Snow in April

When I look out the window and see white on the trees, I smile. After all, there couldn’t be better weather for this time of year.

OK, now that you think I’m nuts, let me explain.

Snow in April is one of those things that can boggle a Front Range newcomer. One minute, the sun is shining and the leaves are budding … and then, just like that, your neighbor gets to explain why you never plant flowers before Memorial Day.

Even when you know it’s inevitable, an April snow shower always has the power to catch you by surprise. And it changes everything when it comes. So for our family, there couldn’t be a better setting for this time of year.

After all, April is also when we became “Missy parents.”

For those who haven’t met her yet, Missy is my wife Heather’s developmentally disabled aunt, a woman who’s my age chronologically but often greets the world from a much younger place. Sometime after her parents passed away, Heather and I moved in to take care of her … 13 years ago in April, as it happens.

Needless to say, all three of us found ourselves with a lot to learn.

We entered a world where the morning must always start with tea, and where the best end to the day is always a bedtime story.

We learned a certain amount of translation (Heather had a massive head start here) to understand Missy’s needs. “Book” could be an actual book or purse, “Up” was usually a request for help and “Mom” could be any parent figure, male or female. But in moments of high excitement, new words or even complete sentences could enter the fray. (The most astonishing remains the “Hallelujah” she picked up one December.)

We discovered just how intense even simple things can become when life is lived without filters. A piece of peanut butter pie. (“Wow!”) The much-awaited climax of a favorite book. (“Yeah!”) The sudden appearance of a much-loved movie character. (“Look-look-look!”)

She demonstrated for us how much a purse can hold, how loudly a stereo can be cranked, and how many different ways the same jigsaw puzzle can be put together if you apply enough force. And that there could never be “enough” when it came to Christmas music, cutting up magazines for artwork, or cute dogs on the street. (“Hi, you!”)

And as we loved and exasperated each other, we re-learned every day that “family” isn’t a one-size-fits-all term. And that we had a pretty darned good one.

The world changed – and we couldn’t see how much until we were in the middle of it. Like snow in April. Powder on fresh grass.

I suspect many of us have a moment like that. The ones where you take a step forward and everything changes. Where you thought you knew what was coming, only to realize how different everything looks from the inside.

It can be humbling. Frightening, even. But it’s also those moments where we truly learn. Where we’re forced out of the comfortable and the familiar, and have to see the world with new eyes.

After all, spring is the season of rebirth. And when your perspective gets reborn with it, anything can happen.

It’s something not to be missed.

But it just might be Missy’d.

Leaving a Mark

In a Northridge Elementary School resource room, Mark Jefka looked at the final position of the plastic chess pieces. Smiled. And offered our usual closing invocation.

“Well,” he said to me, “you win some, you lose some and some you get rained out of. But you gotta dress for every game.”

You do lose some. And now we’ve lost one of the best.

When I learned that Mr. Jefka died on Jan. 30, it hit like a shot to the childhood. So much of my mind bears his touch on it, the fingerprints of a caring, patient man.

Patient men don’t often leave glamorous obituaries behind. No matter. The love they leave behind surpasses any marquee, planting the seeds of changed lives and a better world.

Especially when they meet those lives young.

My classmates at Northridge sometimes asked what I did when I left class to spend time with Mr. Jefka. “Play games,” I told them and indeed we did. But it went deeper than that.

You see, Mr. Jefka was trained in special ed, working with students who needed some extra attention. And in grade school, that definitely included me. My childhood epilepsy had come with some other neurological issues that required me to work on very basic skills, such as spatial awareness, balance and coordination.

I received help with this outside of school, of course (and one helper who did so much remains a very dear friend today). But inside the Northridge resource room, it was me and Mr. Jefka. And often a game as well. Each one with a different lesson hidden inside it.

When we dealt the cards for Concentration, the prize was greater memory and attention.

When we set up the board for chess or checkers, we were building an ability to focus, study a situation and anticipate consequences.

A slightly noisier game called Bombs Away – one that involved looking through a sight to try to drop plastic skydivers into targets on a moving board – sharpened reflexes and worked on my sense of timing.

Yes, there were tests and other standard measures to see what kind of progress I was making. There always are. But it’s the games I remember best.

