A Coronavirus Misanthrope

I would describe myself as a misanthrope. A nice one. A nice misanthrope who actually has a few friends that I love dearly. I have always been able to entertain myself with no, or very little, interaction with other people. In the past, when I have been betrayed by friends, I was disappointed, but I never felt any life-changing pang of loss when I was no longer friends with someone. I have never felt that deep, saddening missing of someone who was still alive. I have felt deep sadness when someone dies, but a disconnection with someone who is still alive never greatly affected me. Overall, I would describe myself as not having much deep interest in other people…

UNTIL NOW.

sad gif

Oh my, my, my, how the tides have changed over the past few weeks. It’s as if the tides heard me boasting about my general, seemingly harmless disdain for other people. And then the tides all got together and conspire against me and against all of humanity, to teach a terrible, long-lasting lesson.

 

Dear tides: I GET IT. I AM SOOOOOO SORRY. WHAT CAN I DO TO FIX THIS?

fix it gif
The answer is nothing. I can do nothing.

I suppose that whenever the coronavirus-related lock downs are lifted, I should not go out into the world, continuing to boast about how deeply misanthropic I am. It turns out, that although I am still not pining over missing friends who essentially dumped me for no good reason (I’m looking at all you lames who couldn’t get over my personal decision to not drink until inebriation), I am *totally* missing friendly interactions with strangers.

waving bear gif

Do you remember those people? Strangers? The Starbucks barista that you don’t really know but somehow remembers your name. The old lady in Target that asks you where the cat food is located. The even older lady in Palais Royal whose question about which pair of shoes look better leads to a long conversation about where she is going to wear the shoes (her sister’s funeral) and why she is nervous about buying a pair with high heels (she’s nervous that the graveyard soil will be damp and unsturdy). All of these are real things that have happened to me by the way.

I also miss hanging out with my friends. I know, gosh, who doesn’t, right? I miss laughing loudly in restaurants, always saying “yes” to bread baskets, and sharing crazy stories with them. I miss people laughing at my jokes. I miss laughing at stories about other people’s husbands.

I guess some part of me likes some people. Not many people. Only a few of them. But those few people really, really, do count. I miss my people. All five of them.

*all GIFs courtesy of http://www.giphy.com*

Thank You for Coming: A Story about Getting Ice Cream During a Pandemic

marble slab

“Thank you for coming,” he said, in a heartbreakingly sincere way. I immediately knew what he meant. I knew beyond what he meant. For a moment, I hurt with him.

“Oh, yes, of course,” I managed to fumble out, too uncomfortable to verbally acknowledge the worries and concerns that I knew the ice cream shop owner was experiencing. “Ha, yeah, umm, I want to, you know, umm, support businesses. Plus, ha ha, yeah, I’m lactose intolerant, but I do love ice cream so much.”

He smiled and his eyes seemed to look like how I bet they look when things are less grim and business is less slow. He smiled like it was a few weeks ago, before the dreaded COVID-19 had turned all of our lives into worrisome messes. He looked at me, really, really, looked at me, and smiled. It’s the first time that someone has smiled at me like that in several weeks. Most days, I am home, alone. On the times when I go to the store, people are avoiding eye contact. Or, when I do manage to make eye contact with someone, I only see fear. I no longer actively try to smile at people or make eye contact because seeing fear in so many people’s eyes creates a sadness that I tend to carry with me for the rest of the day.

“Hmm…,” I say, mulling over each ice cream label, carefully reading each one. I already knew what I was going to get. I always get only one of two flavors: Swiss Chocolate or Amaretto. He didn’t have Amaretto; I of course was going to get the Swiss Chocolate. But I stood there, allowing myself to just exist in the shop, and in the moment, and in the presence of this business owner who has perhaps only seen a few customers all day. I am silent. I almost wish he would chat a little bit. No, I absolutely wished he would chat a little bit. He seemed kind and open, but he’s probably scared, too.

