God Bless the Gentleman

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I had a lovely morning coffee meeting today with a retired gentleman.  He was a gallant gentleman.  He stood up when I approached the table where he sat waiting.  He shook my hand in both of his hands.  I sat my bag down next to my chair and placed my black binder on the table before I moved to go to the counter to order my mocha.  He was immediately up and out of his seat again.  He wanted to buy my coffee.  I wouldn’t allow it.  I had invited him to meet me.  I wanted a mocha (really, really badly!) and I couldn’t expect him to pay $6 for my indulgence.  We bandied back and forth over it for a moment until I put my hand on his arm and told him that I insisted on buying my own mocha.  We got our business discussion out of the way immediately, and then we settled in to a lively discussion about travel, Italy, architecture, and historic preservation.  I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and I smiled as I drove back to my office.

I was still happy and excited as I sat down behind my desk.  I had asked the man to volunteer his professional services and serve on a committee.  He is a retired architect, and his knowledge will be such an asset to the committee, but that isn’t why I was so happy to have made the connection with this gentleman.  He may not know it, but our gentle conversation this morning helped me in a way that he would never understand.

Being treated with kindness and respect is something that meant more to me than his willingness to assist me by serving as a volunteer.  These past few years have been difficult, and I have been stripped of my trust in my fellow man.  I am like an abused dog at the animal shelter.  You know the one.  The little guy who cowers in the back.  All the other dogs horn in and grab the food first.  She doesn’t step up to the cage when people come in looking for a pet.  She hangs back.  She is wary.  She doesn’t know whether the hand reaching out towards her is going to hit her or pat her on the head.  She startles easily.  She doesn’t like loud noises, because LOUD reminds her of yelling.  I am that scared little dog in the back of the cage.  It is not impossible to turn that poor little dog around.  All she needs is consistency.  She needs to be removed from the situation that caused the distress.  She needs to be around people who are kind and gentle.  She needs to learn to trust again.

Late this afternoon, I sent the kind gentleman an email thanking him for taking time out of his day to meet me for coffee.  I thanked him for agreeing to assist me as a volunteer.  I told him how much I enjoyed our conversation and told him that I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with him anytime he would like some company.  Before you get the wrong impression, this man was elderly.  There was NO possibility of mixed signals!  I simply enjoyed his company, his intelligence, and most of all, his kindness.

While I was able to send him a simple follow-up thank you email, I was not able to tell him how much it meant to me to connect with a good human being or that he helped in some small way bring me closer to the front of my cage.


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I pushed through that wall.  The one good thing about all of this is that I have learned to be patient, be stronger, and wait it out.  Redirection.  When things get tough, I try so very hard to redirect my thoughts to thinking that is actually productive.  I try to think about what I have in my life that DOES work.  What can I do to alleviate the negative thoughts? Those thoughts aren’t T’s fault or my kids’.  I own those thoughts.  It is no one else’s job but mine to get things turned around.  I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve read a lot. It seems to have paid off.   Much of it seems to be working.  YIPPEE!  So screw you, Negativity and Depression.  I will not only win this battle, but I will win the war, too.

I have spent too much time these past few years fighting for things that were not worth my efforts.  This time is different.  This time, I’m fighting for me.  I’m fighting for my life, and I know I will win, because I have finally learned to care about ME.  I don’t mean that in a selfish way.  What I mean is that at one time I put so much effort into something that did nothing to benefit me.  I cared for what did not care for me in return.  I was hurt.  My family was hurt.  Everyone around me suffered due to my misguided efforts.  This time is different, because if I fight to get back to ME, then it also benefits the people who love and care for me.  Win.  Win.

Yes, I was in a crappy state of mind for most of the day.  I didn’t accomplish much at all, but I plugged away to the best of my limited abilities.  I suppose that’s the most we can ask of ourselves.  We do the best we can.  If we don’t backtrack, give in, give up, or falter, then we have won a victory for the day.  That is something, my friends.  Self-respect and integrity at the end of the day is something to be proud of.

Tonight as I was driving home from work, I put my hair up in a ponytail, opened the sunroof and all of the windows.  The warm breeze whipped around me.  I stuck my arm out of my window and let my hand cup the warm air.  My iPod was blasting, and a song from my waaaay distant past came on:  Rasul by Spyro Gyra.  It’s an old, old song.  T and I were so young back when we loved Spyro Gyra.  No one we knew had even heard of them.  Rasul was a song that moved me.  Soprano sax is the main instrument.  That was back before Kenny G compromised the poor soprano sax with his greasy, long-haired elevator music.