No, that’s not quite right. It’s the man behind the games I remember. Always calm. Always pleased with me, win or lose. And ever ready to show me how to take either result with a smile. (And sometimes a gentle chorus of “The party’s over …”)

If I’m ever half as patient with others as Mark Jefka was with me, then I’ll know I’ve done well. Even now, I wonder who I may have touched in return and how Mr. Jefka’s gift is being carried on.

We don’t often get to know. We’re shaped by so many people and we shape so many, but we don’t always get to see the later chapters of the story. We just have to keep reaching out in love and kindness, trusting that something we’ve planted is flowering somewhere, that the light from our candle may be kindling others.

Sometimes we learn, if we’re lucky. But whether we hear the stories or not, we have to keep writing them.

Because it’s not about fame or renown. It’s about that moment when a life is touched for the better. So many lives, so many places.

Thank you, Mr. Jefka. Thank you more than I can say.

You may have left these games behind. But I’ll always be grateful to carry your Mark.

Using Your Head

I’ve been a baseball fan for years. But somehow, I had never seen the Canseco Bounce. 

If you just said “Huh?”, you owe it to yourself to start the New Year right. Go to YouTube. Look up the words Canseco, Ball and Head. And don’t drink anything while you’re watching. 

What you’ll see is a 1993 clip of outfielder Jose Canseco going back for a fly ball in deep right field … a fly ball that hits him on top of the head and bounces OVER the wall for a home run.

“Look at this!” the announcer laughs as it gets replayed over and over and over again. “Boink!! And it’s out of here!” 

I made the belated discovery through a book I got for Christmas on 50 memorable baseball moments. (Thanks, Mom!) And while many of the other entries had more significance, drama or heart, this one keeps coming back and making me chuckle. 

First, because Canseco clearly isn’t hurt. (Lasting injury is never funny.) In fact, he’s even smiling. 

Second, because the moment is just so Looney Tunes. You could put it in the middle of a Rowan Atkinson or Jim Carrey movie without alteration – especially since the ball only clears the wall *because* of the head bounce. Way to go, Mr. Bean! 

Third and most of all, because I suspect we’ve all been there. You know what I mean: those moments where you’re trying to do the right thing and somehow manage to make matters hilariously worse. 

Having spent a fair chunk of my life in newspapers and amateur theatre – two highly public arenas – I’ve had my share of misplaced fly balls. Like writing a headline about the discovery of a “Viking horde” in Britain instead of a “Viking hoard.” (No, England did not get invaded.) Or walking on stage with a ringing cell phone in my pocket. Or for that matter, walking *off* stage and into the orchestra pit in the middle of a solo. 

But it doesn’t have to be in front of a mass audience or on the JumboTron to have an impact. Most of us are quite capable of replaying those moments endlessly, right behind our own eyeballs.

And so, besides starting the New Year with a harmless laugh, I hope this also starts us with a few reminders.

First: give yourself grace.

We’re not going to win all the time – even if we judge the fly ball perfectly. One of my favorite Star Trek quotes (geek alert!) says simply that “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.” And we will commit mistakes. Holding yourself to a standard of perfection is a good way to break yourself; forgiving yourself for falling short helps you forgive others, too.

Next, learn from what happened. Laugh if you can. Tell it on yourself afterward if you like. After all, you’re going to remember it anyway – if you can make it a story, you can take out a lot of the sting and maybe even create a rueful smile. “I’m never going to do THAT again …”

And most importantly, get back in the game. There are a lot of innings left to play. Mark the moment, but don’t stay stuck in it. That’s sometimes easier said than done, I know, especially with bigger goofs that take a while to deal with. (As I said, lasting injury is never funny.)  Take the time you need. Reach out to someone if you can. And then, when you’re ready, play ball.

That kind of focus and mindfulness is a great way to keep your head in the game.

One way or another.

Below the Surface

J.R.R. Tolkien died 50 years ago today. It doesn’t seem to have slowed him down much.

Among fantasy fans, there’s a joke that you could rediscover Tolkien’s old laundry list and send it to the top of the bestseller charts. Look him up on Amazon (I’ll wait) and you’ll see the avalanche of material that appeared after 1973. Epics. Poems. Letters. Volume upon volume of backstory, fictional history and alternative drafts.

It’s awe-inspiring. Even a little intimidating. Many of us have hidden depths. The Professor had entire underground cities.

But then, he always did. And that should be encouraging to most of us.

