Saturday, June 30, 2012

Disappointed and dejected....

I thought maybe I was old enough....perfected enough....not to be surprised by people any more. As in disappointed and dejected by the things they do or don't do.

I was wrong. 

Oh, I can proclaim, "NOTHING that people do any more surprises me" but that is simple conversational grousing around a table with a glass of wine on a Friday night with friends.

Over the past few years, I have taken on a new and improved positive attitude about life in general, including how I relate to the people around me. It's true that I am more cautious about many things. Such as no matter how many new experiences I want in my life, I still know better than to jump out of airplanes. Tempting fate in such a harrowing way stretches the limits of good sense. Mine, anyway.

But I had consciously decided to give people around me the benefit of the doubt in nearly all situations, mainly because I have come to understand that everyone is struggling with unseen burdens. Call me naive. Call me a Pollyanna. Call me whatever you like, but I can sleep at night knowing that I wasn't the one who added any boulders to someone's already overloaded backpack that day. 

I expect the best for them and from them, without looking for slights or hidden agendas around every corner, waiting to jump out and bit me in the....well, you know where. I'm a straight forward person and I hope that others can be the same with me. I practice kindness and thoroughly enjoy it in return. I do kind of expect all of those things. And I must say that I usually get them. You know what they say about creating the world you want to live in. That's the one for me.

So, when someone disappoints me, it does surprise me. And, I must admit, it hurts. If I were that callous, uncaring woman who had her guard up all the time, it wouldn't matter, would it? 

By living vulnerably, we leave ourselves open to the injury that someone who we trusted can lay at our feet. 

The obvious question, then, is now what? Do I change the frame through which I view the world and the people around me? Do I throw up the barriers, in an attempt to never be hurt again?

I'm not even sure it's possible to insulate ourselves in that way. And I don't think that is an option for me, even today in the midst of my disappointment. 

I accept that people often don't act in their own best interests, and their flailing around means I might get smacked in the face if I stand too close. But I want to experience life running full bore on the field of play, even if it means I get hit once in a while by someone throwing those rocks they find in their backpack. 

In this case, I just expected better.

 We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weather energy.......

What IS it with the men I know and weather? I know, I know....generalizations are unfair. But I'm speaking here from my own personal space on this planet, and that small square of ground has convinced me that men hit the floor in the morning and head directly to one of two places, (well, after the obvious first one, I mean): To the television or to their computer. 

Not to check their email. Nope. Or post their status on Facebook. No way. 

They immediately check that moving multi-colored map that shows the weather conditions in their slice of the world.

"Hey, honey! This radar looks BAD for the next TWO WEEKS! Don't we have a barbeque party scheduled  in about 10 days??"

"Look at all that red and yellow on this map, kids! And it's moving fast. I will be POURING here any minute. I'll call the coach and see if they've cancelled the game!"

OK, I think to myself. You do that. I've got to go grocery shopping, the cat needs food (and THAT is a circumstance I do fear), and the kids need supplies for a school project that was due yesterday and I just found out about it today when I went through one of their backpacks. The weather? You're kidding, right?

Does this weather update mean I get to stay home, snuggle under a comfy blanket while I read the hottest new novel?  Right.

On what planet would that happen, I want to know? Nothing changes in reality. Not a thing. My umbrella is in the car, ready to escort me as I make my way through my day, come rain, sleet, snow, or hail. The mail carrier has nothing on me.

It even happens on the phone, for Pete's sake. I call him to say "hello" in the midst of a busy day. "I was thinking about you. How is your day?" 

"WOW, did you hear about the storm brewing in the Gulf? Bad stuff!" 

Okey, dokey, then.

As I have aged, I gave up paying attention to weather forecasters. Decades ago, actually. It seems that they are one of two brand of professionals who don't even have to be right for people to keep tuning in. Gluttons for punishment that we all seem to be. Plus, if I'm not going to alter my plans based on what they "predict according to the latest models," what's the point? 

So, guys: How about diverting all that "weather energy" to something more useful? Like buying cat food before the cat is hiding behind walls and jumping out to bite our ankles in hunger? Or talking about the latest political polls or what we'll do for the kids' birthday? Something, anything.....except the weather.

What's that you say? You want to know the other category that can be consistently wrong and still keep their jobs? That one is easy. 


 Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while.
                                                                                      Kin Hubbard 


Monday, June 18, 2012

How can I help?

On our way back home after a cruise to Bermuda, we stopped for lunch at one of those eateries hunkered down along interchanges every where. You know the ones. The servers shout their orders to the cook. The one standing two feet away. 

              For the next 30 minutes, we listened to a young woman chatter about her after-work plans, as she stood stationary for long periods of time. Then she and the manager, a woman not much older than this young chatty person, argued about what she was supposed to be doing. All in full view of a captive audience of hungry travelers, including me. The cook was the only male employee present in a crew of about six, and he kept quiet, probably for good reason. 

           The contrast between this group of service folks and the crew on the ship we had just left was stark. We had been catered to and waited on for over a week by a multi-national group of young people who worked together like the gears of an expensive Swiss timepiece. They smiled, they chatted politely with their customers, they anticipated what we might need. And then they provided it. There was no extraneous conversation between them. No complaining about the boss. No wailing about how unfair life is, or what they were planning when they got off duty. We were the center of their universe, at least while they were on the clock.

