Canada Talks’ Shaun Proulx on a place called disaster

Here’s a #ThoughtRevolution I had over the holidays about the choice each of us has whenever we find ourselves in a place we all do from time to time, a place I like to call disaster.

I spent my Christmas in the UK, visiting friends and family. In London, I met up with my Aunt Les and Uncle Rob. When I was about twenty I lived with them for several months, at a time when I was figuring out who I was. My late father hadn’t been dead long, I wasn’t out of the closet, plus it was the 1980s, with the spectre of this terrifying thing called AIDS looming large. It was a really intense and weird time in my experience. I needed validation (I’ve come to realize), from smart, cool, creative adults, and Les and Rob gave me that; they mean a great deal to me.

On the Monday afternoon before Christmas, we met in a café a couple hours ahead of seeing an Ibsen play. It was a great reunion and right away we fell into our relationship with ease and flow.

It should be noted that my aunt and uncle are not to be messed with. They are lovely and wonderful people, but like things how they like things, have strong opinions, sharp minds, and just are not the people you want to dump a bottle of red wine on, which is precisely what happened when I asked our waitress to take our photo after she’d set a tray down with the bottle and three glasses on it.

Taking my brand new iPhone 6S – the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious version – the waitress began to say “I’m not very good at taking pic – “ when the device slipped from her hand landing corner first into my glass of wine. The glass shattered everywhere and hands scattered, causing the other two glasses to go flying high.

I snatched my phone out of the liquid, my uncle and aunt were fairly frozen in shock, the entire café – packed – was turning and staring, staff were scurrying over in horror to clean up the wine and the broken glass that was everywhere and we all quickly realized that it was me who had taken the brunt of the disaster, my jeans and sweater both soaked in a lovely smelling Malbec.

It was here where I realized – in just a nano-second – something that is true whenever disaster big or small happens: we have the choice and the power to manage whether it is disaster improved or disaster worsened. Do we add to or subtract from? is always the question in the red hot moment.

I hadn’t seen my aunt and uncle in two years and don’t know when I will again. The poor waitress was filled to the top of her head with humiliation. People were watching to see where this was going. Down Embarrassment Road? Up Flustered Avenue? Along Anger Lane? Would this spoil our visit, spoil Ibsen?

So I laughed. I laughed and I laughed. Because it was funny. Full of folly. Which made my uncle laugh, then made my aunt laugh. The other playgoers giggled and returned back to their chats. I poked some fun at the waitress until she started to chill and I made her take a shot of my aunt and uncle and I, fresh in disaster mode which turned out beautifully because there is a real genuine energy about them, from a messy moment I’ll always treasure.


We always have a choice in every situation we are in to make it better or worse.

It’s always up to us to guide it.

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