Monday, July 21, 2014

The Metaphorical Ton of Bricks

Most days in our lives, we go about our business. Everyone's day is different, but most of the 7.046 billion people on Earth have established routines.

Every day, some of those 7.046 billion people are going to hit a rough patch. Maybe a client yells at them, a lover's tiff upsets their rhythm, or the grocery store runs out of their favorite brand of chips. Small problems are a part of life.

Small problem for a small person: extra small. via

Unfortunately, there are big problems too. In the English language, many refer to the arrival of a big problem as getting hit by a ton of bricks. The imagery provokes a gruesome scene, but the metaphorical ton of bricks is not so bombastic.

The metaphorical ton of bricks is the thing you least expect. It's not the salt in a wound or the lemon juice that gets into the paper cut. No, the metaphorical ton of bricks most often sneaks up on you and takes you by surprise.

It's the realization that life can never be the same.

Every once in a while you'll see them coming, but that fact never lessens the shock of their impact.

I remember one such ton of bricks hit early in the morning before I had to go to class in October of 2012. My grandmother had been sick for a while, and it shouldn't have been a shock, but it just was. I had to go to my classes so as not to have too many absences when I went to her funeral the next week, and all day, I just wondered how the world could keep turning when I was in pain.

Recently, I was hit again by a metaphorical ton of bricks, as were many others. Some of those affected are people I've never even met. I'm not even in the middle of this pile. My part in this is practically inconsequential, but the damage done by this ton of bricks to people I know and people I don't know cannot be patched up with a bandaid.

I've heard it said that God comes to us in these "ton of bricks" moments to aid us, guide us, and help us understand, but sometimes I think He waits. He hangs back to see if you are strong enough to move a few bricks by yourself. Sometimes you're grateful for the alone time, but other times you feel like He's hanging back just to torture you. Sometimes, it feels like He's just not coming.

Why does this happen? We all know that this is just an unfortunate part of the human experience, right? We are betrayed, we lose jobs, we get in car accidents, terrorists attack, and our friends die. I personally have dealt with each of the tragedies I listed, but knowing that these things can happen does not make any of them easier to deal with when the bricks hit. People will tell you they are happy that x, y, or z factors make it easier to stomach, but it doesn't help at ground zero. In the long run, sure, those factors can ease the transition back into normal life, but no factor can lighten the ton of bricks when it falls on you. It's still a ton.

I don't know where God is in the midst of this massive pile of bricks, but I hope he is helping those nearest the epicenter of all the problems in the world today, be they big or small. I don't understand why my friends and I have been hit with a ton of bricks, I don't, but not understanding does not make the facts less true. Stating that it's not fair does not make it more fair. The real tragedy behind the metaphorical ton of bricks is that it cannot be lessened or lightened. 7.046 billion people will eventually feel their own tons crush their wills, and there is nothing I can do or say to make it better when the impact happens.

Is this depressing? Yes. Is it despair? Perhaps. Am I wrong?

The only upside is after the impact. When it's over, we choose how to react. Does the driver flee the accident or pull over and call 911? Does the recently unemployed stop getting dressed in the morning, or does she put on her business attire and print copies of her resume?

I'm not implying that succumbing to the depression is a bad thing. It is often necessary. I'm just trying to say that, while the ton of bricks may have ruined your life, at least now you have room to build a new one.

Cross-posted to Approaching Justice