When Things Break
Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 11:30AM
Adam McGrath in Personal

It could have been worse, I suppose.I’m not a particularly clumsy person.  In general, I don’t go around bumping into walls or dropping things that are easy to carry.  Lately, though, it seems I’ve had a run of poor coordination and plain bad luck. 

In the past week, I’ve managed to break three household items beyond repair.  They weren’t heirlooms or items with special meaning, but I still felt those familiar emotions – shame, guilt, and anger. 

The first item was the bottom of a butter dish, broken by dropping a salt shaker onto it at the dinner table.  Medium crash, several jagged pieces of ceramic.  Easily replaced by the matching base from the gravy boat, rarely if ever used. 

The second incident also took place in the kitchen, and is the one that makes me feel dumbest. How impatient do you have to be to use a large kitchen knife to try to separate frozen hamburger patties?  Well, let’s just say, the few minutes it would taken them to thaw would be less of a hassle than replacing the knife whose blade tip snapped off under seemingly little pressure.  The burgers, when cooked, were definitely not worth that kind of sacrifice.  But again, a kitchen knife is easily replaced. 

The third item is the hardest to replace, and thereby the hardest to swallow.  While attempting to clean a dusty torchiere lamp, I mistakenly thought the painted glass top was screwed into the metal base, and upon tilting the lamp a bit, I watched in horror as the top of the lamp fell 3-4 feet onto the floor, exploding into jagged hunks and slivers of glass.  That was a tough cleanup job, made more painful when I discovered that the lamp was probably 75 years old, originally bought by my grandmother.  It wasn’t anything too fancy, but the realization stung all the same.  Let’s hope a few internet searches can find a suitable replacement.

What led me to write this post wasn’t the significance of the items themselves, but the emotions that resulted from breaking them.  I think everyone can identify with that moment of realization, when you’re looking at a debris field of broken glass, and hopelessly exclaim, "Really?"

There are not many experiences that more clearly drive home that feeling of hopelessness, the knowledge that some things can’t be undone, than breaking something without hope of repair.  Even if it’s something easy to replace, the frustration that comes when chaos unexpectedly enters a perfectly orderly moment is one of the most primary emotional experiences.  Perhaps I’m more sensitive than some, but I feel genuine guilt for actions caused by my hands, even if a complete accident.  My normal careful attitude is meaningless when thrust up against gravity and entropy, two of the most destructive forces in the universe.  At these times, no matter the amount of regret one may feel, all you can do is grab the dustpan, pick up the pieces, and move on.  

Article originally appeared on The Creation of Adam (http://www.adamrmcgrath.com/).
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