“I think I’ll have the Swiss Chocolate. A kid’s sized cup, please,” I finally said, trying to seem like I had given the choice  much consideration.

“Yes, sure, of course!” he responded enthusiastically.

I looked at the restroom door. There was a sign on it that said, “Temporarily out of order.” I desperately wanted to wash my hands.

“May I use your restroom?” I asked anyway, hoping he’d let me slide. He didn’t. I respectfully understood.

He finished ringing up my small ice cream: over $5 for the ice cream and two scoops of walnuts. I handed him a $10, asking him if it was ok that I paid with cash.

“Sure!” he said, still gushing with enthusiasm. He slid a little white tray towards me for me to put the money inside of and push back to him. I’ve never in my adult life wanted to hand my card to someone or put a bill into someone’s hands so badly. A little tinge of sadness poked at my gut.

“Are you the owner?” I asked. He smiled and told me he was. I made the presumption based on his age and the somewhat slow and unsure way in which he mixed in the walnuts. His button up, unbranded golf shirt and genuine glee to have a customer also seemed to give away his status as owner.

He finished counting the change and put it back in the basket. As he counted, I thought about all of the times that I have struggled financially as a business owner. The worry, panic, anxiety, and sadness of being an entrepreneur is just a part of the freedom that comes with entrepreneurship. You lose a boss, but you gain even more perceived uncertainty. My heart went out to this man, who has likely had to take to tending his own shop because he can no longer afford to pay the youthful high school kids to come in and serve the customers.

“Please, keep the change,” I told him and smiled. He smiled again. I turned away, clutching my somewhat poorly mixed ice cream, heading towards the door before the tears could escape my eyes.

“God bless you!” he called after me.

“Bless you, too, sir,” I said, turning back and smiling before using my elbow to push open the door.

I drove down the street to an empty parking lot to cry and enjoy my ice cream. Even though it was poorly mixed, it was still so good. I love Swiss Chocolate.

Resilience

My Post (2)The good thing about the COVID-19 madness going on right now is that many people, myself included, are finding ways to reconnect with long lost hobbies (or people). The long lost hobby that I have personally reconnected with, if you can’t tell from the dates of my last three posts, is writing.

Writing always makes me feel better. I have journalled since I was in first grade and in the past when I’ve been especially down, reading the thoughts of a 7 year old version of myself always put me in a better mood. It’s so lovely.

Today, I wrote the following poem about resilience. I hope that reading it makes you feel a little more strong and able to continue on while the world is affected by the coronavirus.

 

RESILIENCE

3/20/20     4:08 pm

I am wind,

Flexible and free,

Present, yet unseen,

Moving, yet sometimes still

I am an energy to be felt.

I am oak,

Strong and sure

Changing,

Growing,

Enduring,

Evolving,

Adapting.

Sometimes, I forget these things.

Sometimes, I don’t remember that I am capable,

That I am resilient.

Sometimes, the reflection in the mirror appears weakened, broken, and sad.

Sometimes, I cannot see because I cannot rest.

I am the whole universe,

Experiencing this tumult, just as everyone else, just as every other universe, just as you.

Together, we are changing, growing, enduring, evolving, and adapting.

Together, we can rest, and remember. 

Caring for Others, Part 2

I have a few more thoughts on what I wrote about yesterday.

When my grandmother taught me how to not be a little ungrateful jerk when I was offered those horrid bananas, she also taught me another lesson: care for yourself.

I have to admit that I am just becoming more practiced at self care, but I suppose a few decades late is better than never.

My grandmother didn’t force me to eat the banana. In fact, I don’t remember being forced to do much of anything as a child. I was encouraged to have an open mind, but never forced into anything.

I think that was an important part of my development into a somewhat carefree kind of person. I understand the importance of not forcing anyone into any thing, which makes me pretty hands off with people. I’m not the friend who is going to ask you to have just one more drink. I’m the friend who doesn’t give a shit when you willingly decide to do so, for yourself.

