cold’, but just bear with me…)

That was also the day our heating went out.

The heating stopped in entire apartment building; every radiator went down, and with it, our hot water. Gone. We notified our landlord, but he didn’t really know what to say, other than to be patient. We can’t talk to our neighbours, as we don’t speak Czech. All we could do was huddle in every blanket we owned and wait out the long, dark night, hoping and praying that the heat would be on in the morning.

Snow began to fall. We’re talking major dumping, snow falling so thick and fast it was like out of a fairy tale.

I slept that night with my toque on (that’s a hat or beanie for my American friends), and tried to keep my nose warm. It felt like I was camping in the Waterton mountains in September. But worse. Colder.

There was no reprieve come morning, and life had to go on. So I went to my English lesson, taught grammar and then had my wonderful Czech students promise to make phone calls on my behalf to the landlord or heating company or whatever else was needed. My roomies and I went to IKEA, and I honestly could have believed I was back home in Calgary – it looks exactly like every other IKEA on the planet, except for the Czech language, of course. I managed to stop my spending spree at 800 Kc ($45 CAD). We ate Swedish Meatballs at the restaurant as well and stayed warm.

When we got back to our apartment that Saturday afternoon, we were overjoyed to discover that the heat had returned. We gave great thanks for this sudden blessing, and vowed not to take heat and hot water for granted.

Serenity was maintained.

Om.

Well.

Sunday came. We were doing laundry, when all of a sudden, the dirty laundry water starts backing up into our bathtub.

(I just had to ask the universe for a lesson in serenity, didn’t I?)

Our bathtub already had a major draining issue – it drained very slowly during, and after, a shower. So up it went in the tub, up and up, and Erin was starting to worry that it would overflow. It didn’t overflow the tub, but we opened the nearby hall closet to get cleaning supplies and noticed that it was somehow flowing through the wall and into this hall closet!

Another call to our landlord, and he vowed to come right away. We began mopping. And mopping.

And mopping.

In the five hour odyssey that followed, I had plenty of opportunities to practice my serenity. I kept saying that everything was going to be okay. We couldn’t be blamed for water damage to the closet, or to the hall rug, or to the apartment below us. We were just doing laundry.

Our landlord came, armed with several bottles of industrial strength drain cleaning chemicals and a plunger. And we mopped, and mopped, for the water kept draining into the hall closet.

Finally the water stopped draining into the hall closet, and all the chemicals went down the pipe and stayed there, and we had instructions to continue to plunge into the night.

Our trials and tribulations came out all right in the end, though. The next morning we checked the drain and found that all our poor drainage issues were gone! We did a trial load of dirty towels in the laundry, and everything went well there, too. Blessings in disguise, I suppose, because it is sure nice to shower without the dirty water slopping up to your ankles.

Day two of a lesson in serenity. I was pleased with how I kept my cool and met each situation exactly as it came.

But remember the title of this blog post. Bad things tend to happen in threes…

So two days later, our water was shut off. We think they were trying to warn people in our apartment building that they were fixing something after the great heating and no hot water fiasco, but, again, we don’t speak Czech. (I should really start learning more of the language…) In light of everything else, this really wasn’t a big deal. So we had no water.

But, we hadn’t been storing any water in the house at all. So we had nothing to brush our teeth in, or drink, or cook with, for hours. And when the water finally came back, it ran brown as coffee for a time, then just rusty coloured for an even longer time (as in another hour or so), and five or so hours after the water was shut off, we had access to it again.

Looking back, I’m glad I can write this blog post with a smile, because these were definitely lessons in serenity. How else can you practice your values without the events and situations of real life that force you to actually practice what you preach? Sure, it might be easy to be serene at a monastery, or in the mountains, or out walking or running a beautiful path. But to be serene even when dirty laundry water is leaking into a hall closet and the house smells of chemicals and you wonder if all the plunger work you are doing is actually effective… this is a true test of serenity.

So thank you, universe. But I think I’m good now, for a while. No more tests, please.

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