I guess it’s only fair that Marilyn and Larry surprised me with a recorder or flutophone. I bought them emergency clown noses a few years ago. True story. Should I go stand in front of Target and pretend that I’m jamming? Will people pay me to shut the heck up? This could be really lucrative. A pay-to-not play win-win! .
Sunday evenings often provide me with encounters that other days don’t. I’m not sure why that is.
I was out and about, buying mismatched birthday/get-well/occasion balloons, a flutophone, spatula (all of which are of course traditional birthday surprises), and various ridiculous things for a belated work birthday shenanigan. A woman was at the register. She had only two dollars. “I’ll pay for the rest with my credit card.” She sweated a bit, waiting to see if it would be authorized. The clerk wasn’t the most sympathetic. He radiated irritation. The woman hid her embarrassment well but I watched her body language as she cringed at the treatment. It took her two tries to get it to go through.
Although I had entered with a light heart and a bit of joy due to being creative in trying to let someone know we hadn’t forgotten them, I have to admit a bitter flare of anger lit me up. I could feel it behind my eyes. I flicked my wrist and saw that my heartbeat had elevated considerably on my Fitbit. I wanted to shout at the clerk but then I reminded myself that I have a superpower that all of us have if I could just stop judging. Even the few one-on-one rapid self-defense sessions I had reinforced the idea that we owe it to each other to disengage before we act.
“Hey Janice,” I said loudly to the woman as she got her bag, a little red-faced. “Wait a second. I have that money I owe you.” Her name wasn’t Janice, but she stopped and turned. I held up a finger to ask her to give me a minute to check out. She was just confused enough to wait.
“Merry Christmas, sir,” I told the young male clerk.
“Yeah, ok.” He seemed unhappy. He looked at his watch.
“Are you having a rough day?” I asked him, smiling.
“You have no idea,” he said.
“What can I do to make it even a little better?” I asked.
“Let me go home. My girlfriend texted me and told me she was putting my stuff outside if I didn’t come home soon.”
That stopped me cold for a second. I was surprised by his honesty.
“I don’t know what you’re going through but I can see you’re stressed. I would be too. Take a minute and call her, don’t text, even if your manager doesn’t want you to. Tell your girlfriend you love her and you will talk to her when you get home. Trust me.”
“Just like that?” He asked.
“Yes, just like that. Assuming you do love her, she will give you a couple of hours to come home and work it out. And if she doesn’t, it wasn’t going to matter what you did now or not. If that happens, I am so sorry.”
He looked at me like I had burst into flames.
“Okay, thanks. I’ll try anything.”
“Would you do me a favor as a kindness?”
“Yes,” he said.
I softened my voice and leaned in: “Tell my friend Janice there that you are sorry for snapping at her and wish her a Merry Christmas.”
He did. Janice listened, stunned, as the clerk said, “I’m so sorry. I’m stressed. Please have a Merry Christmas, Janice.”
Janice smiled, still a bit confused by it all, but happy the clerk had acknowledged his rudeness. “Merry Christmas to you too,” she replied, her voice cracking a little.
I nodded at the clerk and smiled. “I wish you the best. Now go call your girlfriend and let her know how much you need her. Everyone needs to hear it.”
I grabbed my handful of bags and bundle of helium balloons.
I turned to Janice and pulled the ten-dollar bill out of my pocket and handed it to her. I’d been given the ten dollars to help buy a few goofy items for the birthday shenanigan. The person who gave it to me would have wanted it to go to Janice instead. Of that, I am certain.
“I know you’re not Janice. I just wanted the clerk to think we know each other. This is for whatever you need. It’s not a lot because I don’t have a lot.”
Janice took the bill from my hands as I balanced all the things I’d purchased.
“It’s okay. Don’t say anything. Just remember that sometimes the universe is listening, okay?” She nodded. I think she was a little choked up. I know I was.
I smiled and walked out of the store, my anger gone, and my thoughts filled with hope that the anonymous girlfriend was going to get a call to let her know she was loved. And that Janice forgot the embarrassment at the register and remembered only that someone wanted her to have a Merry Christmas.
P.S. I’m going to go wrap a flutophone and spatula. As we all agree, they are ideal birthday presents for someone who has everything.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.” — Robin WIlliams
As for my smaller lighter brooch I made and wore today, it was wildly successful. Sure, I had a couple of eyerolls and a bit of derision. 98% was effusively humorous. One person asked me to make one for her husband, who struggles to avoid losing lighters. I imagined him on the construction site with a lighter-brooch on his shirt, while his coworkers chortled at him. The woman at the gas station thought it was both practical and creative. The booth clerk at the flea market said, “Art is in the eye of the beholder. That’s fairly creative, X.”
Though I make these things to be creative and for self-amusement, I also accidentally discover human behavior lessons by doing so.
You’ll hear me say with regularity, “Anything can be made into a brooch if you’re audacious enough.” The fact that I have one made out of a pregnancy test should be proof enough of that.
“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.” -Oscar Wilde
Rare is the person who directly expresses displeasure. Not so much about the specific idea or implementation; rather, the IDEA of such a thing. Those people are to be avoided. It belies a lack of enthusiasm for creativity and the autonomy of others to be ridiculous. People who can’t engage in random acts of ridiculousness aren’t part of my tribe, to put it mildly.