That little lesson from grandma also means that it’s important to not put the expectations of others before your own wants and desires, if you’re not hurting anyone. My grandmother cared more about me being a nice person than being an obedient one.

Thanks grandma.

I also have to truly thank my mother, too. She reinforced those same values in me. Sometimes she had to counter balance my natural propensity to constantly “Do my own thing” by teaching me the importance of making friends and all that hootienannie. But, I’m very thankful for those lessons, too, mom.

Until tomorrow my friends…

Caring for Others

The most rewarding things that I’ve done in my life involved doing something nice for someone else.

Many times, the recipient has been not so thankful. But, I still felt good anyway. I think it’s important to not let other people’s reactions rob us of the joy of kindness and good deeds. This is VERY hard for me to do, but I’m working on it.

I thought about writing this today because I made some meals for my elderly uncle. I cannot cook like his late wife (my aunt) but I know that he will appreciate my effort.

Do you appreciate other people’s efforts without being critical or an asshole otherwise?

I think that’s easier to do than we think it is.

When I was a kid, I hated bananas. I’ve grown tolerant of them as an adult because I put them in smoothies and the potassium makes my old body feel a little less old.

But honestly, I could never see another banana again and be fine, even happy.

But, when I was a kid, one of my grandma’s friends used to love giving me bananas. It was her favorite fruit and perhaps she thought that she was really being kind to me by offering me one.

I still hated them.

But my grandmother, in all her wisdom, instructed me to not eat the banana but to always, always take it and be completely gracious and thankful.

Eventually, I went from kind of pretending to be thankful to having a better understanding of what grace is. Eventually, my thanks was heartfelt and not at all pretentious, even though I never ate the damned bananas.

I learned to be gracious when someone thought enough of me to do something. I learned to not take the joy from them for being kind. I learned not to essentially punish people for being nice. I learned a little bit of what it’s like to not be an asshole.

And now, when I do nice things for people, I get to learn how to be on the other side of the equation. Sometimes something that I do that I think is kind is met with welcome and enthusiasm. Sometimes, it’s not. But regardless, I’m working on not attaching my feelings to the behavior of other people. I take the pleasure and reward of kindness from what I can control: only myself.

What do you think of this topic?

Until tomorrow my friends…

Is the World Really That Bad?

These days, it seems like the world has gone to absolute shite. There’s seemingly so much violence, hatred, and lying. It is easy to feel that the world is terrible. I know I sometimes feel like it is.

I once read a quote by Eckhart Tolle that loosely said something like “If you think the world is against you, it will be.”

Even though I don’t always feel comfortable out in the world, and I certainly don’t always think about the world as being a warm and fuzzy place, sometimes, the universe smiles at me. Well, often times the universe smiles at me. Does the universe smile at me because I am paying attention and smiling back or because I’m special? I am hesitant to say that I am terribly special, so it must be the former reason.

Allow me to share two mildly heart warming stories from the past two days:

Yesterday:

I was driving along on my somewhat long commute to meet two students. I was just sitting at a stop light, not singing along to music or doing anything in particular, when I casually looked over to my left.

There was an old, rusted, silver mini-van, with several people inside. The driver, a skinny, young woman wearing a colorful head wrap and tank top shirt, leaned over the front seat passenger and waved and smiled, rather enthusiastically.

I looked, then squinted, trying to make their faces out more clearly. I didn’t recognize anyone in the car. The passenger then smiled sweetly and warmly. I returned the smile, with the same genuineness, mixed with a lot of confusion, to be honest. They then casually returned to talking amongst themselves and eventually drove away, like they really were just waving and being friendly strangers. They didn’t ask me for change or directions or anything. I suppose that they were just being nice. Smiling back was a welcome departure from the typically dirty looks I give other drivers.

