musings of a malcontent

seattle native, teacher w/out a classroom, bookkeeper, drinker of coffee and red wine, a constant work in progress

Gone Missing

I remember one of the writing prompts we had in one of my classes at the community college. The teacher described a crack in one of the walkways on campus and how it had been there for years. He had grown accustomed to stepping around it so he wouldn’t trip. It was so routine now he didn’t even realize he did it. One day, he noticed the walkway had been repaired. He stood there for a few seconds. It had caught him off guard and he thought about it for the rests of the day. He encouraged us to write about something in our lives that is a regular thing, that we’d miss if it were gone. Even if it was as simple as the crack in the walkway being fixed. I remember writing about the smell and steam from the coffee I purchased almost every day from a coffee cart on campus. It wasn’t the most ‘deep’ or psychological of things I could have picked, but it fit my life at the time and as I recall, the teacher mentioned just how lovely my description of the steam and foam and smells and sensory invigoration had been. I took that class probably 7 years ago but every now and then, when something that is a regular thing in my life goes missing, I think back on it. That writing teacher, class, prompt, walkway crack… have been on my mind lately.

I take a back roads way to get to work so I can avoid having to deal with the traffic headache that is the greater Seattle area on any given morning/afternoon. One particular stretch of the drive takes me right past that community college. right before I drive past the main entrance, there was a pot hole. It was substantial enough of a pot hole for me to stay to the left side of my lane for fear it would pop my tires. That pot hole had been there for as long as I can remember and out of habit, I drove around it without much thought. One day, the pot hole was gone. A road crew had filled it during the night. It wasn’t sad, necessarily, but I did think about it. It was there, had been there, and now it was gone.

Last week it was announced that one of our fellow Monday volunteers down at the foodbank, had passed away. His name was Leslie and he’d been a long time volunteer. He was a crank of an old man and we avoided him for the most part. He was hunched over due to some sort of spine disorder probably, and he insisted on working alone and always in the same spot. He was a hard worker, he was just cranky. Evidently he volunteered 3 other days a week at another one or two places. He filled his time helping others. And very few people knew. And now he’s gone. Yesterday was my first shift where he wasn’t there. He didn’t know my name, I didn’t know his, but he was always there and I appreciated that. And now he’s gone. It won’t feel quite the same anymore.

And then last night as I was perusing my usual news websites, because I’m kind of a news junkie, I saw a blurb about a missing Edmonds woman police were looking for. I clicked on the article and a picture popped up. I think I actually audibly gasped. I was almost sure, 95% sure, that it was my old art teacher from high school. When I got home I took out my yearbook to double check. We always called her Mrs. ____. I don’t think I ever paid attention to her first name so I had to make sure. But it was her. She’s retired now and apparently has a pretty advanced case of both Alzheimer’s and Dimensia and hadn’t returned from a walk. I looked all over last night and then this morning and FINALLY found a follow-up article that she has been found. This woman, who I knew for a couple years, as a student of hers, but hadn’t seen since, had made my heart beat a bit faster and I kept thinking about her. I’m still thinking about her. I’m glad she’s safe and with family now. She was really cold they said, but she was alright. Rationally I know that past teachers age, as we all do, and rationally I know that many have probably passed away. But in my head, they are frozen as they were when I sat in their classes. And while they’re not part of my active life, they are part of the world that made me who I am and when a piece of that changes, a piece you never think about but is a piece nonetheless, it gives you cause to stop.

It’s a bit odd that these things, pretty unrelated things, could conjur up the memory of that writing class. I don’t think it really means anything, but it’s interesting. My awareness of small changes seems to be heightened right now, which I suppose is normal.

a smile so genuine

a renewed sense of happy washed over me. there are days we just need to smile, from the inside out. and these days often we simply can’t bring ourselves to ask for that hug, that kind word or that gesture of nicety. so when something makes us smile that smile so genuine and felt down to our soul, it’s a good sort of day. a text, a phone call, a postcard, a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘I miss you’ is all that it takes. it’s nice to be thought of, as basic and weird sounding as that is. a lifetime spent fondly thinking of someone, wishing for someone, praying for someone, hoping in someone, investing in someone, loving someone. it’s just nice to know others do the same for us and we revert to that place in time when you came home after school one day and told your mom, “they really do like me!”