I suspect a lot of us have stories we’ve never told, gifts we’ve never explored, ideas we haven’t shared. And the longer they stay hidden, the easier it is to get self-conscious about them. “It’s too different.” “No one wants to hear this.” “Eh, I’ve waited too long.”

And so the guitar gathers dust. The paints dry out. The words stay off the page. And the underground cavern stays sealed.

Maybe it’s time to do a little excavation.

Waited too long? Tolkien was 45 when he published “The Hobbit” and 62 when “The Lord of the Rings” came out.

Too different? The Professor not only re-introduced epic fantasy to the world but subverted it as well. He took the classic heroic archetype – the lost heir to the throne, raised in secret by elves, sent out with the sword of his fathers to save his people – and made him a supporting character. The real heroes were the people looking to throw away power, and “happily ever after” still ended with a changed and diminished world and a protagonist who’d been forever scarred by his experiences.

No one wants to hear this? For a long time, Tolkien considered Middle-Earth his private hobby, and an unusual one for an Oxford professor at that. He almost didn’t publish “The Hobbit” at all; once it was out the door, he had doubts about whether it would be reprinted. These days … well, remember that Amazon avalanche?

Knock a hole in the right cavern and you just might find hidden treasure.

But here’s the thing. It’s not about whether the gift you have shakes the world. It’s about whether you let it out at all.

Because even if it never changes the world, it will change you. And that matters.

Give yourself permission to try. To be curious. To explore. Whether you’re fascinated by tinkering, or languages, or strange-looking rocks on the side of a hiking trail, it’s a fire that’s worth lighting.

In a society that’s often driven to pursue success, it’s ok to do things for the pleasure of doing them. If other things grow from that, wonderful. But whether they do or not, you’re growing from it. And if it’s building your joy … well, maybe that’s touching the world after all.

I wish you luck in exploring the hidden depths. Meanwhile, I’ve got some spelunking to do of my own. In the words of a certain Professor:

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
….”

If I find any Elvish laundry lists, I’ll be sure to let you know.

A Puzzling Situation

Click. Clack. Click. 

“Hu’p?”

In Missy’s enunciation, that usually means “Help.” And in Missy’s room, with those sound effects, it usually means her favorite puzzle is once again underway. 

In more than 12 years as Missy’s guardians, Heather and I have watched her work a lot of children’s puzzles – ones with planets, dinosaurs, pirates and more. But nothing has equaled the popularity of the Llama Llama puzzle, where the pieces have been handled so many times that the colors are becoming more of a suggestion. 

It’s not that Missy’s a fan of the show. To my knowledge, she’s never watched a single episode. But the Llama Llama puzzle may be unique in the realm of board puzzles. Even by the forgiving standards of that field, its pieces are …. shall we say, highly adaptable? In fact, a given piece may have four or five different spots where it could easily fit without bringing the process to a halt. 

And so, it’s quite possible for Missy to work the puzzle for an hour or more without creating the same picture twice. Mind you, only one of those combinations creates an “actual” picture. The rest of them are a bit more surrealistic, with Llama Llama’s head oddly disconnected from the rest of his body, or a toy train beginning in one corner of the puzzle and continuing in another as though connected by some bizarre hyperspace tunnel. 

But in a way, it doesn’t really matter. One way or another, with or without help, Missy finds her way through. And the answers she finds are indisputably hers. 

That’s truly satisfying. To her. To me and Heather. And maybe to anyone who’s had to assemble a life experience from inconsistent parts. 

Plenty of people have advice on how your picture should look, of course. After all, they know the “right way” to do it. It worked for them, so it’ll work for you, right? 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning from the experience of others. That’s how we pick up a lot of things from parents, teachers, employers and even the occasional Muppet. (“Why, yes, Cookie *does* start with C!”) But there comes a point where someone else’s lessons can only go so far.

And sooner or later, we all have to wrestle with the puzzle pieces for ourselves. 

The result may look odd to someone else. Chaotic. Out of order. Certainly unconventional.  But they’re not you. We all start in different places, work through different perceptions, feel the call of different songs. Our lives don’t neatly fit the same box.  

If the picture you build isn’t hurting someone else, chances are you’re doing it right. If it’s removing pain and adding to the world’s beauty, you’re doing it very right indeed.

And if it’s a little weird in the process – well, I’m certainly not in a position to argue.

Llama Llama has now been reassembled for the 1,237th time. (Source: U.S. Department of Imaginary Figures.) His toy box is upside down. His hooves are far enough apart to require a map. But it’s still a scene of celebration.

