Monthly Archives: June 2011

Unexpected Casualties

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Today, on my way to work, I hit a bird with my car.  It was bizarre and traumatic.  I was driving along, cursing how hot it was in my car and wishing the blasting air would start to cool it, and then it happened.  A small bird flew out from the brush to my right and was right in front of me.  I didn’t see it pass my bumper, and as I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw it tumble down to the road.  I screamed and was so confused about how I had run a bird over with my car.  I felt horrible!

I forgot all about the bird as my hectic day went on.  I got back into my car, tired and ready to be home, and left work.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I remembered the bird.  I was saddened as I thought about it and, because my mind is frequently in hyper mode, thought about the implications.

It was weird and a (hopefully) once in a life time accident.  But it happened.  We do harm when we don’t intend to, or even understand that we are about to.  We say and do things that seem small, that appear to be innocuous, but they break and kill and wound.  You expect to hit a cat or skunk with your car, but not a bird.  They have defenses, the upper hand.  The odds were against me taking out a flyer, but I did.  So much of what we say or do has no evil intent.  We shouldn’t be able to hurt others with the little jabs, but they leave scars that never fade.  It catches us by surprise how powerful we are, how destructive we are, how fragile we are.

This should be an epiphany.  I should know that I have the ability to change others with small actions, to devastate with my words.  I should remember that the smallest gestures matter, that sticks and stones may shatter bones, but words go after the soul.  I affect others, and may not even realize when it happens.  And yet, the snarky remarks will slip (or spew) out.  The eye rolls will sneak in.  I am me, in all my cruelty and callousness.  I am more than just that: I am kind and considerate, loving and loyal.  But the darkness is there too, defines me just as much as the good.  It is also just as powerful.  If nothing else, this will hopefully cross my mind from time to time and remind me that there are big consequences to all that I do, even when it’s a little accident.

“We’re all damaged, it seems.  Some of us more than others.  We carry the damage with us from childhood, then as grown-ups, we give as good as we get.  Ultimately, we all do damage.  And then, we set about the business of fixing whatever we can.” Gray’s Anatomy, “Damage Case”

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Plans

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“Have I ever given you reason not to trust me?” –Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

Today was a mess.  I was put in my place, reminded that hope is really not for me.  As my three o’clock meeting approached, my computer (yes, this one, that works so great right now) and internet decided to conspire against me.  I spent more than an hour trying to get it up and running and online.  Yesterday I downloaded every update, ran every scan possible, and was ready for my web conference.  I had an hour to just get onto the website and, go figure, couldn’t.  I did everything in my power and ended up in tears watching a job opportunity slip away.

I quickly called into the number listed with the web address and hoped I could get by with just listening in.  I was late and missed the first minute or two of the meeting.  I took notes the best I could, scribbling every term or direction that they gave, for a program that I could not see in front of me.  I tried to calm myself and focus and planned how to best send an apology email and ask to still be considered for this training session.  In less than half of the time we were told, the meeting ended.  I apparently understood more than most of the other candidates did, who asked questions, without ever seeing the website.  I got all of the information that I needed to log on (miraculously) after the meeting ended and was able to easily navigate the training site.

I called my mom, still shaking from the frustration and emotion racing through me.  (I may have used some very, very harsh expletives when yelling at my laptop.)  I calmed down as I told her all about the frustratingly unsurprising bad luck I had.  I tried to shake the tension with a quick shopping run before rush hour set in in the valley.  As I walked down the hall to my car, one thought flooded my whirling mind.  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.'” 

I have felt discouraged and hopeless about much in my life since graduating from college.  I have felt stuck, cornered in a place that I never intended to be.  I have tried, but grown so tired trying to find a way out, a way back.  At some point, I resigned myself to the fact that it doesn’t get much better than this.  So it goes.  And then, though I fought it, I allowed myself a little hope, a bit of dreaming.  And then it all failed me.  I barely made it through and it remains to be seen whether any of this will work out.  Yet in my frustration, through all my self-pity and self-loathing, I heard it:  “Plans to give you hope and a future.”

