Nothing Good Gets Away

I have worked with college age adults since, I was, well, just barely no longer a college age adult myself.  And while not chronologically that many  years ahead of them; I’d had life experiences that set me apart in ways that felt like light years. Some days, I would hear little pangs within myself; little pangs of envy at what seemed so simple, so fresh, so ready for possibility. I was putting things back together for me, so to speak, and at the same time helping them find their way.  I realized years later how we truly helped each other.

Along with programs and events, my work entailed just spending time, talking, listening. Hearing their worries. It ranged from homesickness, to college majors, which fork in the spiritual path to follow; quiet conversations about where families went wrong and the years of wondering how to cope.  Some made progress; for some the struggle continued. With each student, I would listen; we’d laugh. I knew a lot of stories.

The most consistent lament that stood at the threshold of my office was that of love; it hadn’t arrived, it had gone wrong already, it had shown up and then went away.  It was unrequited; I knew one young man who so painstakingly tried to pursue each of three beautiful young women, sisters,  who one by one all came to attend this same university. As each one arrived in her freshman year, I saw his heart expand with a little bit more hope each time, only to be dashed. I also often witnessed the exquisite joy when two sets of eyes met and never looked away and the great weddings in subsequent years.

I remember a few young women in particular who were just heartsick that the completion of their ‘Mrs. Degree’ was not going according to their much anticipated plans. Having been bounced around a bit, in the love department; I wanted them to realize that there is no rush. That they had so much good in their lives and to not come at this with fears of never and what-ifs.  I ended up coming up with a phrase I ultimately used over and over; if you gotta hurry, you gotta worry. What’s the rush I would ask them. Why the need to fast track this?

I think all of us want to know what’s coming next.

The other day, a friend of mine updated her Facebook status to say:  “Why is waiting so hard?”  I don’t have any idea if she was waiting for medical results, a pizza delivery or the departure day for a special trip.  But her question caught my attention.

I think we all push the envelope in terms of wanting some kind of security in our lives; and for many of us, the security is in the knowing.

We are rewarded these days, by being in a hurry all of the time, and rushing on to the next big thing, rarely allowing ourselves to even fully realize, much less enjoy or savor that which we finished.   TV and media of all kinds reinforce this quick pace and so when things move slowly, or perhaps seemingly not at all; I think it’s safe to say that we all struggle somewhat with not knowing what’s around the next corner; or what things mean, exactly.

We often want it all spelled out for us.

Another way of saying, perhaps, how difficult it is sometimes to just wait. No matter the reason for waiting – news, good or bad, a special day, a blossoming romance to blossom, wondering if we got the job – I love both the knowing and the wisdom found in the words that John Steinbeck wrote to his son more than 50 years ago, with sage advice in the form of an eloquent and intimate letter between father and son, about the importance of not being in a hurry…

New York November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

Source:  Letters of Note & Brain Pickings

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The Third Dimension

It’s a common comment among those of us who have been fortunate to have found a sense of, albeit unexpected, community by way of blogging. Finding kindred spirits in the spaces between the keys on our keyboards, by simply joining the conversation, one often started in the quiet of our minds, one that sometimes feels that it is just between our keyboards and fingers. We come across the words of another and find a resonance, something that feels familiar, puts words to something we have felt or experienced but haven’t yet found a way to articulate, or knew that we even could.

It is not news to say, that friendships have been formed, and bonds created, because we dare greatly, in this space. At least, I know that I do. I risk sharing from a place that often finds no other outlet.

To me, blogging is one dimensional at this point.  We write. We read.

If we are lucky our words jump off the screen and into the mind and thoughts of another. Even luckier, when as writers, we find out that our words, strung together like a strand of popcorn on a holiday tree, have an impact on at the very least, one other soul.

Connections are formed, and bonds begin to weave a web throughout blogland. Across miles, states, cities, time zones and even the international date line. We start to recognize each other in ways that both surprisingly and not surprisingly at all, feel so familiar.

Then, with some, we start to go beyond the boundaries of blogland, when we go off blog, ironically. When we realize that our posts, comments and the extra layers of conversation compel us to somehow require more conversation. More than can be contained or conveyed in a comment.