           José from Haiti made orange juice every morning in the buffet area. This twenty-six year old can’t possibly like orange juice as much as it seemed, but he made all of us want it as soon as our eyes opened every day. We sat at a table nearby, just to watch him greet people as they came by, and soon he was addressing them by name. He said that he chose this job because “Everyone has to work,” and it provided a good income. He hasn’t married yet, because being away from home and family for months at a time is tough, he said. 

           Did you know that when you leave your cabin on a ship, the steward cleans up after you? Every time. Leslie from Trinidad and Tobago was our steward and she agreed with José. She has two children back home and after eight months at sea, she is looking forward to two months off soon. But she is providing for her family.

          The cruise industry ranks high on the list of pastimes for many people, but especially for older people who have amassed the means and time to travel in style. There were over 2000 people on this majestic vessel, and it isn’t even one of the larger ships sailing the seas today. When travelers mark their customer satisfaction surveys, one of the top scores has to rest on the fact that everything is done for you while on board. And it is done efficiently, quietly, and with a smile. 

           Any other service-oriented business could take a lesson. Beginning with that restaurant on I-95.

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.
Walt Disney

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just listen.......

Getting older takes a lot away from us every day. 

Like our keys. Or errant cell phones.

And that word that slips around the corner of our memory banks just when we think we're on the verge of nailing it down, only to have it slither away again.

There are so many things that we can't do (or find) like we used to in "the olden days."  At least our kids don't have to walk to school in the snow like we did, right?

But age gives us things, too.

Like perspective. If nothing else, we have learned that life is complicated and messy. And there is little that we encounter that can be put neatly into a box with a label that never changes. 

Like speaking other languages here in America.

Someone said to me recently that they were offended by a young Latina singer always singing in Spanish. (Go figure.) After all, this person went on to say, isn't this America? Why can't she sing those lyrics in English so we can understand them?

Wow....this could take us into discussions about all kinds of heavy issues, right? Including the one about those outsourced customer service positions being held by young men and women in lands far away who are, well, less than proficient in the language of their customers. And the one about "foreigners" taking American jobs away, even if Americans don't really want them.

Well, it could, but that's not my destination right now. I think that's really a different point, anyway. And those issues are complicated and messy and serious, I grant.

I'm going to a much simpler place here today. I'm talking about music and diversity and knowing how to speak to one another, how to hear one another, even without a common language.

I don't need to know the translation of that Latina's words to "hear" her soul, the one she is pouring out through my radio or IPod or computer screen. I understand her perfectly without cutting and pasting the Spanish lyrics and having my software translate them into English. I routinely listen to another young artist sing arias in Italian, and I don't know a word of that language, either. But the emotion he is bleeding all over the airwaves raises the hair on my arms and brings tears to my eyes just the same. 

A young woman on a social networking site that I am addicted to--yes, THAT one--has introduced me to many new forms of music, most performed in languages I know nothing about. Arabic. Croatian. Portuguese. I am mesmerized. (If you can't find me, this is a hint on where to look. I WILL respond if you IM me.)  And I am grateful to have my perspective of life stretched in this way.

I speak only English, in spite of seven years of French instruction back in the dark ages of my high school and college career. Yes, I am a natural born American who has lived here all my life. But I am not offended by merely hearing another language spoken--or sung--in my presence. In fact, I cherish it, I cherish all of them. They add texture, and color, and brilliance to my perspective of life, every one of them. 

People are more alike than they are different, no matter what language they speak. Or sing. And our hearts have the capability of hearing each other just fine.

All we have to do is listen.

"......words have no meaning - people have meaning."

Larry Baker

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vanity, thy name is......

I wear make-up and earrings when I work out. Well, I did until very recently. The day I left the house naked--in terms of foundation and mascara, I mean--was a day to be circled in bright red on my calendar.

And, at age 63, it only happened within the past year.

I also wouldn't wear a bathing suit once I couldn't camouflage the spread all women inherit around the midsection no matter how much we work out to try to work it off. (And if you think it won't happen to YOU, well, I'm afraid for you as you age.) If I ever discover who we inherited it from, blood will be let, mark my words. And don't even get me started about my hair. Breezes best not blow around me, enough said.

One day, though, I listened to a friend lament the fact that her hair was messed up. Never mind the fact that gale force winds were afoot that day. We all looked like cartoon characters who had just emerged from a wind tunnel, but this woman thought the wind should by-pass her. Just her. She even separated herself from the rest of us in order to protect her hairstyle. Lot of fun SHE was.

But the incident later smacked me in the face as I got ready for my afternoon workout in a roomful of other sweaty people, both men and women. I wasn't checking out THEIR make-up and hair. (I was assessing the fitness of the men in the room, though, if you know what I mean.) We all had shown up in this location because we care about our health, a trait to be admired. Sweaty, wrinkled clothes and all. We come in all shapes and sizes, with unique body shapes and features that have nothing to do with our worth as people.

To hold ourselves accountable for stray hair blown in the breeze, or all those "fine lines and wrinkles" that appear on our faces, or a bit of cellulite as we age, seems to be a tad arrogant, elitist. "YOU look fine at the gym bare-faced, but NOT me, no way, never! I'M special in some way. "

So, today I might put a little color on my cheeks before I go lift a few weights and get my heart rate up on that moving stair thing that kicks my butt, just so I don't scare people. But, in my 64th year, I have come to accept myself on face-value (pun intended) and I also accept everyone around me the same way. We're unique, we're busy, and we just happened to find ourselves in the same place at that particular moment to make sure we stay healthy and fit as we age.

No earrings, though? Give me another decade for that one.

I have been vain since birth. I expected other people to like what I did, although my vanity has definitely diminished over the years.
Wallace Shawn