Today:

Today, I had a bit of a mental block, so I went for a walk. I walked along the nearby trail, which passes a high school. When I got close to the fence of the school, I saw two teenage girls, mimicking walking and then jumping up and down. I thought they were mocking me. The shirt I was wearing was kind of tight and I am not a size two, so I kind of thought they were mocking me for walking and / or being chubby.

As I got closer, I could see their faces and hear their voices clearly. One shouted “YOU GO SIS!” and the other shouted, jumping up and down and cheering FOR me, “I AM SO PROUD OF YOU.”

I was so taken aback that I almost failed to wave back! It was so odd! It went against every negative expectation that I have about interactions with both strangers and teenagers, and these people were both strange AND teen aged!

I waved back and smiled. My head became so uplifted! I smiled all the way back home. I felt encouraged (something that I sorely need these days). I felt like the universe cared about me and was sending me little pats on the back. It was lovely. My mood was improved for the rest of the day and continues to be lifted until this very moment.

Thanks, universe. You’re not so bad.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

Love, love, love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope you had a great day, celebrating it, or not, however was enjoyable for you.

No one cares about my love life, so instead of writing about myself and what I did today (spoiler alert: I did nothing related to Valentine’s Day except wear a pretty red dress which garnered three compliments), I want to share some quotes about love that I found by doing a Google search. Don’t judge me.

Oh, KKW! I have never watched a single minute of any of the Kardashian shows, but I don’t judge anyone who does. To be honest, I watch so little tv that I often times have nothing in common to talk to most people about .

And even though I know almost nothing about KKW ‘s life, other than she’s rich and pretty and maybe broke the internet once, I agree with her on this quote.

I believe in love always because there are always indications of it everywhere! Not just romantic love, which is often times fleeting and falsely identified, but true and genuine love, the kind that you see when two people are actually listening to each other or when you can tell that an old couple still likes each other. Those types of things give me hope in humanity, not just in the lofty idea of love that the media regularly tells us we should have. I believe, always.

I also know almost nothing about Amy Poehler, other than she was on SNL and she’s a great television writer.

I like this quote because it makes me think of the Eckhart Tolle book that I am currently reading.

Really, the first step to attaining a thing is to give it to yourself. Want happiness? Surprise, you can give it to yourself, right now. It’s in you and no one can take it away from you. It’s like the adult version of when your magician uncle pulls a quarter from behind your ear and tells you that it was there the whole time, except in life, you really can develop the mental skills to give yourself happiness pretty much all the time.

I feel the same way about love. Love from other people is very important. It makes us feel less alone and more valued. But, without self love, we can’t even begin to fathom or accept the depths of the love that comes from others.

For a very long time, I used to say to myself, “I wish I had someone to love me”, meaning in a romantic sense. But one day, through lots of reading and developing a greater sense of self awareness, I suddenly realized that I needed to love myself and then I could feel love in all its forms from other people. My mind exploded and I haven’t been the same since.

My advice is not to get too caught up on external love, the kind you might get from other people. Even if you’re perfect towards them, people are flakey and a lot of them are really screwed up in the head unfortunately.

You might be screwed up in the head, too. Join the party of almost everyone on planet earth.

But, you know what you can count on when the mister leaves or cheats or the missus wants you to be something that you’re not? You can always count on the love you have for yourself, if you have some.

If you don’t have any, then your homework tonight is to love on yourself.

Don’t neglect your partner if you’ve got one, but take a moment at least and say: I love myself.

You deserve it.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

Cheat Day

A poem I wrote on December 31, 2017, while contemplating the end of the year and the eventual end of us all. All rights reserved.

Beautiful life,

Where has the time gone?

Although some days I feel that the lack of wrinkles on my face betray the plentiful weight of my soul,

I am at that age when the world feels fragile

Where does the time go?

Does it take the hands of the dead

And escort them to the next life

Always remembering to turn around

And come back

For more and more of us each day?