In jumping over state lines from comments to emails and messages, our blogs become two dimensional.

Last year I created my virtual bloggin’ road trip because I knew I needed to know some of these incredible people, I really wanted to take blogging into the third dimension and found the closest way to achieve this, if only virtually. If I could, I would in a New York minute load up my little Triumph and hit the open road, and ring some doorbells.To allow the opportunity for real time talk. In person.

I have just returned home from a trip down the east coast, working my way from NYC through Pennsylvania, and Delaware to end up in Northern Virginia, aka, Mimi’s neighborhood by way of planes, trains and automobiles. I emerged from Union Station in DC, with no need of a taxi or metro because instead, Waiting for me was Mimi and the awesome Karma Truck! Guys, it’s as awesome as it seems!

mimi and bonnie

What a cool moment, seeing her petite but magnanimous self waving at me from behind the wheel as I made my way to her with my 6’4″ nephew in tow, carrying my suitcase like a true young gentleman.  He’s studying at one of my old stomping grounds and I got to buy a poor starving college student a couple of beers at a fancy bar in a fantastic city.

Quick introductions between Michael and Mimi – imagine introducing someone that you are only just meeting?!  Fun! And then quick goodbyes between Michael and I.

How does one describe what happens next? Let’s just say it was awesome. How’s that? Kind of surreal too, let’s be honest, to be inches away, and hear the voice behind the sentences on the screen. The eyes twinkling. The smile on Mimi can light up a room! The mannerisms, the inflection. The conversation that was already real, just got that much more real. And true to form, Mimi wasted no time. In moments, we launched into a conversation that had been started and interrupted on email…Mimi just says, “ok, there is a lot to catch up on. Tell me about…” and off we went. Words flying back and forth. Nodding. Hmm-mmm-ing. Laughing. Agreement. Clarification. More. Stories.  Then, I got to meet Bogey and the Sirs. And Andy. And get a real sense of the amazing person driving that amazing Karma Truck. It was worth waiting for.

In the comfort of Mimi’s kitchen, it was blogging in in 3-D! Face to face. In the same room. Sustained conversation that flowed naturally and freely. I found myself realizing that the posts we have each written and read, are already part of our shared history. As if we had told those stories at that very kitchen table. When the frame of reference predates the time of meeting.

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Bogey – more adorable than I could capture!

At the end of our visit, while taking Bogey out to do his business, I asked Mimi if she had been nervous at all, about my visit. She was not. I was. But not for the reasons you might suspect. Friends of mine who do not blog, expressed mild surprise with  my plan to visit- and stay – with someone I had never met in person. I tried  to explain this community we have, but it’s just not easy. You may have found yourself trying to do the same at some point, and if you have found a way to convey all of this, let me know. Please? I was nervous that in real life, in the third dimension, that I would not be the person she had come to know in the first and second dimensions. That I would possibly disappoint. Mimi has answered that, eloquently and exquisitely, as no one but her can.

friend

This sits proudly in the cozy room where Mimi’s friends settle in for the night

I will gladly hop aboard the Karma Truck anytime, or wave it down with open arms if I see her come rolling down my street! Thank you Mimi, and yes, Friend:Good. Very good.

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This Dot. That Dot. Connected.

I was reading something the other day, from a book whose title I am not going to reveal, for fear you might all find me to be somewhat of a nut (or more of one!). But no matter our individual bents or philosophies on life, perhaps this is something worth thinking about…

‘Thoughts are things…and may create crimes or miracles.’

‘There is no such thing as an idle thought, for so called idle thoughts are the building blocks of more complex patterns of thinking…thought patterns grow with feeding, and as thought patterns grow, they gather momentum…’

Whoa. I like this; thinking about thinking.

In reading this, I realized it not only resonated with me now but that it connects with something I heard while attending a national professional development conference a couple of years ago. It was a session I almost skipped, because something in the session write up – the one in the program book everyone carries around, their informational GPS device for the duration of the conference – seemed, well, a little touchy-feely to me. Which generally is fine in my book, make no mistake, but this was a conference with more than a thousand people in attendance and not a lot of hi-how-ya-doing interpersonal interaction.

