Thursday, June 02, 2005

Simply irresistible

If you were a perfume, you'd be named Simply Irresistible. Something in the way you move is just drawing admirers by the score. It's not just your overall pulchritude -- although there is that, of course -- but the entire package. Learn to own your charms, even if you're normally a more shy and retiring type. It's true, being impossibly charming does have its drawbacks -- although actually, who can think of one?

This is my horoscope for today, or one of them. I read several, always hoping to find the message from the universe that speaks to the most gnawing worry buried in my subconscious. Whenever I can tease those anxieties to the surface, I am better prepared to deal with them.

Goodness! There are so many! How can a person in good health with happy living circumstances and a fulfilling job have so many anxieties? My daily practice to count my blessings and count them again, and my considerable discipline (not always obvious to the casual observer) are powerful weapons against anxiety, but still the little monsters burble up in dreams of both the day and night varieties.

My best tactic to bring calm and peace to my life these days is walking. Springtime in Vermont is my vista as I stretch long muscles and click into a nonverbal space in my mind. When I return to my daily anxieties, I am always—every day—astonished at how small and warped and gnarly and irrelevant they are.

The stuff I fuss about mostly falls away, or gets slotted into a spot where I can deal with it efficiently. That’s stuff like the random $400 fraudulent charges on a credit card that I closed three years ago, but the company didn’t, resulting in my credit being trashed—despite twenty years of outstanding credit—and a month of unsatisfactory exchanges with the credit card company. It is fixed now, but I still have reservations about Chase/BankOne credit cards, although they have not quite hit my personal boycott list. Dell is still leading that list, although I have found a workaround: never buy a Dell and make sure that whatever computer you buy, you are not dependent on the company warranty. Annoying, time-consuming, but really very small in the grand scheme of things.

The big things you can’t fix. Serious health problems of family members. The little company in my area that imploded this week. Imagine that you are a talented furniture maker and you have been working for someone else but thinking about going out on your own. Your newest baby is very new (weeks, not months) and the baby appears to have some serious health problems, so you have put off launching your own business. Then imagine one day you go to work and you discover that your boss dropped dead over the weekend. Your paycheck is not there, everything is tied up in probate, and you—with difficulty—extricate your own personal handtools from the building before the doors are padlocked. Working for a small company in Vermont, you are always no more than one step from this reality.

What can I do for this guy? I can fast-track him with the small business counselor. I can refer him to potential lenders. I can intervene to get a faster response from unemployment…maybe. I can possible come up with networking possibilities for him, but to his credit, he has already pursued most of them. I can refer him—as much as he does not want to go there—for food stamps and aid to families with dependent children. I can even prioritize a small repair job that I need done at home because a couple hundred dollars makes a huge difference to this guy at this time. But most important, I can listen. And I can recognize that this life is really, fundamentally no different from mine.

The big stuff is really big. People we love suffer from health problems, from relationship problems, from the pain of watching loved ones suffer. All we can do is listen, help sort the small stuff from the big stuff, encourage, suggest more options, and agree that the big stuff is really, really, …..really big. What we can do is so very small in the grand scheme of things. But it is everything that we can do, and faith requires that we hold fast that it will be enough.

Postscript: Now this is what I love about writing! When I read my horoscope and sat down to write, I intended to write about how I came to Vermont for sex (it’s not exactly how that sounds, but close) and found that there are a lot of amazing and wonderful men in Vermont who seem to find me (yes, me! 50-year-old me!) irresistible. And look what came out of my fingers. Maybe tomorrow you will get the other piece.


Robert said...

The big stuff. It is so hard to keep things in perspective. Big is hard to measure because it is so relative. Context, context, context, the "location" of personal business. We, too, have friends that have fallen on hard times, and we help where we can, and try to treat them with dignity through the process.

Big stuff is like objects we see at a distance; the further we are from it, the smaller it appears. Writer Douglas Adams (Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy) had a character's space ship with a device that made it invisible by cloaking it in Someone Else's Problem.

But just outside the passenger window are these words of caution: Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

Karen said...

You are eloquent, as always. I think the art of listening is recognizing that someone else's problem is very, very big in their own life, as it would be if we had the same problem in our own. And recognizing that however much we might wish otherwise, we cannot fix others' big stuff. Or even our own. We can sit together and gaze at the big stuff and say, "Oh, wow." This is the practice of compassion. This is the acceptance that we are only small particles in the universe, unique and blessed as we are. My humble opinion.

Jean said...

Sounds like the people you advise are lucky to have you, Karen - someone experienced and knowledgeable who will sit with them and look at the problem, that's about the best any of us can expect.

Hope you'll be writing one day about how this guy was forced to start his own business in a hurry and it turned out to be a success and made him very happy... and he'll be able to tell his kid that story, so the kid grows up knowing good stuff can come out of crises...

Please write the other piece sometime. Maybe I'll move to Vermont.

zhoen said...

No one can take another person's sufferings away. For the very good reason that there are -hidden inside the pain, the most important lessons life has to offer. We can offer respite, a listening ear, a hand up. Because it is a lesson for us, too, if we pay deep attention.

Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.