personal goal -> MET

I decided that since I’m turning 30 this year (shudders), I would use this milestone as a date to work towards in terms of bettering myself. Mainly in the realm of working out. I work best in this area when I have goal dates to work towards. Sad, but true. I know myself, trust me. It’s not about a specific weight loss number so much as trying to make it a habit and just feeling better about myself. I set a goal that I would try my hardest to work out as much as possible. I managed, for the entire month of August, to work out every single weekday. MIRACLE! I think the routine of it is sticking. Because now I almost want to. Almost. I still maintain that working out is indeed work. I have a friend who says that I just need to find a form of exercise that I like, then working out will be fun. Working out isn’t supposed to be fun. Or… won’t ever be for me anyhow. I just don’t see myself as thinking of a fun afternoon as sweating profusely rather than something like sipping cocktails while watching cheesy 80s movies in my comfy clothes. I’m sorry, I will choose the latter almost every time. HOWEVER, I do realize the necessity of bettering one’s self. Jillian Michaels has made me work out. I yell at her, I swear at her, I sweat lots and often feel like I’m going to die… but, I can see changes. I can be an impatient person sometimes, so after a month or so of doing this exercise thing, I didn’t see major results, so I got mad, but continued to do it. Just this week, I’ve noticed some differences. They’re not probably big to anyone else, but when I can wear certain shirts comfortably without one of those slimming thingies underneath, I consider that a triumph. And, I just in general feel better. I’ve done exercise before. I’ve yo-yoed up and down and all that junk that MOST of us have done. But the 5 out of 7 days working out thing is a new one for me. PLUS… it gives me a bit more permission to not be such a scrooge when it comes to foods I want but won’t allow myself. WIN. I have 3 ish months until the birthday. I’m hoping to maintain this new bizarre behavior of mine, without going crazy in the meantime. I’ve seen these sorts of people who run for fun, or who are exercise adrenaline junkies… they seem a little unstable to me!

You Have to Bloom Where You’re Planted

to share a passion with someone is a great thing. there’s no trying to explain WHY you like what you’re doing. there’s no need to explain frustrations and joys and sacrifices that it requires, because they get it. there’s no need to justify your motives because they are the same. I’m not sure exactly where my love of the ‘foodbank demographic’ came from. best I can figure, is it started when I was the event coordinator for a youth group I worked with for a while. we went on a trip down to the Dreamcenter down in LA. it was my first real hands-on experience working with the homeless and poor and relatively forgotten population. it moved me in ways I wasn’t aware of at the time. my job on that trip was also to keep track of kids, so my attention was split. but, the seed had been planted. my 3 hour shift on Mondays down at the foodbank is quite truthfully the most well-spent and rewarding 3 hours of my week and I usually look forward to it a lot. sometimes it’s hard though. there are weeks that are frustrating because the attitude of the patrons is bad, which makes me go down that road of “what are we here for, these people are all takers and are doing nothing to better themselves.” sometimes I spend time trying to explain to people who don’t understand why I’d want to be down there with these people, and as clearly as I may think I’m being, they just don’t get it which makes me wonder if I’m crazy for doing it. and some weeks, like this week, it’s uplifting and wonderful. I heard a quote from a radio host yesterday that I love. I’ve heard it before but in context to what I’ve been processing lately regarding the ‘foodbank demographic’ and such, it was very timely and worth repeating: “You have to bloom where you’re planted.” I’ve been planted in an area where there is this need. everyone has their things that get them excited, not everyone’s is this. but it’s mine. and so I must do it. one of the most rewarding parts for me has been meeting the fellow volunteers and the staff I work with down at the Northwest Harvest foodbank on Cherry St. it makes me feel like what I’m helping with matters, which is encouraging when I’m feeling down or uncertain about it. a student at a local college did a video for one of her classes on the foodbank, featuring 3 of the employees and loaded with pictures of my fellow volunteers and the patrons themselves. I thought it was wonderful and worth sharing. I truly love these people and what they do and they sum up how I feel but can rarely articulate myself:

http://youtu.be/6zVLLvyjNNE

I couldn’t get the video to post directly to my blog but if you click the YouTube link it takes you right there…