An answer has been found. Tomorrow’s may be different. But with patience, creativity and a memory of where “edge pieces” go, it will be one that eventually works.

All is well.

No need for Llama drama.

Taking the Field

The world seemed to stop as Missy slowly reached for the softball on the ground. Felt for a grip. Then raised it up above her head and THREW.

“Woohoo!” “All right!” “Way to go, champ!”

On this day, on this ballfield, it was a moment of triumph to equal any World Series ever played.

This marked yet another season-ending game for the Niwot Nightmares, a “Softball for All” team that Missy, my wife’s developmentally disabled aunt, has played for since its founding. The season ran a little later than usual – torrential downpours in June had a habit of washing out games – but otherwise, the same Monday evening joy and enthusiasm reigned.

If you’ve never seen the Nightmares and their league-mates in action on a summer’s evening, I highly recommend it. It’s a little different than anything you’ll experience at Coors Field. There’s no screaming vendors, no multi-million-dollar contracts … heck, there aren’t even any outs.

Instead, you get a game that moves at the pace of each player. You get friends coming together and cheering each other on, including the ones on different teams. Most of all, you get a sense of fun that has kept families coming back for years.

And when Missy steps on that field, she does it with the pride of an All-Star. Heck, she’s tipped her helmet to the crowd so many times – sometimes in a single at-bat – that we started nicknaming her “Hollywood.” For her, it’s both a game and a celebration.

She’s taking pride in what she can do. Pushing it, even. Not with an eye to someone else’s performance, but with an eagerness to meet the moment.

I try to do the same. I’m not always successful.

I suspect most of us aren’t, regardless of our level of ability.

We learn early on to judge what we can do and “stick to what we’re good at.” It’s a toxic lesson but a hard one to avoid. Everyone loves success and hates failure, and getting good at something requires a lot of failure.

And so, we diminish ourselves. We learn not to step out on limbs so that we’ll avoid embarrassment … and as a result, we never really learn to fly.

I’m not just talking about acquiring skills. These days, most people have at least heard of “imposter syndrome,” the conviction that everyone else has it figured out and that sooner or later they’ll realize you’re faking it.  It’s an affliction that’s not limited to the obscure – the author Neil Gaiman was once shocked to discover that Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, felt out of place in a room full of accomplished individuals because “I just went where I was sent.”

“And I felt a bit better,” Gaiman famously wrote later. “Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did.”

We’re all vulnerable. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. When we understand that, I think we become a little easier on each other. And on ourselves as well.

And then, only then, can we really grow.

I’m not saying we’re all going to turn into figures of legend and envy. But we’ll find what we need for the season we’re in. And maybe a little joy besides.

Move at your pace. Give yourself permission to discover. Meet the moment with what you have, whatever it may hold.

And if that moment leads you to a celebration with friends on a hot summer night … so much the better.

April (Snow) Showers

On Saturday morning, the landscape was made to confuse Bing Crosby.

“I’m … dreaming of a white … springtime?”

Some things just come with Colorado living. Like elevation signs at the city limits. Or a faith in the Denver Broncos that defies all evidence. Or – perhaps most of all – the roll-the-dice seasons that give you snow in April, even if it’s only for a day or two.

I got an early initiation into the wonders of Colorado weather, with a blizzard that closed my grade school and knocked out the power … in May. And of course, by the next day the streets and sidewalks were as dry as a bone. It wasn’t exactly a planned part of the curriculum, but it drove its own lesson home.

And yet, no matter how many times it happens, I can still get caught off guard by it. It’s like a weird version of Rip Van Winkle: go to sleep with green grass and weekend plans to weed the garden plot, only to wake up to the latest episode of Second Christmas. (“You’d better watch out …”)

It’s weird. It’s wonderful.

And more often than not, it’s exactly what we need.

OK, put down the torches, pitchforks and angry snow shovels. I know how long a winter we just had. Even for the Front Range, keeping snow on the ground from December until March is a tad unusual. And I know some of you became more than a little tired of it, even while others found a childlike wonder and glee and still others gave the mandatory chant of “Well, we can sure use the moisture.”

But I’m not talking about the snow itself.

I’m talking about the shakeup.

It’s easy to get into ruts and routines. Even when the pandemic hit, our world shattered in an eye blink … and then reorganized itself around a new set of precautions, habits and expectations. After all, it’s exhausting to constantly reinvent everything; slipping into the familiar frees our mind to focus on other topics.