People who directly say, “It’s not that clever or not appealing” either do so because they are honest, which is truly a great thing, or they can’t help but to express negativity, which is its opposite. I’m carefree about people’s reactions but I do notice when someone isn’t engaging in a spirit of enthusiasm or encouragement. Life is bland enough without encouraging more of the same.
To everyone who thought it was clever, thank you. To those who didn’t, I can’t hit all home runs. But out of the hundreds of people I ran across today, my cigarette lighter brooch was the most singular thing I saw anyone wearing today. And that’s a home run each and every time – in part because it gives people the opportunity to be amused, annoyed, or to interact. I can’t be certain that NO ONE has ever made a working cigarette lighter brooch. But I am certain that the idea came to me from the mist of my own mind – and that no one I know has ever seen one. Until today. That makes me happy.
The best line I came up with today was a play on words: “Can I send you a Bic pic?”
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” – Albert Einstein
Despite what I’ve been eating, I still weigh about 148 lbs. There’s a ‘but’ here.
I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve stepped on the scale lately, expecting to be over 150.
I think back to when I had the vision of what I’d look like. I didn’t expect a huge abdominal scar. But I love that it’s there. Really.
I’ve worked really hard since surgery to change my body. It’s working. My muscle mass is increasing. That creates the issue of burning more calories at rest than I previously did. I was wrong about needing to incorporate more weight training into my routine. Wrong seems to surround me when I think about what I thought I knew. I’m so grateful that I can do pushups again. Before my surgery, they were like meditation to me.
Now that I have a Fitbit, I know how easy it is to surpass 20,000 steps just on a normal day, one without a “walk.” I was fat with the same amount of activity. For years. That tells you how many bad choices I was making with the foods I was eating. It’s the fundamental truth of losing weight. Generally speaking, it’s the only reason you’re not where you want to be.
Fitbit watches are great for metrics. I thought I wouldn’t find it interesting. I was wrong, as usual. I got the 3-month trial premium plan. It tells me my heart rate, O2 level, sleep patterns, snoring, and of course steps. The threshold is 10,000 steps. It’s obvious that I will always go over 20,000 if I’m working. If I take a long walk through the streets around me, I can hit 30,000, or 50,000.
The Banana Apple Rule has helped me. If I go into a store, even an inconvenience store, and there are apples or bananas, I buy one and eat it. It’s a bit simplistic, but it works. It might not stop me from eating a bag of something stupid; it reminds me of why making different choices is a necessity.
When I lost all the weight, I didn’t change anything except what I ate.
Now that I’ve eclipsed a year of different choices, I feel humbled. No matter what else has happened to me, I can’t resist running up the stairs or wanting to hurdle over the side as I go down them, wondering if I might float.
When I think about where I was thirteen months ago, I float.
Thanksgiving is approaching. I thank the universe every night that I’m still here. I’ll make a lot of dumb choices because I’m human. But I’ll also make a lot of moments better because I’m still alive and being me.
Another interesting person who I don’t know by name laughs because I call him Max Sr. I did ask him his name but due to the nickname I gave him, I can’t recall what it is now. And that’s okay, as you’ll understand after reading this.
I started seeing him at random times on the trails near work, especially at odd, early hours of the morning. The first few times, we exchanged casual greetings. Each time, I noticed his voice was louder and a bit more friendly. It’s obvious that Max Sr. is a kind, gentle soul who probably doesn’t get to talk to as many people as he once did.
The truth is I wanted to pet his cute 3-year-old dog the first time I saw it. It politely barked at me the first time I passed him and Max Sr. around 3 a.m. one morning. I laughed. I didn’t take it personally.
When I finally got the opportunity to pet the dog, Max Sr. told me that the adorable dog’s name is Max; thus, I brilliantly forgot the owner’s name on purpose and started referring to him as Max Sr. He loves the nickname. Max Sr. thinks of Max as his guard dog and guardian instead of him being Max’s owner. It’s only appropriate, then, that the owner adopt the dog’s name.
I sometimes take short walks, aka Sanity Walks, to get out of the building and see the creek, trees, and people exhausting themselves on the trail. I never step out there without hoping I’ll get to say hello to Max Sr. and to rub Max’s little ears and feel him shiver a little as I pet his back and sides.
I’d be a lot happier if Max and other animals were nearby to pet. A lot of people would. Animals show affection without regard to circumstance. It’s a good lesson we could learn to apply to our lives. The social shield does in some ways protect us. In others, it limits us.
When I see Max Sr. I smile. When I see Max, I smile and get to see immediately that he’s happy with just my presence. What a gift that is!
Maybe you’ll get to pet Max one day, too. He’ll show you the same love after he barks a few times to remind you that he loves his human.
The harsh light of the practical morning makes sharing yourself markedly more difficult. For everything, there is a time. It’s easy to say the words when we’re prone to vulnerability. And strength to say them when there is no apparent reason.
Güino is becoming adept at tricking me. Yesterday, he bolted from the apartment and ran full-speed down the landing to be near the feeders. I’m running flamboyantly ( ) because the video doesn’t start until after I’ve tried hooking the fleeing cat with my foot. It looks like I’m prancing to unseen music. I don’t mind looking stupid; it’s a part of who I am. If you knew how many times this year I’ve kept my promise to say, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t understand,” you’d laugh. Prancing is fun and doing so in this apartment simplex is about the least weird thing you’ll see in five minutes of careful observation.
The math picture I made is of Güino; it accurately reflects the mental machinations he’s undoubtedly doing when he sees or hears the door open. Cat 15, Human 0.