The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians had reached the height of their battle for a history-shaking triumph when I heard the thumps, like elephants dancing a tango overhead.
One thump usually meant our 85-pound dog Blake had jumped on the bed for the night. Two could mean he’d gotten down to try a different spot. Multiple thumps from the wrong side of the house meant … what?
I dashed upstairs, traced the noise. Missy’s bedroom. Inside, our disabled ward was on the floor with all her blankets underneath her. She’d fallen out of bed, and then started hitting the ground in frustration rather than get up.
“Missy! Are you OK?”
Physically, she was. No broken bones, no obvious injuries of any kind as I helped her back up and onto her mattress. But still she cried, a night interrupted in the worst possible way.
My wife Heather appeared in the doorway. “Oh, honey,” she said, sympathy in every word. “Do you want a little more of your story?”
Missy nodded. I pulled out the book that had been set down just before the lights went out. And soon, we were smiling and giggling at tales of adventure and ridiculous exertion on a world that would never be.
The world had been made right again. All was restored to its place. And after the lights went out, I went back to our bedroom to thank Heather for the suggestion.
“A lot of times, it just helps to go back to doing what you were doing before,” she said.
A reset button.
It seemed too simple to be true. And yet, I knew what she was talking about.
In case I was too slow to get it the first time, the larger world was re-enacting it downstairs. The Cubs had seemingly been in the midst of one more traumatic collapse, from a 5-1 lead to a 6-6 tie, when a rain delay had hit in the 10th inning. The brief stop gave the Cubs time to come together, rally, and clear their heads before returning to the field to get the job done.
“Because they met, they pumped themselves up and won that inning,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told the Chicago Tribune after the renewed team brought home its first championship in 108 years.
“(Right fielder Jason Heyward) said ‘Let’s forget about everything up to this point. Let’s believe we can do this,’” the night’s MVP, Ben Zobrist, told the paper.
Forget. Reset. Renew.
Easy to say. Easy to forget.
I’m stubborn. Many of us are. It’s tempting to focus on the frustration, on what’s not working, on what’s worse and not getting better. It feels good, in a perverse way, to pound the floor and cry.
But it doesn’t get you anywhere.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked away from a piece I was writing that went nowhere, or a tedious chore that had gone south. Not for good, just to clear my head before taking a fresh run from the last place that worked. As Sir Paul McCartney put it, to “get back to where you once belonged.”
It was going right. And it can be again.
Forget. Reset. Renew.
The night ended with a smiling Missy, back in bed, the covers safely around her.
The night ended with an exultant baseball team, charging the field, sleep postponed by jubilation.
The night ended – but the lesson went on. Simple and clear.
No tango-dancing elephants needed.