When I heard Rasul again today, I had such sweet memories.  I remembered the old apartment where we sat on the floor listening to LP’s.  We had no money, but we had an excellent sound system with GIANT speakers.  Sometime in the early 80’s, Spyro Gyra came to a local college for a concert.  We scraped together enough money for the tickets, and I still remember what a fascinating show they put on.  Their percussion section was amazing, the horns, too.  We were transfixed during the entire show.

I listened to Rasul twice today as I drove home, then I called T.  He remembered.  I could hear the smile in his voice when I called him and told him what I had been listening to.  As soon as I got home, I brought my iPod into the living room, and played it on our sound system.  T and I laughed.  We remembered the giant speakers, and laughed as we looked at our surround sound system.  Oh, how things have changed!  Now, there are six tiny speakers strategically placed around the room, and the sound could blow our old big boy speakers out of the water.

As we listened, Emily came running down the stairs.  She said, “Mom!” when she saw me standing in there.  She looked confused.  She had thought I was playing.  I hugged her for the mistake.  I haven’t played my soprano sax, or any other sax for that matter, very much in over  a year.  Someday soon, though, I’m going to get it out.  Someday very soon.



Stepping Stone

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Tonight was a good night, and I needed that.  Another concert on the plaza.  Two down, eight more to go.  It’s easier this year, because I have some help.  All I have to do is show up and introduce the band.  No more lugging things from my car, dumping bags of ice, and later the water from the melted ice.  Still, concert nights make for a long day at work.  Eight hours in the office and then what feels like another work day in the evening.  I’m not at my best right now, both mentally and physically, and these concert days wear me out.  Tonight was good, though.  I knew the band.  They are friends.  Back when I was a musician, I played in bands with several of them.  That seems like a lifetime ago.  It was.  I was a different person back then, but that is another story.  Right now, I am trying to concentrate on the life in front of me.

The drummer for tonight’s band is from my own little town.  I’ve known him most of my life.  I can remember being a middle school girl and watching him play.  Years later, he was my son Andrew’s drum teacher.  He is also my friend, and we share many mutual friends.  I had calls all day from people in my little town.  “What time is the concert tonight?  Can we bring a cooler?  Do we need to bring chairs?”  Even so, I was surprised to see rows of people that I knew!  I was surrounded by friends and family tonight, and that felt so good.  My worlds collided in a good way.  My work world in a city that I love and my real life world from the town where I am rooted were all gathered in one place tonight.  I danced on the plaza with childhood friends to music played by other friends.  The sun was setting over the river, and a sliver of moon shown in the sky.

Tomorrow will be another day.  Tonight’s magic spell of peace and calm is now just a memory, but it is not gone.  It is not lost on me.  It was a stepping stone on this path.  Tonight bolstered me up just when I needed it.  Good people were once again put in my path at a time when I most needed my faith in human kindness and goodness restored.

None of it was about me.  None of it had to do with me.  No one was there to see me, or because of me, or for me.  Still, the evening touched me.  Once again, I was an observer.  I watched.  I looked at people and their reactions.  It was seeing those reactions that reminded me of how it felt to be happy.  I remembered!  I saw them enjoying music, the evening, the company of their friends.  I saw them smile and laugh and dance.  Watching it all, these people from my town and my life in the place where I work, reminded me of some lost song that my soul used to sing.

My life has changed.  I am no longer the middle school girl watching the band.  I am no longer the mother listening to her child learn to play drums.  I am no longer the woman in the band.  I am no  longer the woman filled with hope who once stood and watched the snow fall twinkling like magic through the lights of the plaza almost four years ago.  I have seen things I should not have had to see.  I have lost things I should not have had to lose.   I am someone else entirely now.

We have all changed.   None of us are free from the pain and changes life throws our way.  We have all changed.  I still don’t know who I am or who I have become or will become.  Maybe the people I watched tonight know who they have become.  Maybe that is why they are happy.

As I sit here writing, I am afraid.  I am afraid of sleep and dreams and tomorrow.  What it will bring?   I don’t want to plunge back down, but I know I will.  It’s inevitable.  I know that.   Tonight was a brief intermission.  Tonight I was not alone.  I felt good and whole for a few moments.  That’s why I must dissect those moments and glean all possible knowledge from them. Tonight was a stepping stone that I must carefully place in a solid resting place on my path.

Before the curing of a strong disease, even in the instant of  repair and health, the fit is strongest.  

Evils that take leave, on their departure most of all show evil.  

~ William Shakespeare