I know many of my followers have a strong interest in mental health issues, and if you haven’t already watched this clip from John Oliver, you’ll want to make the time.
In the middle of the night, I wake up and they’re sneaking in to snuggle up next to me. They know if I’m awake I’m likely to move them, because their warm bodies overheat me and I don’t like being pinned down by dead weight. But if I’m asleep, I don’t know any better.
So I smile and just hope I’ll go right back to sleep, because I don’t want to turn away their love.
I learned a lesson that shaped my life in what was perhaps a tangential conversation to a day’s English lesson, and gave meaning to a well-intended, yet immensely distressing, event a year before.
I was a freshman in high school, and oh-so-fortunate to have a teacher named Paul Meredith. He taught not only the accelerated English course I was in, but the course for those who struggled so much they didn’t even qualify for the most basic of English classes. The kids on the outside, the ones we didn’t see.
Of course we called him Mr. Meredith, and one day, Mr. Meredith told us, “it’s not what happens in your life that determines who you are, but how you handle those events.” Or words to that effect. A new thought for me that day, but one that’s echoed throughout my life.
There was another Paul who entered my life a year before, in eighth grade. This Paul was one of those we didn’t see in high school, but in junior high, because our school was so small, he was visible.
Paul had been going to a different school up to then, called Mark Twain, for boys with behavioral problems. Much to my shame now, we tended to look down on them. Paul apparently had progressed enough they thought he could handle coming back to our “regular” school.
I guess he had a crush on me. He stood out from the other boys in my class because he always called me by name and was incredibly polite. I bet someone had worked with him on that.
One day I was wearing an elastic-waist skirt, peasant-style with a matching blouse, and another boy yanked it down. While my friends scrambled to pull it back up, Paul hit the boy in my defense, more than once. In fact, I think there was quite a scuffle. As a result, he was sent back to Mark Twain.
I had a hard time with that. I kept trying to explain what had happened, that he was only defending me. My parents & teachers told me his intention wasn’t what got him in trouble. It was how he handled it. Much later, I finally understood
I’ve cried more than once remembering him, and what he did on my behalf that cost him. It wasn’t about me, yet, it was. I hope someone told him, “Paul, yeah, you messed up, but hey, she stood up for you. You made the right impression.”
What’s more, for years I’ve wanted to tell Paul that whether or not I showed it, whether or not I even realized it at the time, I deeply appreciated his calling me by name.
No doubt his anger was the consequence of something that wasn’t his fault, and ultimately, it wouldn’t be what happened to him, it would be how he handled it that would determine the man he would become. Anger is tough to change, but he was young, and he was trying.
To both the man and the boy named Paul, I remember you.
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A few weeks ago I walked into church and saw a woman I know vaguely sitting alone. I knew, because of her strained relationship with a much-beloved member of the church, she likely was going to continue to be alone if I didn’t offer to sit next to her. I have nothing against her, and I admired her for having the courage to show up on a Sunday morning when she had to know it would be challenging and probably lonely.
It’s not that other members of my church are cold. There’s a lot involved here I won’t go into. As a result of my reaching out to her, though, I got to know someone I otherwise had found to be distant and hard to reach. I knew others might ask me what was going on, and I said as much to her and asked what she’d like me to say in response. She told me, and I agreed to leave it at that.
I’m proud to say no one in my church asked me a thing, and I was able to send her a message on Facebook later that day saying as much.
I didn’t do any of that because it was the Christian thing to do, or even the right thing to do. I did it because it was important to me. Whether or not I perceived her feelings correctly, I have no idea.
Here’s the thing: I think this revealed a side of me many don’t easily see to some people who’ve become important in my life now. It helped pave the way for a closer relationship with those who can help me through a challenge I’m facing.
Sometimes it’s the little things in life that give us faith the bigger things will work out.
Years ago, fresh out of college and discouraged because I couldn’t find a job in my chosen field, I was debating accepting a lesser job, the kind of work I’d spent years pursuing my degree to get away from. I had been an “adult student,” someone who went back to school later than usual and took classes part-time instead of enjoying the luxury of being a full-time student (well, it seems like a luxury when your options are bit more challenging, as mine were).
