Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Redux

I posted this last year but think it's worth repeating. Happy holidays everyone.

Briefly: 2007, I’m unemployed for the first time, living in Utah which was not a good place for me to be for any number of reasons. My unemployment benefits ran out in September 2007 and my stress over money and my situation was all consuming. The only thing greater was my belief that I had to get out of Utah. A dear friend lived in Portland and offered me his apartment for the Christmas holidays. I drove there in eight hours and there our story begins. Rather then work from my memory here is my actual journal entry from December 24, 2007 (it’s a bit long but don’t give up, OK?):

7:35pm: I can only try to explain what has happened to me tonight. I found a restaurant two days ago that was lovely and looked just special enough for Christmas Eve dinner alone. It’s called Serratto on the corner of 21st and Kearney. Blonde wood, lots of candles, high ceilings, wine bottles along the wall. Everything warm and glow-y. I arrived early tonight because the shops closed at 5 not 6 as I had hoped. Still, they had a table ready and I was seated. It was a table for two near the back half of the restaurant but with a view of the bar and the windows to the outdoors. My waitress was very nice and I decided to go with a split of champagne for dinner. At first she came back and said unfortunately, they were out of the kind I chose. I said I would think about a split of wine. She said she would bring me a glass of champagne on the house while I thought about it. Then another woman (the hostess, I think) came by and said they’d found more of the champagne, what would I like to do? I went with it. There was a table of 6 next to me and they were quite nice as neighbors. One of the women seemed to own her own shop and the older gentleman was 80- I couldn’t quite get the dynamic- but I was almost comfortable enough to join them. In between my salad and my entrĂ©e a woman came in and was seated across from me at another table for two. She looked a bit like Diane Keaton with streaked short hair, very well put together. I thought we must be in the singles row. She pulled out a book and started reading. I noticed that she did the same things I do to keep her hands free- balance a knife or saucer on the spine of the book to hold it open. Our meals progressed with me enjoying my champagne and a rack of lamb. I was completely in the moment, happy to listen to the people next to me, watch the people around me, and enjoy my surroundings. I looked at this woman on and off and thought that it could be me in 10 years and that would be just fine. She was happy being alone. On the bar a man had his glass of beer aligned in such a way that the flame from the votive nearby looked as if it was flickering inside the glass. I was a bit mesmerized.

After my meal, I decided to go for it and order pear and fig bread pudding. The woman across from me got up to leave and went to the back bar with the waitress to pay her bill. I saw them talking but thought nothing of it. The bread pudding was delicious and I ate what I could but not all. I was pleasantly buzzed and completely contented. The waitress came over to clear my plate and said, “I have something to tell you.” I asked what and she asked if I noticed the woman across from me. I said yes and hesitated. She said, “Well, she paid for your entire meal, including my tip. You can leave whenever you want.” I was stunned and could not speak. Finally I said, “What? What do you mean? Why would she do that?” She said the woman told her that I looked happy and was taking care of myself by ordering champagne and dessert. Then she said that the woman said, “She reminds me of myself when I was younger.” I almost freaked out. I touched the waitress’ arm and said, “No! I was looking at her thinking that could be me in 10 years and I would be just as happy.” She agreed, asked my name, told me hers was Heather and said she understood because she was an only child. By now both of us were crying lightly. I said I could not believe someone would do something like that. She said it was Portland, that people were kinder and nicer here. That it was a magical place. She asked if I was from here and I gave her a brief rundown on my situation. I asked for the woman’s name and she said she might be able to get it from the receipt but I did not pursue it. Her first name is Nan. The woman had told her to cover my bill before my bill came knowing that I might not accept so it was what it was. We talked for a bit more and I offered my Visa for a tip but she said she was very covered and that was all right. Then we welled up again, squeezed hands, and I got up to leave. I got outside and started to cry. Soon big heaving sobs. Who would do such a kind thing for a stranger? I have an obligation now to share that, pass it along. I am deeply deeply touched and grateful.

There is a lesson here but I can’t quite get to the core of it. On the one hand I want something desperately but cannot obtain it. On the other, when I least expect it I am given amazing gifts. What does it mean?

So I am satiated with delicious food and champagne and humbled by a stranger’s generosity. What a day. I feel as if I need to go off somewhere and contemplate this. There is something here to learn; something very important.

A lovely little miracle, right? All true. I hope each and every person reading this has something wonderful happen to them VERY soon. Even if it's tiny as long as it gives you hope and makes you feel loved.

Source: via Catherine on Pinterest

Friday, December 21, 2012

Endorphins or Epiphany- Your Choice

First off, an apology. My poor blog has been dormant for far too long. Of course, I have an excuse, who doesn’t these days? For the last two years I’ve struggled with issues of identity and employment, what is my purpose, who am I supposed to be, and what do I want to do when I grow up. In the last month my personal situation has been compounded by additional trials that have left both J and I feeling quite Job-like. I simply couldn’t write about it, and still have no intention of going into the details, because there is nothing for anyone to say. The inside of my mind is much like the underside of our couch—covered in dust, with fearsome unidentifiable things hiding in the dark. And I know this because I had to look under there for a pita chip that fell out of my mouth. It’s not pretty and does not need to be shared, especially as the bleakness I feel is echoed by recent events in our nation. There is much that simply does not make sense and for which there are no answers. 

Given all that, I decided that if the Mayans were right and the world was ending today I ought to at least exercise before being eradicated. The pool has been an almost mystical source of relief for me, when I’m not sharing a lane with a middle-aged overweight man in a Speedo who thinks he’s Michael Phelps and tries to do the butterfly, thereby washing me into the next lane. Much like the underside of my couch this is not pretty and no one should be subjected to it but until I have my own pool, there you are. I went with full knowledge that it could be crazy crowded or if I were supremely blessed, deserted. It fell somewhere in between and I got into a lane next to a kindly grandmother wearing scuba goggles and a green swim cap with petals on it. As I took my first strokes my motion through the water required no effort. I simply glided without exertion and felt my entire body expand and release. It was glorious and as I continued I was suddenly hit by these thoughts. Literally, they popped into my brain and all the other noise fell silent. 
Today is the end of the world. It is the end of an era. It is the end of me as I have been. My life right now is filled with nothing but uncertainty but I can control me. No matter how bad things get I can still be kind and gracious and open. If I believe that we all have a unique gift and our life is to be an expression of that gift then I have to stay open to receiving it. A closed fearful mind lets nothing in. So, I’m finished with the mud, the catatonia, the stupor. I have to keep trying and be as kind to myself as I wish to be to others. Events are going to unfold and they may be worse than anything I imagined but I’m already in that place and it’s not where I can live. There is a new world for me. I have absolutely no idea what it holds but I can continue to work on myself and be grateful for all the loving and caring people I have in my life. 
Endorphins or epiphany—who knows? I may eat my Chipotle burrito for lunch and lapse back into torpor but even the fact that I have put these words out there; that my heart and my head needed to express them means there is a kernel of truth in what I’m saying. Today is the end of the world and tomorrow will be better.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Is the water in front of me. Serene and unruffled. Waiting for my form to flow through, sleek and smooth, arms cutting into it like a knife but with only the smallest ripples. No splash or crash or noise. No excess. The lights above cast my reflection on the bottom and I watch my arms power down into the water, body long, gliding.
I move through the water and it moves through me. Nothing extraneous, just this movement powered by me. No racquet, ball, or bat just this body and its power, its motion to send me on. My chaotic thoughts churn like the water I kick up behind me but unlike those small waves they won’t settle into stillness. Pellucid. I would like to be.
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