At the start of the session, the presenter brought out a guitar and in what I can only describe as a very campfire song-like style, began singing – and  asking us to sing along. What? I silently cursed myself for not heeding my own internal first thoughts – as by now, you surely know that I am not that kind of angel. Singing and I unfortunately do not peacefully co-exist (in my dreams yes, in my car yes, in reality, no.).  But, I played along, well, to be honest, I lip-synced, so as to appear that I was playing along, and spare the other attendees sitting oh so near to me.

Within moments though, I realized I had made a good choice; it ended up being one of the best sessions I attended that week, with relevant, pertinent information I could bring home and actually use in my job. Life is funny this way, yes?

I scribbled notes on the hotel notepad I had grabbed from by the phone in my room, and apparently tucked away those two little pieces of paper in the time since, finding them again only recently (realizing I had failed to make note of the presenter’s name…).  When I pulled them out, at first all I saw were the words Stop, Keep, and Start, and I wasn’t sure why I had kept them. Then it slowly came back to me.

The presenter focused this portion of the session on how our brains think in patterns, seek out patterns really.  And that in the context of creating more good in our lives, cultivating more success, achieving our goals, and to help develop a more positive outlook, get us further down our own paths towards wholeness, growth,  understanding, mindfulness, peace, etc.; that we should perhaps consider these three questions:

 — What should I stop doing?  —

— What should I keep doing?  —

— What should I start doing?  —

I can think of a zillion scenarios in my own life in which I could, should, implement this: running more, eating less, eating better, communicating more clearly, improving my time management, becoming a better writer, trusting my own instincts, second guessing myself less, being  a better parent, being a better friend.

If I allowed myself, my list would be longer than Santa’s list of good boys and girls.

While reading my you-might-think-I’m-a-nut book, I connected one dot with another.  It made it more clear, for me, this connection that our brains do want to find patterns, and that we can actively feed our thoughts in ways that help them gather momentum; a momentum that hopefully causes  an avalanche of positive, innovative, constructive, affirming thoughts that move us closer to what we want, or want more of in our lives.

So, you know what I’m thinking? I wonder what you think about all this thinking.

One

One thing can make all the difference in the world.

How one father’s life taken, far too early, can inexplicably change the course of a family for generations, forever.

How one  person can change an entire day with just a smile.

How one mother can forever change the world of one little girl.

How one person who abuses their power can cause the suffering of an entire people.

How one child makes a family.

How one leader can dash the morale of an entire soul.

How one partner can render someone invisible to themselves.

How one comment starts a conversation.

How one degree hotter makes water boil.

How one conversation can start a friendship.

How one word can change a whole story.

How one song can lift spirits.

How one friend can make you feel so at home.

Yes, one thing can make all the difference in world.

Do you have a one?

Fluency

Leaving work one late afternoon, I was happy to find myself walking out to my car at the same time as one of my favorite women on our faculty. She and I enjoy a camaraderie in the midst of an organizationally challenged workplace, an ability to banter easily and we always manage to share a few gripes about the ol’ establishment and the shortcomings of it’s leadership and yet walk away still laughing and feeling buoyed by the other. This is not one of those friendships that takes place over  long lunches, streams of texting or for that matter, even frequent sightings. But when we do bump into each other, there is always a seemingly mutual happiness at our seemingly chance encounter (as chance as it can get when we work in the same place!).  And that day we ended up having what I decided was a conversational event that left me thinking…

…I’ve always wanted to speak more than one language; but it eludes me; not finding me a worthy companion.  I must accept the fact that Rosetta Stone and I will never be tight.

Sigh.

Let me explain.

I stare at my shampoo bottle every morning, willing myself to understand even a smidge of French by trying to translate the directions for shampooing from English to French, reading the ‘faites…rincez…repetez’ – over and over and over. All I have learned is that oui, it is true, moi will most likely never (I know, never say never) speak French, unless ordering a croissant should ever count.