However, I needed to pay my bills, not to mention buy groceries. I was talking to a close friend about it and she said, “Take the job. We don’t know what the future holds.”
I’ve remembered those words ever since. I wish I could say that job ultimately led to a position with the best company ever, but it didn’t. Eventually, however, I did work somewhere I was able to fulfill my dream. More or less, because reality usually falls a little short.
Now the phrase has taken on a new meaning. I have multiple friends facing chronic, progressive or terminal illness, and they’re still young. Loved ones are frightened by the loss, emptiness and responsibility that lies ahead. Once again, I’ve come to realize, we don’t know what the future holds.
It is what it is, and will be nothing else than what it’s going to be. I fear what looms ahead for me, and I don’t even know yet what will happen. The challenge is something I’ll have to take on, though, because I will control what I can and accept what I can’t. It may take time to get there, but it is a road I’ve come to know well.
Last summer, a young woman I work with took a few days of her precious vacation time to be in a childhood friend’s wedding. It turns out the other bridesmaids were sorority sisters of the bride, and Lindsey didn’t hit it off with them.
Since they were the only guests at the wedding she even halfway knew, she spent most of her time alone at a table, talking occasionally to relatives kind enough to stop by and ask how she was doing.
The maid-of-honor had something to say about this. In a pseudo-friendly manner, she reached out to Lindsey and said, “you know, you’re kind of a sweet, socially awkward nerd.” The other bridesmaids laughed a little, and reassured her, “we mean that in a nice way!”
That comment is #1 on today’s list.
After she related this story to us the following week, I told my young co-worker, “better to be a socially awkward nerd than a catty bitch.” I wasn’t even certain about their assessment of her. But no matter.
Lindsey is hesitant to call anyone her longtime friend would have in her wedding a catty bitch. So to help her identify these types in the future, I gave her – and now you – six examples of CB conversation (as I mentioned earlier, #1 the bridesmaids provided for us). We’ve all heard these things said in one form or the other:
#2 “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that’s the dress I gave Goodwill last year.”
Sandwiched by insincere compliments.
#3 “It’s a shame the bride didn’t stick with matching just the color of the bridesmaid dresses.”
Said near the presumably (excuse the pun) misfit bridesmaid.
#4 “Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure in the right lighting that lipstick works.”
Unsolicited, to the woman standing next to her at the mirror in the ladies room.
#5 “My husband has a shirt made of the same fabric as your dress, but I refuse to let him be seen wearing it in public.”
Zing! Zing! Multiple targets there.
#6 “Is shrimp supposed to taste like this?” (Granted, in the right situation that may be an appropriate question.)
Most often said when eating chicken.
Stick with being a socially awkward nerd, Lindsey, if in fact that’s what you are. You’ll grow out of it, but these woman will never change.
In my baby book, my mother recorded that from the time I could stand in my crib, I would dance and sway to ballads, and there is no better ballad than “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin.
This song was climbing the charts the day I was born, and I like to think it was the first song I ever heard played on the radio. We’ll never know, so it might as well be so.
Over the years, it has never failed to charm and soothe me. Yes, it’s romantic, but that wasn’t its first appeal for me. Or perhaps it was, but in a different sense.
As a child, my family would sometimes spend an afternoon at the beaches in Monterey, CA. These are beautiful, scenic waterfronts, the ones with the otters, and I’d look out in awe of the vastness of the ocean. To me, it held wonders known and unknown, for how could we be certain what lay at the bottom of the sea?
When I heard my song, I pictured another imaginative soul, wearing clothing from a bygone era, also standing on the shore in wonder.
Today when it plays I close my eyes and dream of dancing with the ideal partner to this music. Others on the dance floor stop and clear the floor as we move in perfection. It’s truly a dream, for I am not a dancer, and it’s a rare man who could match my vision.
Whether or not it was the first song I heard played on the radio, it no doubt was one I heard often in my earliest days of life. I hope it’s one I continue to hear all my days, and it never loses its charm for me.
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