The Rueful life

Whether or not feeling well warped my sense of self or feeling something inside me well up intolerably, I went out into the world for what I thought was the shortest of intervals today. Though you might doubt me, those moments stretched into a length that flowed without end.

Most people use the word ‘rueful’ in an exaggerated negative sense. I prefer the term to mean “expressing sorrow or regret, tinged with humor.” Those are the sublime connotations that often fuel me. Humor is what shields me; bittersweet fringes give me pause to ponder at the simultaneous complexity and simplicity of life. Swimming in the valley between them is a blessing interspersed with the unknown horizon.

My limited interactions while out in the world today reminded me of life’s sublime ability to be filled with our exclusive perceptions. Today’s moments were wrapped in the lightest of gauze and applied with gentle attention. To walk in a world so gossamer each day would be my undoing.

Such attention to the essential ruins us in our endless and needless desire to see the things around us instead of our interconnections.

During the first encounter, the female clerk ran across the recently-mopped floor, risking life and limb simply because she thought a customer might have waited too long. She made eye contact with me, and I said, “Please don’t worry. Nothing at hand deserves any stress.” While she wore a mask, I could see her eyes widen in curiosity. Her eyes then darted behind me as she noted another customer behind me tapping his foot and shifting his weight.

It’s when the shift I felt toppled inside me and made me lopsided.

As she handed me back the change, I tapped it and said, “This is for you, if you can accept it. And if not, let it be for someone who will soon approach who needs it.” Her eyes widened and became tear-laden. She nodded, unable to say anything. Not from awkwardness or loss of words, because whatever became momentarily off-kilter inside me became the same for her. It was tangible.

I walked away. The next two interactions were similar, even though it would be easy to dismiss them as figments of my feverish mind.

“With careful toes, I pranced through my life, to awaken no one. And in so doing, the ones who should have noted my passing failed to look up and witness me.”

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