But if we stay too familiar – if we introduce nothing new – we risk stagnating.

The mystery writer Lawrence Block once gave the example of a man stranded on a raft in the freezing North Atlantic. Every day, Block said, he burns a piece of his raft to stay warm. And sooner or later, if he doesn’t find any new material, he’s going to be in trouble.  

It doesn’t have to be huge. A book you’ve never read before. A place you’ve always thought about visiting. An experiment of any kind, even if it fails – maybe even especially if it fails, since that can allow you to learn more for the next time around. (“Rapid unscheduled disassembly,” anyone?)

It can be anything that opens your horizons just a little more and makes you consider something new. Because then a bit of you becomes new as well. And like snow in springtime, that piece can shine with its own unexpected beauty.

By the time this appears in print, the coats may be back in the closet  and the gardening tools back in play. That’s OK. If the unexpected stays too long, it becomes a new routine. Magic, to stay magical, can’t linger.

But the lesson can. I hope we remember it and put it to use.

And if we can, it’s snow wonder.

Beyond the Limits

Once upon a time, 2010 was the Parenthood Year. 

No, not the Steve Martin movie. Rather, that’s the year all our grown sisters started becoming parents and my new job title became Uncle Scott.  We welcomed our niece Ivy into the world that July, followed by our niece Riley in September and our nephew Gil right before Christmas. 

Well. far be it from us to buck a trend. That Thanksgiving, Heather and I stepped up with an announcement of our own. 

“We’ve decided to move in with Missy.” 

And by April 2011, the world would never be the same. 

===

If you’re new here, you might not have met Missy yet. She’s the disabled aunt of my wife Heather, a woman who’s about my age physically but much younger in mind and heart. She also frequently graces this column as an artist, a dancer, a softball star and a ruthless Candy Land player, but that’s another story. 

This month marks 12 years since we began taking care of her. And like many first-time parents of whatever kind, we had no idea what we were getting into. 

We learned. Oh, did we learn. 

We learned that a grinning “Uh-oh!” meant something mischievous had just happened, like hiding a book in the linen closet or a toy in the laundry chute. 

We learned that “Mom” was a job title that could be addressed to either of us and that my other name was apparently “Frank” (the name of her late dad). 

Out of necessity, we learned how to get paint out of cloth (mostly), how to smile when out-of-season Christmas carols were replayed for the 57th time and how to hide a broken purse so it could finally be replaced. We discovered just how magical bedtime books can be, wandering from secret gardens to hobbit holes and beyond. 

Most of all, we learned we could do it. Even on the days when we thought we couldn’t. 

And that may be the most valuable and challenging lesson of all. 

===

Most of us have a pretty solid self-portrait. We like to think we know who we are and what we’re capable of. The trouble is, once we’re past the age of six or so, that picture tends to include a lot of don’ts and can’ts. 

“Oh, I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.” 

“Green thumb? More like a black thumb.” 

“You don’t want me in the kitchen; I think I burned soup once.” 

I’m guilty of it, too. And the trouble is, it becomes self-perpetuating. When you think you can’t, you don’t. Your skills never become sharper and the next failed attempt becomes proof instead of an opportunity. 

But sometimes it’s not as impossible as it seems. 

The one that Heather and I hear most is “Oh, I could never do what you do.” These days, that always has us scratching our heads. Do what? Be a family? That’s a job all three of us take on daily. And sure, some days are harder than others … but when has that not been true for anybody? 

The job that once looked so big from the outside – that frankly had me nervous as heck at the start – turned out to be quite different when it became a life. And a pretty cool life at that. 

Twelve years since we joined the parenthood parade. We’re not ready to surrender yet.

No matter how many times I end up crying “Uncle.” 

Word Out

The final count: 423 words in a row.

I stared at the screen for a few seconds in disbelief. Nothing lasts forever, of course. But my year-plus run of beating Wordle had started to feel pretty close.  The game’s six steps had always been enough to solve the five-letter word of the day, even if it was sometimes by the skin of my teeth.

But not this time.

“Current streak: 0.”

The word on the screen was CREDO, as in a core statement of belief. The word from my mouth … um, may not have had five letters in it.

The worst part? I’d done it to myself. My guesses had uncovered all five letters of the answer, but I’d read too quickly to notice and only used four.The information was there. The brain was not.

