Two days before Christmas, I awoke to oh what a clatter and a bad smell. With MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) it was actually the reaction to the smell I noticed first and then the smell and then the unusual sounds from my basement. My hot water tank had rusted out and kept trying to fill up with water — obviously without success. This discovery occurred before changing out of my jammies or eating breakfast or even combing my hair.
Unsure, how much the smell issue was effecting my ability to problem solve (it’s an MCS thing), I called my dad about disconnecting the water and gas and electricity from the hot water heater. Just prior to discovering this mess, I had lain in bed going through all the things I HAD TO DO FOR THE DAY. Now I stood with my dad in ankle-deep water facing a big bill and a flooded basement. My dad had to leave to take my mom to a medical appointment, so I knew I was going to be cleaning this mess up myself.
Going into a mini-meltdown, my dad burst out laughing. I mean the kind of laughing that you can’t stop if you wanted too. I stopped crying and just looked at him. His response, “Think about it. This is nothing compared to what you’ve gone through the last few years.” (For any newcomers that includes a MCS disability, loss of job, loss of health insurance, death of my two cats…). My dad was still laughing when he left.
I can’t say I ever got to the point of actual laughter that day — being in a musty basement with MCS — one tends to focus on breathing rather than laughing. However, I did find a sense of peace as I worked. I even found some sense of happiness as I pushed the water across the floor toward the sump pump. The water rippled as it moved and when it bounced off of something — the water made interesting patterns.
Later, that night my dad surprised me with take-out for dinner and asked if maybe his laughter was the wrong response. IT WAS THE BEST RESPONSE. His laughter helped lift me out of a dark place both literally and figuratively. As he commented again, that I was that morning, the most pitiful thing he had ever seen — laughter again won out.
There are people who have avoided me just as I’ve avoided people who are really sick or disabled because we don’t know what to say and we are afraid we will do or say the wrong thing. The lesson I learned from a flooded basement — just be yourself and it will lift the other person up. Sometimes, that may require listening or shedding some tears together or maybe a laugh so hard you can’t stop. If my dad had told me to suck it up or to be happy — I
probably would have gotten more upset. He instead allowed his real feelings to show which allowed me to feel safe to share mine. Authenticity is a good thing.