Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Solace and the airport's Eleanor Rigby

Hello, gentle readers.  I hope the first month of 2012 has been kind to you.  Already fed up with an overdose of bullshit (thanks, election year!) and the propensity of Faceworld to offer me a lot of information with not much substance, I'm opting to share some candid thoughts with you in today's post.  

As a self proclaimed word nerd, I always like to discuss favorite words.  I've always gone with solace as my top choice.

Solace:  Comfort in grief; alleviation of grief or anxiety; also, that which relieves in distress; that which cheers or consoles; relief. 

I always liked the way it sounded as well as what it meant, but in really thinking it over recently, I  came to the conclusion that I have been on a search for solace for the better part of my life.  Not joy, not fulfillment, not enlightenment.  Solace is specific in providing consolation and comfort through times of trouble.  Shelter from the storm, if you will.  Hold on to your hat, anecdote alert.

Please rewind your brains to 1994.  I was twenty eight years old, living in Seattle, and had recently given up on restaurant management to return to waiting tables at the 5 Spot on Queen Anne hill.  I was pretty weary by this point, waitresses they do get weary, wearing that same old shabby collared shirt and black jeans.  Life was not dealing me any tenderness at that juncture.....  job related defeat, caring for a sick mother, people breaking my car windows to steal cigarettes, drunk patrons from Casa U Betcha screwing in the bushes behind my apartment. I was peering at life through hands over my eyes, waiting for the next inevitable catastrophe.  I was reprimanded after a few weeks on my new job as some of the regulars complained to the manager that they were concerned that I never, ever smiled.  In a debrief with one of the surlier members of the kitchen staff over beers after work, I commented, "The restaurant is paying me minimum wage, hardly enough to expect me to smile." He replied, "Honey, you have a shitty attitude."  This was not news to me....I truly thought it was the only attitude that was available.

Although the overall state of affairs improved over time, my defensive state remained a constant.  Living in wait of the next terrible situation to reveal itself proved to be a debilitating stance.  After my most recent round of health problems combined with a big time breakup and subsequent move to Chicago, I found myself particularly anxious and exhausted yet again.  I focused on my pity party....that I was a middle aged gal who had never married, that I would never have children, that I didn't parlay my intellect into an impressive career, that I had squandered my time on the planet thus far......in my mind I was the airport's Eleanor Rigby.

Enter unprecedented development.  Somewhere in the middle of the poop parade, I decided I had nothing much going on and nothing left to lose.  I decided that I would do whatever I felt like doing, not thinking about the outcome, not fearing failure or expecting success, not asking anyone else's permission or opinion.  I concentrated on running, writing, and meeting new people in Chicago as they all sounded like activities that I might enjoy.  I drove down some dead end streets trying stuff out.  I volunteered at a bookstore that I found to be incredibly depressing, I went on a good handful of lackluster dates, I dropped out of my second round of classes at Second City.  But I also managed to run three half marathons, I performed my written work on five occasions, and I found a most amazing sweetheart....all as a result of vowing to only look at the road ahead and not jump out of the car.  I received some powerful feedback from my circle of friends that brought me to an exalted state of being....people told me they were proud of me on a regular basis.  It was all some seriously life affirming awesomesauce.

Bringing on the full disclosure....in the last few months I haven't written much at all and what I've managed to put together has been a struggle.  What used to be effortless is now a serious challenge and I am highly critical of the results.  I haven't found the humor in day to day events lately.  There hasn't been a plate of food or a bottle of wine that didn't have my name on it and my pants are screaming at the seams.  I don't enjoy running the way I used to and I often make excuses not to do it at all.  Today I ate Skittles for lunch and took a two hour nap instead of doing things that needed to be done.  But this most recent trek through the emotional bottom lands has a different feel than in times past....I recognize that it's temporary.  I know I will write again and run again or I will find other activities that I enjoy to replace them.  I stopped letting the lows of life define my outlook.  I stopped anticipating disaster....bad things will happen, but worrying about them does not provide prevention or protection, it just robs you of enjoying the present.

I was at work last week, bending over to pick up trash off the airplane floor, pondering whether a fifth cup of coffee was going to be the one that contained a miracle.  A passenger stopped on his way out and waited in the aisle until I stood up to face him.  He extended his finger in my face and said forcefully, "YOU!  You have a great attitude!"  I smiled and said thank you, he went on his way.   Eighteen years later, I was pleased to acknowledge my improved reviews.  I'm working on a new favorite word choice....I'm leaning towards kerfuffle....because who doesn't enjoy a good kerfuffle?

Thursday is the blog's first birthday.  I started it with no idea what would be accomplished...it's slowly evolved into a journal of my quest to cultivate happiness, which I think a lot of people can relate to.  I recently looked at the stats of almost 2,500 page views from the US, Europe, Mexico...it's staggering to consider that your thoughts can reach people you will never meet in the blink of an eye.  Thanks to all who read my nonsense....your support drives me when the road gets rough and the car metaphors get stale.  Beep beep!

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