And if that sounds way too familiar, I’m not surprised.

Sherlock Holmes used to warn about the dangers of reasoning from incomplete data. But in this information-soaked age, the more common problem is likely to be the reverse: complete data, incomplete reasoning. We get tired. Or distracted. Or even overwhelmed as we try to handle “everything, everywhere, all at once,” which these days is not just a movie, it’s a way of life.

Whatever the reason, it creates a brain wreck. Sometimes it’s just annoying, like spotting an error in an email you sent just give minutes ago. Other times, it’s bigger – maybe even on the level of national news. (“BREAKING: GOVERNMENT FAILED TO ACT ON WARNINGS.”)

But in a weird way, it’s also hopeful. It means learning is possible.

If you visit here regularly, you may know that I’m also a tabletop roleplayer who runs Dungeons & Dragons games for his nephews. (If you didn’t know that, yes, I’m even geekier than you realized.) I bring it up because a lot of modern games now include the concept of “failing forward.” In a roleplaying game, it means that a failure should always advance the story in some way, even while making things harder.

In real life, it’s an even simpler concept: that a failure you can learn from is not a total failure. It’s the beginning of a future success.

It hurts. No question. It’s frustrating beyond belief. And even when you know what needs to improve, it’s often not easy. It often means retraining habits,  pushing beyond old expectations, even asking for help. Learning’s not a comfortable thing.

But it’s a possible thing. It can be done. And that’s what matters.

The story can move forward.

And despite what the world tells you, it doesn’t have to move forward at a rush. Take the time you need. Examine the situation. Learn the pieces you have and be ready to look for new ways they might fit.

It doesn’t guarantee a win. But it keeps you in the game. And with enough struggle and awareness and growth, it can eventually spell something pretty G-R-E-A-T.

At least, that’s my credo.

It’s a Big World, After All

“Space is big,” Douglas Adams once wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Don’t look now, but he may have understated the case.

Remember the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble that sent back amazingly clear star field images last year? Well, it’s back for another round. Astronomers studying those images have found six tremendous galaxies dating back about 13.1 billion years … which means the early universe was about 100 times bigger than we thought.

“We’ve been informally calling these objects ‘universe breakers’ — and they have been living up to their name so far,” astronomer Joel Leja told CBS.

Another put it even more simply to the press: “We just discovered the impossible.”

Now, depending on your perspective, this might not seem like such a (pardon the phrase) big deal. After all, it’s not something that’s going to instantly clean the atmosphere, bring peace on Earth and lead the Broncos back to the Super Bowl. Lots of stars? So what?

But from another angle, it’s huge. Not only does this add to our knowledge, it forces us to revisit it. We had an idea of how quickly galaxies come together. Now it looks like we were being too modest. And if so, old ideas need to give way in the face of new information.

That’s a basic tool of science. It’s also something we’re not terribly good at in our day-to-day lives.

Previously in this column, I’ve mentioned what I call the Paul Simon Rule, derived from a verse in his song “The Boxer”:

Still a man hears what he wants to hear,

And disregards the rest.  

Put simply, we’re a stubborn bunch. Sometimes that’s been our saving grace as a species as we outlast war, disaster and the rise and fall of Jerry Springer. But it also means that we tend to hold onto ideas long past their sell-by date.

Why? Because staying with what we “know” is comfortable. Certainly more comfortable than having to rearrange our mental furniture and maybe even acknowledge we were wrong.

Take a look at the last Super Bowl. A thrilling, down-to-the-wire game exploded into controversy because of a holding penalty that basically killed the Eagles’ chance for a comeback. And even after the player in question admitted he had been holding, it didn’t really change anything. Fans had already staked out their positions on whether it was justified or a joke, and nobody was budging.

At our core, we are storytelling creatures. We’re happiest when things fit a pattern. And if the story fits what we already believe, well, then we’re golden. Studies have suggested that our reasoning originally developed to win arguments rather than to find facts, especially since we’re so often better at seeing flaws in someone else’s logic than our own.

So when something comes along that forces us to rethink, it’s a big deal indeed. Even more so when we succeed. It’s a moment of humility that moves us forward, allows us to learn, opens up new worlds that we might not have considered before.

In its own way, those moments rebuild a universe at record speed. Maybe even faster than those ancient stars.

Let them happen.

You might just find that they give you space to grow.