Despite the fact that I grew up in a community where Spanish was spoken as much or more as English, I no habla Español. Well, I suppose you could say  I speak just un poquito, enough to ask for the el baño or more importantly, for more muy grande margaritas. The important things.

Perhaps I should take into account the Pig Latin I spoke fluently as a child, used fervently to pass notes to friends seated a row or two away or surreptitiously in the transition from recess to math. All the while under the misguided belief that we were the first to invent this language and that our teachers ad-Hay o-Nay ue-CLay   at-WHay e-Way ere-Way aying-Say!

And I cannot forget the sign language I learned so that I could teach it to my son in his infant and toddler days, so that he would have words before he had well, words. So that he could tell me he needed more milk, or that he wanted me to read him a story, without the need for tears or tantrums. Those happened too, of course, but for reasons far more dramatic and upsetting; like a toy being beyond reach or the commencement of the ever ill-fated nap-time.

And while Rosetta Stone and I will never be BFF’s, I should disclose that I am quite fluent in Fours, four letter words. I have to remind folks of this at times, of course, when an unnecessary apology follows closely on the heels of an exceedingly necessary expletive. They apologize as if speaking in the French I do not know and would not comprehend, and I must remind them that oh hell yes, I do understand how freaking shitty the whole effed up mess really is. I have to admit, I keep a stash of f-bombs handy, (I didn’t want to waste one back there, the situation didn’t really call for it…) you never know when one will be needed. What I don’t understand is why these ‘apologizers’ always ask me to pardon their French. I clearly do not understand French if I can’t decipher the simple instructions for lather, rinse and repeat on my shampoo bottle but that does not translate to not being able to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. So, feel free to speak in Fours to me, but if you speak in French I will be waiting for the croissant…

I am also fluent in the lingo known as texting, tagging, and tweeting; hashtags, likes, posts and shares.  Emails can be exceedingly exquisite, and when needed, extremely efficient, and my fingers usually cannot keep up with my mind, but we work it out and get the point across.

So while I am perhaps ‘multi-lingual’ in unconventional ways and can, with confidence, order a margarita por favor, tell you something is full of it-shay, sign with a baby and tweet like a bird, the language I love the most – while not one bit musician – is the one that feels like a melody to me. A melody that as easily finds itself in the low notes as it does the high notes. It is the language where in one moment we connect with another – whether new friend or ancient confidant – at a level just below the surface, at that place where words are almost not necessary and in the next,  laugh together at the silliest so-funny-you-had-to-be-there-belly-laugh-kind-of-way thing and then in one swift moment, go back to that other place.  In a dolphin-like way of dancing between the depths and then resurfacing  –  gracefully, playfully, effortlessly.

Like the day my colleague and I walked our to our cars together and in one breath, almost without words, we were talking about and completely understood the other’s pain of losing our mothers far too early in life, the grief, what it’s been like in the motherless years since, and then in the next moment found ourselves in a fit of giggles at the hilarity of an astonishingly messy trunk and not wanting the other to see this side of her otherwise always professional presence.  And then we were back to our mothers. And then the damned trunk. And then the grief. Just like a dolphin. But also like a song, the two parts harmonized and resulted in something much more than if each part were sung as a solo. I emailed her the next day and said,

“You, and that ‘conversational event’ we had in the parking lot yesterday?  That made my day”.

She wrote back and said,

“Me too.”

Like the reconnecting of friends who have now known each other longer than not, who find themselves in the same zip code, finally, for but one day, and fluidly, naturally, swiftly move between sharing the profound moments in their far away lives and being profoundly silly.

Like the quiet between friends when words are not necessary to communicate the importance of the other.

Or the unexpected, but welcome, free, affirming exchange of emails, posts and comments between friends, while new to each another feel old as days, where there is ease in the acknowledgement of affection, appreciation, admiration yet allowing vulnerability sight unseen, punctuated at each turn with an easy laugh and  a carefree silliness.

Now we’re talking.

Yeah, that’s a language I understand, I recognize.  Hands down, in friendships – from newly planted to beautiful old vines – when the ace of hearts is played, I have gratitude in spades.  Rosetta, it appears I may not need you after all. But, I still want the croissant and the margarita.