Pearls and Pipes

Once upon a time there were old faithful pipes…

I knew I had a problem when I found a small pool of standing water in my (usually) dry basement. When I looked up to the ceiling, the culprits–100+ year old pipes with drips–were oozing into freefall. Thankfully, it was not a gusher emergency, just a droplet here, a droplet there. The clear pearls of water forming might have been fascinating to watch if not for the ominous meaning they held.

The first plumber call was an apology for being “backed up” and gave me an appointment of December 13. The second plumber I tried could come on December 1. Plumber number three said they could come the next day. Meanwhile, a bathroom toilet stopped flushing and began dribbling water from the base. It turns out that a new toilet was needed upstairs. A temporary fix was tried in the dribbling basement until two plumbers could be scheduled for complete relief after Thanksgiving. I began a mind-search for gratitude pearls.   

There are many pearls of gratitude in my family. We celebrate Thanksgiving with both sides of the family (that’s two wonderful turkey dinners on both Thursday and Friday). This is my favorite holiday gathering of the year. It feels good to give thanks. I was especially grateful this year for the sharing of good-times stories with family members away from the mundane (and costly) repair issues of homelife and the ominous TV coverage of the new COVID variant, Omicron.

We often find new meanings in our retelling of a stressful time. Psychologist Monisha Pasupathi summarizes: “We become the stories that we tell; our stories aren’t single authored.” These co-created story plots influence our lives whether we are conscious of them or not. Perhaps next Thanksgiving I can laugh at leaky pipes with new story lines.

From the earliest of times people shared stories. Before printing existed, fables and myths were handed down through generations. I am fascinated by the lovely story-buildings in Europe. In the Middle Ages special legends were painted onto exterior walls of buildings where each floor told a different tale. Such floors were called “stories.” Just like those traditional walls hold certain story plots, your personality holds many plots in your story-house of life experiences. I envision that we store subconscious memories and pipe-dreams down the basement stairs of our personality story-house. It is time to uncover those pipe-dreams and discover the pearls they may offer.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

34. What happened to you over Thanksgiving that held both positive “upper” and negative “downer” messages?

35. Are there pipe-dreams you have held onto for decades that might hold meaning for you now?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

1 comment

  1. Thanks Jan for sharing this post. I too had plumbing troubles over the Thanksgiving weekend. We replaced a dripping faucet. The positive was I was able to call a friend and have him talk me through it. It is so great to have connections with people who can talk us through what ever challenges we face.


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