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Shocked; Not Surprised

When I was in elementary school, my next door neighbor got a puppy. She was a bubbly bundle of energy with one “quirk.” Whenever I or another person outside the household would walk in, she would get so excited she would have an accident right there on the floor.

We all knew that this sweet, beautiful puppy had a problem with her bladder and so even though I more or less lived at my neighbor’s home, for the first few months of her being in the family, we knew to not get her too wound up less we end up cleaning up the kitchen floor.

Every time this happened I was neither shocked nor surprised.

Fast forward two decades and I think of taking a phone call from a dear friend who had learned of their partner’s infidelity. We talked about how everything had seemed perfect and wonderful. The realization of the affair was, for my friend, deeply painful.

For them, it was shocking and surprising.

I’ve been thinking about these two situations, and many other events in the last 24 hours. Because while my neighbor’s puppy was predictable and harmless and my friend’s heartbreak was unexpected and hurtful, there’s another situation that marries both of these—when something is entirely predictable and yet still capable of causing a deep heartache.

Situations where the writing has been on the wall and the continued escalation of events has been beyond obvious.

In those moments, I find you’re not really surprised. You can’t be. Not when you were all but promised this would happen. You can’t be surprised. But shock? Shock can linger. And collectively, shock is numbing.

Numbing, to a degree, before it’s replaced with anger. Sadness. Frustration. Grief. Disappointment. Embarrassment. Fear.

Maya Angelou reminds us that, "when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

I hope you’re paying attention.


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