5 Things I No Longer Apologize For

Who am I kidding? When have I ever apologized?

Just joking…I have apologized before, but I have to admit that I have used apologies quite sparingly in the past.

These five behaviors are really more like five things I have been embarrassed about in the past and perhaps no one that I know would have any idea that I used to be a little self conscious about these things.

My Affinity for Mayonnaise 

I am that person who asks for a little more, and then some more, and then just one more pass, and then just a tiny bit more mayonnaise at Subway. Or McDonald’s. Or Burger King. Or anywhere. I absolutely love mayo and when I first when to Paris and learned that the French eat mayonnaise with their fried potatoes, I felt that I had finally found a lost piece of my heart and soul.

My Affinity for the Color Red

A few months ago, a friend commented on how there’s a LOT of red things in my house. He opened the cupboards and counted all the spots where he saw something the color red. He counted a lot of things.

I absolutely LOVE red. Red anything. Lipstick, standing mixers, cars, doors, pens, it just doesn’t matter. Red is the color of life to me. Once, I was brave enough to paint the biggest wall in my apartment bright red, like stop sign red. Needless to say, that was my favorite apartment.

My General Dislike of Most of Humanity

I’m not a people person and I don’t understand how anyone could be. I have a LOT of respect for people who seem to just endlessly enjoy the company of other people. I am not one of them.

I am not introverted, however. On the rare occasion I do find a person I quite enjoy, I could spend lots of time with them and not get sick of them. I am pretty friendly and can be quite social. I just strongly prefer my own company and the peace that being alone provides. Is that weird? Don’t answer that question in the comments section.

I have been reprimanded pretty much my entire life, from childhood to yesterday, about how I have such low interest in other people. I am an intensely private person and usually operate under the presumption that so is everyone else and they don’t usually want to be bothered.

I suppose I look at it as if I DO hang out with you, you can be 100% sure that I like you and I want to be there. I think that’s better than the plethora of phony friendships that most people experience throughout their lives. In a way, perhaps I am a trendsetter.

My Indifferent Feelings Towards Mexican Food

I might lose a lot of friends because of what I am going to write next, but, I am not a huge fan of Mexican food. Where I live, in Houston, err body and their momma has a favorite Mexican place, and it’s usually not Taco Bell. Aside from some stellar street tacos I had one time, Chinese food remains numero uno in my book. I also have a very, very high affinity for Indian and Italian food.

How My Aging Body Looks and Feels Sometimes

Have you ever lived in a body that has lived over THIRTY FIVE years? Goodness grief, let me be the one to tell you, living thirty five years is an awesome blessing, but by this time in the game of life, your body might be telling you to sit down sometimes.

So, now when I am tired, I rest. If I am sick, I rest. That might mean cancelling plans sometimes, but I am over apologizing for it. Still being alive is a blessing and having the life experiences to teach me to better take care of my body is *also* a blessing.

I also wax my eyebrows less regularly and I occasionally just put on things I want to wear, with little regard to how well it matches. Last week, I wore a red and white whale print cardigan with a pair of burgundy and white checkerboard boat shoes. I could tell that the two reds did not perfectly match, but I looked in the mirror, smiled, and said, “This is what I look like today.” No one gave even half a shit and this strange outfit did not affect my day in a negative way at all. It was glorious.

New style trend to watch for in Vogue: plaid and whale prints.

 

What are some things that you don’t apologize for anymore?

Let me know in the comments below! Also, I TOTALLY FORGOT to write yesterday. I literally have no excuse. I just plain ole forgot. My bad, y’all.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

What It’s Like: Working With a Muslim Family

I want to start off this post by saying that I am very grateful for my life and the series of choices and happenstances that have put me in this exact spot, in this very moment. I am very, very fortunate and I am practicing being more grateful and observant of my good fortune.