My plans are not His plans, and His are rarely mine.  Since graduating and losing (and perhaps leaving) much of my faith support system, it is far harder to hear His plan.  Perhaps I have not been seeking it, and that’s why it’s not clear.  I am still unhappy, still stressed about this new venture, but today I heard Him.  I know that, while I still doubt and fear, deep inside me is rooted this promise.  Somewhere, beyond what I was aware of or thinking about, His words echoed.  Somewhere, woven deeper within me than my skepticism and self-destruction, is the knowledge that He does have a plan to give me a future, one full of hope, worth hoping for. 

 

Cautious Optimism

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“Hope itself is a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords; but, like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain.”  –Samuel Johnson

Tomorrow I begin work towards a new job.  I have finished the application process and now am working on training/orientation which will (hopefully) lead to a new job.  It won’t pay enough or be predictable enough to rescue me from the grasp of retail, but it’s a start.

Last year I got really excited about a job posting that I found that was made for me.  It fit my interests and talents perfectly, but it never developed into anything, not even a rejection letter.  I let my imagination get the best of me.  I began to see a life away from retail, away from coworkers that I cannot stand the sight of and customers who make me want to throw myself from a bridge.  I imagined a fulfilling job, one that I wouldn’t hang my head in shame when I admitted to.  I let myself hope.

Tonight I am nervous.  I am worried that I will botch this online teleconference.  I worry that I will put time into this, and never get a job.  I worry that this will have been another tease, a crueler one because it came closer to reality.  I am anxious and will be happy when four o’clock comes tomorrow and it’s all over.

But I can’t help but feel a little hopeful.  I am trying so, so hard not to, but I am hopeful that this will be a step in the right direction.  It will be the death sentence to my retail life and lead to another job, a bigger step, a world that I feel more at home in.  I hope that it will bring me joy.  I hope that I love working with students online, working with writing, working on something that is not calculating coupons.  I hope that it will mean that retail no longer defines (or confines) me.  It will broaden the picture of who I am, for others and myself.  I hope that finding fulfillment somewhere will make dissatisfaction at work more bearable.  I hope that the money will make me independent, make me comfortable.  I hope that this is a sign of good things to come.

As I look at all this, I realize that it is not too much to ask and hope for.  But I am not a lucky girl, and things tend to go any way but mine.  I feel my throat knot as I try to leave those hopes on this screen, let them out of my heart and forget that they were ever there.  I need to let go of them so they don’t haunt me when they are dashed.  I am trying to get a good night of sleep, trying to clear my mind and kitchen table for tomorrow, but I can’t help but feel a tiny flutter deep inside.  I can’t help but, with an abundance of caution, feel like tomorrow will be different and better and a new start.  I am trying to ignore and release it, but for the first time in a long, long time, I am actually hopeful.

“Every so often we long to steal/ To the land of what-might-have-been/ But that doesn’t soften the ache we feel/ When reality sets back in… Don’t wish, don’t start/ Wishing only wounds the heart”Wicked

Wedding Wrap

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“No it won’t all go the way it should/ But I know the heart of life is good.” –John Mayer, “The Heart of Life”

After a few whirlwind days, my best friend is married to a wonderful man.  I am tired and my head is still spinning from all that we rushed around doing and all the emotions.  I am ready for some very good sleep and can’t believe it’s all done.

In a nutshell, it was amazing.  We ran ragged and should not have made it to the end.  We ate nothing, never slept, and it all came together.  A dress zipper broke.  A bridesmaid fainted.  The rings were determined to disappear.  It was wonderful.

E was beautiful.  She always is, but she shined as she walked down the aisle.  As my strong, brave, silly friend’s chin began to quiver when she hugged her father, I knew I was done for.  As every eye misted over, the breakneck insanity of the week stopped and every moment took its beautifully sweet time to pass.  They savored the vows, embracing the calm that came with an end to planning and preparing.  They were happier than I have ever seen before.  As I watched him watch her, I knew that my best friend, my roommate no more, is in good hands.

Families bickered and cakes were messy.  Presents were forgotten and dogs ran off.  And, in the end, it was amazing.  The joy, the radiating love between them, was undeniable.  As he tended bar and she carried their dog around, the evening was relaxed and simple and filled with people loving them and wishing them luck.  As they danced in her living room, to the music of youtube coming from a laptop, it was the most touching reception I can imagine.  The simple was enough.  They had family, a few friends, and each other.  It was more than enough for the wedding, and will be more than enough for the marriage.  I have never been happier for her.

