Hi my friend,
Once again, it’s been too long. I would say that so much has happened, and yet that’s only true if one considers day-to-day life as a reasonable descriptive for endless activity. It’s not that I am hustling to beat rush hour, get children out the door, committing sixteen hours to the workplace. Been there, done that. Somehow though, the days fall on top of each other, ignoring my exasperation with their speed. So, with laundry in the dryer, the diswasher repair person gone, the shutters being installed and the Sirs running around offering love to any and everyone (oh, and cinnamon rolls in the oven), I thought now would be a good time to write you.
The dishwasher repair person is from New Jersey – he’s been here before. He and his wife moved here a year ago, and they too are adjusting to new rhythms, people, etc.. It’s awkward when you’re desperate to fit in, and find yourself feeling isolated. The process of adapting is not nearly as fluid as the days are. I smile because I hear my 92 year old father-in-law imploring me to ‘reach out, because no one is reaching in’…I’m reaching, Pop, I’m reaching. That said, I’m also very short, so this whole reaching thing leaves me with my calves screaming (that was a joke).
And yet – there are neighbors who are nice enough when we see each other. There’s a book club I joined. I have made a friend. And there’s a cashier at the local supermarket who gives me the biggest hugs whenever we see each other and compare notes on our grandchildren. She reached in when she saw me buying enough cleaning supplies to dust and polish and wash an entire neighborhood (have I mentioned that I’m big on cleaning supplies?). My first supermarket shop – and she hugged me. Same thing has happened at the local CVS – the young woman with the purple hair (well, it varies) and spacers in her ears. She’s a hugger. The 13 year old who comes to Torah study – love that kid.
And so it goes – giving and receiving little tokens from the universe and marveling that I should be so lucky. And do I pay it forward? I try. I need to do more. Not only is it the rent we pay for being here, it just makes me feel like I’m doing something while I’m here. The woman in the wheelchair at the gas station with two little ones in her lap and oxygen pulsing through her nose. Does she need to know I paid her bill? Absolutely not. There’s no need. The ladies who come every two weeks to clean my house and for whom I always bake (thus, the cinnamon rolls in the oven) – though they are paid, it just feels good to do a little something extra. Listening to those who have so much to say and struggle to figure out how to articulate their thoughts. As those opportunities arise, I open my arms wide.
I listen to a fourteen year old who has had a really lousy year – by almost any measure. He doesn’t see that he is kick ass smart, erudite, cute, creative, charming and wise. He is slight, bereft, angry, alone when he doesn’t want to be and indifferent to those around him simultaneously. His peers are cruel and his teachers too overwhelmed I guess, to even notice. So I notice. And I get the chance to remind him that he is remarkable and talented and for reasons I don’t understand, he doesn’t dismiss me out of hand. Being fourteen sucks on every level, but when you are a stranger in a world that doesn’t resemble anything familiar, it’s even worse.
This isn’t about whether or not I’m a nice person. I’m ok as people go, but I know I can do better. I know that the world is getting increasingly low on kindness and rich in judgments. Are there reasons for this? Many without question, and perhaps that is a topic for another day. I’m sure we all have opinions about that. So, I’m going to circle back to an earlier thought. Those of us who are fortunate enough to read this on our computers, to have time to reflect, to worry more about the days flying by than how we will survive the next few hours – we’ve got rent due. The world has given us much.
“Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person’s face as you pass them on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground underneath the street, and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you.” — Miranda July