One of the things that I am most thankful for is the many opportunities I have had to meet different people. And by different, I mean people who are of a different race, religion, background, nationality, gender, and experience than I am. You know, all of the typical things that humans use to segregate themselves and to judge the ones not in their special little circle.

Sometimes the opportunity to meet different people come because of me reaching out or because of some other self-directed involvement or effort. Most of the times, however, I find that opportunity comes simply by being open to it coming.

A few months ago, I started tutoring two children from an Eastern block country, near Russia. I will provide as few details as I can about this family, in an effort to protect their identities and keep the focus on the story and my experience, and the religion of Islam, which I am in no way qualified to even begin to discuss.

The first time I went to their house for a tutoring session, there was no answer on the phone for 15 minutes. Tardiness angers me, and over time, I have had to learn to manage my anger when people are late. But, this time, anger kind of got the best of me. I’d driven almost 50 minutes in hellish Houston traffic, just to be on time. And there I was, still on time, even after navigating around a big wreck, and the people were not answering the phone.

I looked at the clock on my dashboard and said to myself, “I’m only waiting 15 minutes; then, I’m leaving.”

I also had a bunch of other bad thoughts about these people BEFORE I even met them. Perhaps they were sharpening their saws, so they could cut me up into little bits? Is there such a thing as the “Tutor Strangler” in any popular movies? They must be absolutely terrible people; how dare they be so late?

I worked myself up into an almost seething frenzy when my phone rang at exactly 14 minutes past the hour. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

The frenzied sounding father apologized profusely and asked me to please excuse them and come up to tutor the children. Not wanting to break the rule I’d set for myself, I reluctantly went up to meet them.

I immediately thanked myself for the decision to try, the decision to trust the universe, which is absolutely not something that I usually do.

Upon entering, the entire family came to warmly greet me, one by one. The father told me that he appreciated me tutoring his children and that he trusted my abilities as a teacher. Having taught public school in rough areas for several years, hearing the words “appreciation” and “trust” the first time I interacted with a parent was a rarity, to say the least.

After the session was over, the mother meekly came up to me, and handed me a warm, paper towel wrapped bundle. I said thank you as graciously as I could, not knowing at all what was customary or rude to them, realizing I knew nothing about the culture of their home country, and also realizing that my “American guilt” is still pretty strong.

I left the apartment and walked to the elevator and opened the napkin. She had given me two freshly baked rolls of bread, the steam gently greeting my grinning face as I pinched off a piece and ate it.

At that moment, I realized that something really beautiful had happened. A shared experience between people who are seemingly nothing alike, joined together by the universe’s pull and their own collective abilities to extend a bit of trust to another human being.

For the family, they had trusted a strange American to enter their home, the first time they met them. Given the media and hatred and negative messaging about Muslims in America, if I were them, I do not think I would have had the courage to invite a strange American into my home. But, they did.

For me, I had continued with the tutoring appointment, even though I was angry that they were late and a little afraid of going into a strange home. I also greedily ate home made bread from a stranger, something that I am pretty sure children are taught not to do, and there I was, as an adult, eating a stranger’s food, in an elevator, no less.

By the time I reached the first floor, I loved those people. I loved the children. I loved their kindness. I loved the open and loving energy that you can feel in their house. I texted my mother and told her I was all right and that everything went well and I even told her, “I love them already.”

I continue to work with the children and the family continues to treat me better than any parents have in all my years of teaching. They have invited me to stay after the session to have dinner with them. They have given me other food gifts. They’ve taken the time to share things about their culture and food with me. They’ve even let me hold their infant child, which for a woman who is terrified of small children, was a big feat for me to even agree to do such a thing.

Somehow, the fact that I know almost nothing about Islam, or their home country, or their language, yet I am still able to share very human experiences with the family makes me feel incredibly fortunate.

My experience with the family is truly a testament to what great things can happen when, even if you are scared or emotional, you can summon up the courage to trust others and the universe.

You just might not be disappointed.

Until tomorrow, my friends…