“Let me tell you ’bout my best friend…”

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“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.”  –Marcel Proust

My best friend, E, is getting married this weekend!  I am so excited for her, and my happiness comes from how much I love her.  There is something special about a best friend, but it’s a title that I have had conflicted thoughts about recently.  I have other friends who are close, who mean the world to me.  They love me and support me and we have fun together that no one else can bring.  They are blessings.  And no matter how much they mean, E is still my best friend.

“Old friends cannot be created out of hand.  Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions.  It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.  –Antoine du Saint-Expéry

C was my best friend growing up.  We went through all of school together, and were inseparable through the beginning of high school.  She was quiet, smart, goofy, innocent, and slightly awkward–just like me.  We had so much fun, played endlessly and talked on the phone for more hours that our parents liked.  We were a team.  I had other friends, and longed to be part of the popular group.  Our class was small, and I was gradually included more and more in that crowd, but it always came back to me and C.  She understood and accepted me in a way that I never would have survived childhood without.  Her family treated me as one of their own and our worlds were intertwined.

High school came, and we stayed close in the beginning.  Then we had classes apart.  And she got a boyfriend.  And I made new friends.  And three years passed.  And this past summer, she was married.  Without me there.  I don’t judge or begrudge her that.  I do know that, if my big day ever comes, I cannot imagine it without her there.  We haven’t talked in years, but she will always have a home in my heart, a starring role in my memories.

“No, don’t you remember? There’d be, like, this one person, who had, like, perfect hair, or perfect breasts, or they were just so funny, and you just wanted to eat them up — just live in their bed, and just be them. It’s like everybody else was in black and white, and that person was in color. Well, Rayanne thinks Angela is in color. Major color.”  My So-Called Life

Then came A.  We became friends in high school and she was in major color.  We had mutual friends and got along well.  And then we spent more and more time together.  And then she knew me better than anyone did.  She was everything I wasn’t, what I wished I were.  She was loud and confident, cute and likable.  School was an option and grades weren’t a stress.  Her dad was cool and laid-back.  She did what she wanted, how she wanted, and answered to no one because she didn’t need approval from anyone.  She made me laugh and feel free.  She reminded me that there were more important things than papers and grades, that adventures could be fun and life could be spontaneous.  She was a splash of cold water on my face.

Then I left town for college and started to build a new life hundreds of miles away.  A was the only person I visited when I went home, the only friend I would go out of my way to see.  It only felt right to see her, because she made home what it was before I left.  But I made new friends, people who were living life with me, experiencing my school and world.  She had loss and revelations and one day, in some big ways, she wasn’t the same.  There are still things that she posts on facebook that make me smile and break my heart, because they are why I love A.  They make me miss my friend, wish we were still close.  But distance and discoveries made us new people, and it became hard to get to know those people.  So we send quick notes, but the friend that I had no business adoring has drifted off into life.

“The most beautiful discovery true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”  –Elisabeth Foley

And now there is E.  We became friends our freshman year mostly because of the weird similarities we discovered.  Both the oldest with two younger brothers, we participated in Mock Trial in high school.  We love Heavyweights.  We love to buy office supplies.  We dip pizza in ranch.  And as we did more together, more commonalities appeared.  We shared a room and apartment, and everything that happened.  We talked and laughed and cried, studied and procrastinated, and we saw four years fly by.  We lived in the same apartment, but made a point to meet up for meals and go to the beach for our favorite sandwiches once a week–just us.  Somewhere in there, she went from a person who happened to be placed on my hall to someone who knew me inside and out.

E moved to the east coast after school for the Navy and has spent time at sea.  She has had relationships and friends, literally seen the world, and found the love of her life.  When many of my friends studied abroad in college, including her, I worried about their return.  I worried that they had seen so much, their world was now so big, that little me no longer had a place in it.  They had changed and I had not.  But she still has a place for me.  She doesn’t treat the mundane life I have lived, the smallness of my world, as insignificant.  She still lets me in to her life.  She makes me feel important and loved, even with all the other things she juggles.