the last one… Photo Challenge Day 30: Self-Portrait

Photo Challenge Day 29: Black & White

what it’s all about

When I was younger, the janitor at the school I went to was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This man, Mr.Tumulty, was a GIANT of a man. In both physical stature and personality. He was bigger than life. During the building of the new high school building, apparently he’d hold up the sheet rock with one hand and nail it to the ceiling with the other hand. I was always tall, but his shadow dwarfed mine! He was also a man with the biggest heart I’ve ever witnessed someone expressing so openly and genuinely. The disease took him quickly. It was so unfair. It effortlessly fell a man who was a physical force to be reckoned with. I used to babysit for his 2 boys and I remember their change. I remember the questioning everyone did. Why him? Shortly after his diagnosis which he knew was a fatal one, he was still so upbeat. He whistled all the time, he was happy and he was excited, I mean, not just “put on a good face” excited. He was truly happy to be going to heaven. And he spoke of it openly and to whomever was within ear shot. I’m not sure if that made me, at the age I was, encouraged or not. I still did not understand it. Last week my mom told me that a friend of theirs, Bob, who goes to our church, was also just diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. We knew something was wrong, as he’d been wheelchair bound for about a year, but I don’t think anyone expected this. I sat next to Sharon (Bob’s wife) and Bob at church on Sunday. Out of the corner of my eye I could see still, their zest for life and what it still had to offer them.

There are things that I just don’t understand, things I cannot explain. I can theorize, I can get philosophical, I can get spiritual about, I can get political over it, but there are just some things that cannot be figured out. There has been just an annoyance, or… cloud of frustration, on my mind lately and I couldn’t figure it out until Sunday, while sitting next to Bob and Sharon. This year has been a tough one for a dear friend of mine in terms of death/sickness of loved ones. It’s been a year of mourning and questioning and trying to grasp the “what’s it all about.” There’s been no rhyme or reason for most of the tragedy surrounding her and her family. It truly has been one of those ‘when it rains it pours’ seasons in her/their life, and it’s awful. It’s awful to watch, it’s awful that it’s all happening, it’s awful watching her grapple with it and try to emotionally and mentally and spiritually deal with it all and not lose her faith in humanity, her faith in God and her faith in her own ability to deal with things and not go crazy in the meantime. We’ve discussed it some. But some of the things can’t be explained. There’s no good reason why that little girl was killed. There’s no good reason why that other relative got cancer. There’s just no good reason. So, anger happens. At life, at people, at God. And I think that’s good. I think that’s healthy. But I think, there at some point has to be an understanding that you can’t figure everything out. And you can’t blame God or people for everything, as much as you want to. And you can’t dwell on it for so long that it consumes your every thought and ruins your will. I’m not suggesting to Pollyanna out and take this ‘life is all sunshine and roses’ view. But there has to be something to live for and to believe in and to be excited about, because otherwise, what’s the point? My friend didn’t go down that dark rabbit hole. She managed to do the grieving, do the anger and processing of it before it got to that point. But it was a struggle. As it is with all of us.

I’ve been accused of being ‘not deep,’ on occasion. Deep, meaning that I don’t write huge rants and spend endless amounts of energy being mad at ‘the system’ or ‘the man’ or whatever. And I don’t use convoluted verbage to convey how I feel, compared to the person who has suggested it anyhow. Some feel that to use such language, or to be so philosophical and to be so upset, is the best way to get the point across. For some, maybe that’s the only way they know how. And there’s a time and place for that sort of dialogue. But I met a woman yesterday who came through the food bank line who I think has it pretty figured out too, in a much different way. There was a ‘gentleman’ ahead of her in line that was just angry. Angry at nothing and no one in general. It’s a pretty safe assumption that he’d just an angry guy. She looked at me, I looked at her and we both smiled. I was working at the sign-in desk yesterday so I get to chit-chat a bit more with them, especially if the line is longer and they have to wait a bit. So we chatted and I learned that she used to be a concierge at a downtown hotel. We talked about how some people are just like that guy, they’re so upset with the world, or so disenchanted with their lives and society, that they are just angry all the time. We concluded that that would be so exhausting! And such a waste of time. So true. The people who write, and put others down in the process, are justified in their rants but with a limit and not necessarily in the manner in which they go about it. And if it only stays on paper, or in their little blogosphere and world or those who feel the same way, it does no good. The people who struggle to understand tragedy, are totally justified. But to dwell on it to the point where it consumes them and they are shrouded in gloom, does them and those they’re around, no good.

The weirdness in the ‘air’ I’ve been trying to figure out is just that I think. What’s it’s all about?!  The more women I meet like this woman at the food bank, and the more people like Bob & Mr. Tumulty I meet… make me realize and understand just a bit better that life is what you make it. And, also how you react to it.

Photo Challenge Day 28: Flowers

Photo Challenge Day 27: From a Distance

birds are best kept at a distance in my opinion

Photo Challenge Day 26: Close-Up

mushrooms @ the foodbank

Post Navigation