The words are cliché, but I like the way Sturgill Simpson sings them.
That’s the way it goes / life ain’t fair / and the world is mean. Recently, that phrase has really spoken to me.
It began in early June when our 2009 Subaru with only 60,000 miles had the engine nearly seize up. When I bought the car in 2016, my research showed that model had a history of serious engine issues due to a design flaw. Given how long it’d been since it was manufactured, I figured mine was beyond that problem. It was not. I needed to replace the engine and the turbo at great expense. Even though I had records of regular and proper maintenance, because I was a few months outside the 10-year warranty, there wasn’t anything anyone could do.
Just a couple weeks after getting the car back, the radiator failed. I thought it was just a leaky seal related to the earlier repairs, but I was wrong. While I felt I could replace the radiator myself, the situation dictated that I didn’t have time, so it went back to the dealership.
Meanwhile, a sudden health issue required my wife to stay several nights at the VA Hospital in Asheville. This meant both of us missing work, as well as the nerve-wracking possibility of emergency surgery.
Not long after my wife got home, our dogs got into an uncommonly bad fight, and the younger one bit a hole the older one’s cheek. This meant stitches, which meant vet bills.
Then, last Thursday, after much procrastination, my wife got an overdue root canal with only part of the cost covered by insurance. It was bad timing, but it needed to be done.
I ran into some frustrations at work, too. As the search intensified for Kevin Lynch, the man who went missing near The Swag, I became more involved in its coverage. Wednesday afternoon, when I heard over the police scanner a notice to potentially put a medivac chopper on standby to go to the Jonathan Creek area, I knew he had likely been found, especially considering how jubilant the man on the scanner was. I quickly confirmed off the record that Lynch had been found, and when I called the press contacts on the scene, they said to wait for a release. I was ready to break the news.
Then, even though in their 5 o’clock broadcast they initially said Lynch hadn’t been found, WLOS broke the story. I had known long before them, and yet I got beat simply because I did as I was told. This is a competitive business, and there is nothing more frustrating than that.
Going back two months, as expensive as our misfortunes were, although we ate a lot of those unforeseen costs, things would have been far worse were it not for the significant help of family and friends, who bent over backward to ensure we weathered the storm. Even a few strangers who had no business helping us used their valuable time to assist us.
More importantly, as my wife recovers from her root canal, she is able to take her time and consult with her doctor so her medical issues can be addressed in a slow, deliberate manner. Were it not for the talented, caring staff at the VA who treated her, things could have been much worse.
Perhaps most impactful was the realization that — as angry as I was to get scooped by WLOS — after grabbing a beer and thinking on things, it didn’t take long to get beyond my selfish frustration to see things more clearly. The fact that 200 people worked tirelessly to rescue this man and never gave up hope, even as those following the search from the outside grew more pessimistic, is something we can all learn from. The positive attitude of the searchers transmuted into a the best outcome possible. It was as pure a moment of joy as I can imagine.
Things have been tough the last couple months for my wife and I, especially because most of what happened was entirely outside our control. But as I take a step back and look beyond the immediate hardship and think about the people who helped us, my heart is filled with gratitude, and as I take an additional step back to think about the miraculous rescue of Mr. Lynch, my heart is filled with hope.
So yeah, Sturgill was right. Sometimes life ain’t fair and the world is mean. And yet, so often, it's through the lens of hard times that we can best appreciate life's most beautiful moments.