I feel so guilty saying I have a “best” friend, because there are so many others that I love and have loved.  There are so many who have shared secrets and experiences with me, grown with me, changed with me.  But I would be lying if I said that these girls were not special, didn’t stand out in my memory.  A part of me grieves for the loss, that a new friend has replaced the old, but that’s the way of life, I guess.  They have new friends now too.  I would like to think that, when they look back, they remember me with the same aching affection, that they feel bittersweet tears spring up when they remember the beautiful friendships we had, and now do not.  As I think about these special people who sustained me, I can only hope I lived up to the friend that they deserved.

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends/ And say my glory was I had such friends.” –William Butler Yeats

sO lOng Oprah

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 “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”  –Anatole France

I know that this is a week late, but I’ve been thinking about the end of Oprah this past week.  The final episode of her show is strongly tied to the upcoming wedding of my best friend, in an odd way.

I am not a fan of Oprah.  I do not follow her book club.  I do not watch her show.  I don’t cling to every word that her drones spout, especially Phil.  I don’t see her as a saint, a prophet, or demigod.  I mostly disdain her for her hubris, her cockiness, her pretense.  It was a very, very rare day that I turned on her show to see what the topic was, and even more rare that I watched.  I caught perhaps three shows in the past year, and one of them was the very last.

I won’t say that I watched like an execution gallery, wanting to make sure it ended.  I watched for much the same reason I watched the royal wedding–it was history.  I wasn’t working, and there was nothing better to do or see, so I watched history take place.  The previous day I had seen snippets of the orgy of Oprah love that took place.  I was disgusted with the celebration of her, the emotion leaving love behind and venturing into worship.  It was all too much for me to stomach.  That being said, I’m not sure what compelled me to keep watching the finale.  It started with her declaring her desire to impart all her wisdom to her audience… again, the gross self-indulgence.

However, I will, humbly, admit that her last show was not horrible.  In fact, much of what she said was, surprisingly, wise and important to hear: find your passion and pursue it, acknowledge and validate others, give God His due.  And while I will give her kudos for her message, I was moved much more that I expected, no thanks to her sermon. 

I watched the show and thought about the countless episodes I watched when I was younger.  I remember watching her and Donahue with my mom, after school.  I remember hot afternoons in my stuffy bedroom in front of the old tv watching her talk.  The topics were far over my head, but I drank it all in.  I remember when her theme song changed for her tenth season and marveled that that was fifteen years ago.  The show is just about as old as I am.  And now it’s gone.  I don’t miss her and the show will not leave a hole in my life, but I am sad to see it end.  It is just another thing that is changing.  It is one more small piece of my childhood that has faded away.  The show reminds me of my mom.  It reminds me of being small and precocious.  Now I am old, average, and alone and hating to admit it.  I deeply dislike Oprah, but the end of her soapbox was much sadder than I was prepared to admit.

And now to E, my best friend, and her wedding.  I am excited and happy for her as she begins this new part of her life.  Since she has been back in town, I almost always hang out with her and her husband-to-be together.  I haven’t had her to myself for a long time now, and that is fine.  I miss our girl talk and being able to say anything I thought without a guy there, but I like him and we have fun all together. 

Nevertheless, her wedding signals an end to our relationship.  I know she is not about to leave me behind and stop our friendship in its tracks.  He is really respectful of our talk time, even when we’re all together.  But now, with those two little words, every one of her relationships changes.  She still has family and friends, and I know that she values them deeply, but he will become her first and foremost.  He is her family.  He is her roommate.  He is her best friend.  He is her person, her world.  I do not say this with bitterness or cynicism–this is exactly what a marriage should be.  He should be everything to her and for her.  That does not make the change easier.

I’m happy that E is happy and starting life as a “we.”  I am happy that Oprah will never again tell me what I ought to eat or read or do.  I am glad that life is changing and growing and that exciting new worlds are beginning.  But I am also saddened by what must end, what this newness closes.  It breaks my heart to know that my roommate will never again be my roommate.  She is going to be a wife, someday a mother, and we can’t be the same.  I am in disbelief that something so common, so mundane from my childhood is no more.  The little things that help bring me back are so precious, and another one is gone.  I don’t do change well.  I don’t like ends and goodbyes.  I don’t like newness and diving into something with no direction.  While life continues and the world gets bigger, I feel an ache for things to stay the same.  I know that they cannot, and will not, but in all the happiness, a quiet sadness sits still and watches it all pass by. 

“Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history.”  –Joan Wallach Scott