All of life is a journey; which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Think John Steinbeck is Right

Whatever does not kill us only makes us stronger. After a week like this, I sometimes fight over whether this is true or not. Without getting too much into the un-necessary details, lets just say if it could go wrong, it did. It seemed to climax in horribleness on Tuesday. I was closing that night and was just wishing that the terrible day would end. I honestly thought the one thing that jinxes it every time, "this day could not possibly get any worse". Oh but I did not see this coming. I made the normal announcement at work to let customers know that we would be closing in five minutes. I see one of our regular customers on the monitor up front looking very angry (which is normal as this woman is the most consistently angry person I have ever come across). As I went up she left and the cashier then told me how she was yelling about how annoying my announcement was and that she wanted to cut open my throat herself and yank out my voice box. There were some other visuals in this tantrum, but you get the point. I could not believe it. I had not provoked this woman, singled her out, been anything but courteous and yet she was threatening me over the sound of my voice. That was the last straw. I left the floor, went to the back to "lock up", but just lost it. I hate crying in public so the back was the best I could do. What had I done to this woman? Why was she so cruel? And what would I do when I see her again? I slept very little that night dwelling on this event.

As I became more and more frustrated on why she chose me for her target, I read a quote from John Steinbeck. He said, "A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ." I am not sure why this struck me the way it did, but it got me thinking about what this woman's life must be like to make her behave in such a way. I just cannot accept that some people are born cruel and genuinely unkind. But rather that situations in their lives have warranted developing such a negative defense mechanism. I wish I knew why she behaved the way she had, or what I could have done differently as to have evaded the whole experience. But the sentence haunted me. To have a sad soul, what a heavy burden that must be to bear. Hope is powerful. Resilience coupled with that hope can overcome any obstacle, but to lack both would be the definition of tragedy. After going over every dramatic, mean one liner I could think of to say to this woman should I run into her (and in this small a community it is inevitable) I realized the person I was truly hurting was myself. I had allowed her negativity to get the better of me. And the sadness that had entered my soul was killing me far more quickly than being sick ever could. Then I went back and read one of my favorite lines ever written. "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." ~Ben Okri As much as I felt angry for what this woman said, perhaps she has far more suffering and sadness than I can understand. Although I am definitely a work in progress, I hope that when I see her again, I can approach her with kindness and compassion. Perhaps the world would be a far kinder place if we aided in not only the healing of our physical ailments, but helping heal our souls as well.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Change: the only constant

Songs have been sung, poems written, words spoken and lives altered. All surrounding this one concept, change. It amazes me that such a seemingly insignificant and simple word can literally have the capacity to bring such a mixture of competing and opposing emotions. When things are going well and life seems nearly perfect, change can come and be the ultimate force of evil. And when life has gone astray and you have lost true north, change can be the saving grace. And yet no matter how much we talk about it, are altered by it, we are somewhat powerless against it. So why this random rambling on the subject? Perhaps the last few weeks have given me a chance to reflect on the past few months.

I can hardly believe it has been five months last Tuesday that I moved to Small Town X. When I left a place I loved, a job that brought me happiness and friends that filled me with joy for this unknown yet necessary journey, I really had no idea what to expect. I guess I hoped that this was going to be a life changing and miraculous experience. Although it has taught me a great deal, I find myself longing for a past I cannot recapture. I feel stagnant. Which as I looked up the official definition seemed to describe how I now feel my life is going: characterized by lack of development, advancement, or progressive movement. Why when so much change has occurred am I filled with the feeling of a lack of movement? As far as facing fear, I have overcome one of my worst, being in an unknown place alone. I have begun again, lived alone, started literally from scratch, but feel unfulfilled. It is fascinating to me that if I knew that my time here was certainly coming to a close, I would be experiencing things with a totally different perspective. But that perspective seems to be clouded by the realization that the change I really seek may not be coming in the near future. It is a funk, a small town, reminiscent funk. Oh change, who I once loathed so, how I wish you would re-visit this small town and take another chance with me. I guess now only time will tell what the next step will be. And as I know that life is what you make it, rather than what it gives you, I hope this is cathartic posting will be the first step into a better tomorrow. One that I will begin to create myself.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rules of Train Etiquette

