The Roses

roses

Early Friday morning, the office is satisfyingly empty, aside from the constant hum of the air conditioner and occasional ring of my coworker’s phone. There is no chatter or gossip, no questions about the weekend or last night or comments about the weather.  For the first time in months, it seems, I am alone with my thoughts and my computer and thereby the internet, which is far from quiet.

I have started reading the news in the past few months with a morbid curiosity that borders on obsession regarding the offensive movements of the President and his cronies as they work to dismantle the foundation of the country and the protections of its people. Every time I pull up CNN or the Washington Post, there is a new story of bullying and cruelty from the top down.  The new standard of conduct is one rooted in selfishness, fear and ignorance that sets a disturbing example for those watching.

In spite of the destructive actions between big business and workers, rich and the poor, black, brown and white, there is still beauty in the small things and kindness in the everyday interactions that get missed when one is focused only on the big picture. For example, when a massive cockroach broke into the office last week and backed me into a corner,my co-worker snapped into action and smashed the monster with her shoe thus becoming my new hero.  Her courage saved the day and potentially my life.  It was a small thing for her that meant the world to me.

I am intentionally trying to recognize kindness and pay it forward, as well as to ground myself with the sounds of the morning, the smell of freshly cut grass and the intense blue of a cloudless sky. Recently, I took a break from the swamp to follow the amazing international effort to rescue the Thai soccer team and now a further break to watch the World cup.  Go Croatia!

While I am trying to permanently break away from the news and its negativity, it is tempting to slip back into the stories of “fake news” and Russian indictments, and the never ending tiffs between the Donald and the rest of our world leaders, the good ones, the ones who celebrate diversity and human rights, who live by a personal and professional moral code that is stronger than the lure of money and connections. Again, I digress with so many distractions.

By the time I come back to finish this piece, my mind and body are worn out like a cheap t-shirt. I feel threadbare; it is finally the end of the day.  The normal workplace drama has transpired and somehow almost everything got done except for one thing.

I have yet to stop and smell the roses.

So I make a new to-do list, reprioritize and try again tomorrow.

The Family Photo

stockings

The family photo holiday card was adorable. 

The kids were lined up in matching flannel outfits, miraculously all facing the camera, with the dog flopped out in front on all fours looking miserable.  Tinsel and ivy lined the mantle and the stockings were hung with care above the fireplace.  Just at the edge of the shot, a perfect Christmas tree with twinkling white lights stood over a pile of brightly wrapped gifts.  

Yet, something was off that even my weak and computer strained eyes noticed.  There was a new and mysterious baby in the mix.  Wearing a clever camouflage of a black and red onesie, he blended into the identical suits of his siblings. 

I stared at the card in confusion, holding it close and then as far out as my arms would reach.  Closing one eye and then the other, the image did not change and I confirmed that I was not seeing double.  Still not satisfied with the information being fed to my brain, I did one last vision test.  I took off my glasses and wiped them clean, expecting the world to make sense again when I replaced them on the bridge of my nose.   

Still three children, one dog, one Christmas tree and one stack of presents. 

Did they adopt?  Unlikely, adoption was expensive and took time.  Did they steal or kidnap that little chubby cheeked babe?  Also, an unlikely possibility, as his parents were not criminally inclined and the baby looked just like his brother.  So many questions met with but one answer that didn’t make any sense caused no small amount of distress to my confused mind.  

Where did this third kid come from and when did he arrive?  Somehow this child had not only been born, but also made it to the Christmas card without a single sign of his expected entrance into the world via Facebook, voicemail, text, email, smoke signal or carrier pigeon.  With so many ways to communicate and so many words to use, why not share in a more intimate way than a mass mailing?   

Reflecting on the card, I lamented and felt like I was missing a piece of life.  The card represented all of the babies born and new jobs and big moves of which I wasn’t aware because I was overly reliant on technology, mistaking time spent on social media as socializing.  Social media gave me a confidence in my friends and their lives, a sense of active connection, that obviously wasn’t as alive as I might have thought before receiving the card.  I forgot that the faces on Facebook only represent a snapshot of one moment in time for the people behind the profiles.  

And still I blogged and perused my newsfeed, rather than picking up the phone and calling an old friend to check in only to discover that her life has moved on in great leaps and bounds.  I continued to beat myself up in this way until I remembered one more important thing, the phone works both ways and that smoke signals and texts had gone unanswered after being sent out in her direction until now. 

Time marches on and old friendships change and end so that new ones may begin and its ok. 

For what it’s worth, be kind to one another.  

Elevated

elevator

While waiting outside of the elevators, a crowd gathered.  I clutched the strap of my purse with one hand, slung over one shoulder, and held my lunch bag with the other hand.  I tapped my foot and looked at my watch.  The work day had yet to begin and already I was impatient and irritated when the doors finally opened.  We surged forward, each claiming space inside of the silver walled box with grungy floors and orange glowing buttons that promised of predetermined destinations.   

A man with a briefcase leaned against the wall across from me, a woman held a coffee in one hand and another woman peered inside of an oversized purse as the doors closed. A couple with dirty shoes stood shoulder to shoulder and stared straight ahead as the doors closed.  Just before the doors slid together, a hand appeared in the empty space and triggered them to reopen. 

“Damn it,” I whispered under my breath, like any normal jerk in a hurry who was running late because of his or her own poor time management.     

The man with a briefcase groaned, apparently not one to hide his emotions, as a blue barrel of trash rolled into the elevator followed by a man wearing a wireless ear piece into which he spoke. 

“Yeah, I’m getting on the elevator, hang on. I might lose you.” 

The trashman smelled like smoke and grease from McDonald’s drive through.  He rested a hand on the edge of the trash barrel, lined with a plastic bag, “No, still here,” he laughed.  “So that sonuvagun just showed up at mama’s place…” he continued.

The elevator was already filled with enough people to equally distribute the available floor room.  There was no fear of bumping into another occupant or violating another’s personal space until he arrived.  Yet, we still moved out of the way to make room for the trash barrel as it continued to move forward, partly out of decency and partly out of necessity to avoid conflict, and the barrel keeper didn’t seem to mind if we were crushed or displaced in the process.  

As I squeezed between the man with dirty shoes and the woman with coffee, the contents splashed over the edge of the cup as the elevator lifted to the next floor, I felt a sense of nostalgia for the time when trash travelled via the service elevator, when people cared about the wellbeing of others, and when it wasn’t so damned hard to get from the first to the fifth floor.