I am taking this opportunity while life in Small Town X is slow, to share a story of the past. One that has been requested, and highlights one of my few moments that qualify as evil genius. As the luggage carousel post has shared, I have terrible luck when traveling. Now the irony of this fact lies in the suspension of trouble when traveling with others. If in a group, trouble remains at bay. But get me alone and it rears its ugly head. I have tried many forms of transportation. Plane, car, greyhound, and last but not least the train. I discovered that this form of transportation did not become extinct with the industrial revolution, but is alive and well. So one fall semester I gave Amtrack a try. The first trip was long, late but ultimately uneventful. The second was anything but, especially after we hit a truck trying to beat the train and were de-railed. Alas on my last venture with the train I found that although I may not be confrontational, my passive aggressive side wins in the end. Now when riding the train, there are a few unwritten rules everyone should be aware of.

1. The train is set up like a plane (two seats and aisle and then two seats) Everyone would like their own pair to relax on the invariably long journey ahead of them.

2. Once you have secured 2 seats, when stopping at stations, pretend to be asleep. Someone is more likely to ask a conscious person to share seats than an unconscious one.

3. Whoever has been on the train longest has seniority.

4. There is always drama between passengers when in small enclosed spaces for extended periods of time.

5. Strange people ride the train.

Now that the basics have been covered, here is what unfolded this fateful trip. I boarded the train in Denver, CO headed to Utah. It was fairly empty, I put my ticket up above the seats and gladly went to sleep. About 6 hours into the trip we stopped at a station where I promptly "fell back asleep" and waited to depart. I heard the woman behind me get asked if she would mind having another woman sit next to her. Score! I kept my seats and space in tact. Now there is not much to do on trips as long as these, so eavesdropping is always on the agenda at some point. What I learned was the woman who had just gotten on the train was vegan (she also went extensively into the differences between vegan and vegetarian), her boyfriend was a biker who shanked someone while in prison, and quickly found out that this passenger resented me for being able to stretch out and sleep. I would like to take a second to point out that I was NOT the only one with this luxury, there were quite a few of us. However, she began to make obnoxiously rude comments about wanting me to get off the train so she could take my seat.

Hour after hour I listened to these comments getting more and more angry at this total stranger. Unfortunately, I am not good at confrontation, and thought even if I freak out and tell her off, what then? I am in a train car without escape with a woman who could have learned how to kill me from her inmate boyfriend. So needless to say, by the 14th hour of this nonsense, at 1:30am I was at a breaking point. About 45 minutes away from my destination, I look over at my water bottle, which had once been frozen but now sat warm and undrinkable, and got a scathingly brilliant idea. When on the train, passengers tend to gravitate to the window seat and stretch out toward the aisle. I thought, if I pour all 24 ounces of this water on the seat, then when she takes it she will be soaked. And the best part was then she would wonder about how she had not seen me leave my seat in 12 hours (for fear she would move my things and take it) and think maybe this girl peed in the seat! It was pure malevolence and I loved it! Then my conscience kicked in and I felt some guilt over leaving her in wet pants all night. So I made a deal with myself. If she could make it the last 30 minutes without the rude comments, I would not do it. Not 10 minutes went by when she could not help herself, and frankly neither could I. As the five minute warning approached, I silently and discreetly moved to the aisle seat and poured 24 ounces of warm water onto the window seat. It was dark fabric so after a gentle pat down, one could not tell it was soaked. However, the slightest amount of pressure would puddle the seat. I sat with unadulterated satisfaction and pure joy over this passive aggressive moment of triumph. I went over the hours of snide remarks and pictured the hours of wet pants as payment. I got up and went down feeling victorious in my renegade justice. Reality hit when the train came to a stop, but there was no station. I was told by the conductor that the track had a break and we were a mile from the station. In an instant victory transformed into terror over the thought of this woman coming after me once she discovered my trap. I begged and pleaded to be let off the train, in fact I asked to walk the last mile. Alas, he would not allow it. Thankfully lady luck finally smiled on me. The path up to the passenger area was completely blocked off by other students trying to get off at this stop. The break was right after the station, and I left the platform feeling absolute freedom. I never saw this woman, and would not know her if our paths were ever to cross again. But should this ever reach her I would offer one final word of advice. Train etiquette is alive and well, and the consequences damp, so next trip keep your comments to yourself.