The world depends on so many different species, each a nutty experiment.The Overstory by Richard Powers
I’ll call it a hobby, even an avocation. Otherwise I’m not sure how to define it because it has taken on the sacred overtones of a spicy sideline.
An initial clue came from the kindergarten indoctrination of British author A. A. Milne. My Mother was keene on his subject Winnie the Pooh. Long before the cartoon, she saw fit to pass along its literary wisdoms in a pre nap read aloud. Here’s the corresponding tip from Pooh Bear’s mouth: “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”
Certainly I could never have adopted this sort of hustle with the schedule of the overly preoccupied human whom I once was. Planning and rushing, rushing and planning as if my personal to dos would produce something that I could take with me to the promised land.
Waiting. That is how it began. Elders from their lofty stations reported to tiny me that life was a hurry up and wait situation. Waiting to grow up, waiting to graduate, waiting for love, waiting for your children to straighten up and fly right, waiting for retirement, waiting to heal, waiting to die, oh and waiting your turn, waiting out the miles to get there, waiting for the pot to boil…
“No kidding” I say now with a megaphone from adulthood. Doing nothing was never my cup of molasses until that fated day when I woke up to a way to embrace fuller truth.
I know when the change of heart began because I kept the note as a souvenir. I slipped the typed directions into my linen blazer pocket and there it was this morning 2 years later to remind me of this friendly new leaf. The 2” by 2” note read:
Take elevator to 3rd floor
Exit elevator and go through single door marked Recovery Room
Turn to the left and find gray box on the wall to the right of double doors.
Push red button and give your patients’ name.
Meanwhile waiting was involved. Waiting indeedy. D and I have taken an intensive ten year course and much of the mandatory class work entailed waiting. That is how one makes their way in the world of health care.
The clipped note was a device to be of assistance to caregivers while hospital-ing. The metaphor of what it portended is lovable. Push red button: a veritable pandora’s box awaits.
I’m now embarrassed to say that day I was disappointed to find another person inside, one who I judged to be humdrum. Oh joy, two strangers together in silence and stress.
Such a sequence of events has taught me to bring along my knitting for the general purposes of distraction, spur of the moment gift giving or convenient conversation avoidance.
If you believe in heaven sent, you are one who is already open to the power of spanning time and space with acts of sharing but mostly listening. Though I am a talker, D observes that at times I become oddly shy. I claim it to be the intimate space and unknown quantity which introverts me.
In this case, my associate was senior to me by a good two decades. Turns out she was once an expert knitter; one of those who has knitted suits and complicated bedspreads. “I lost my vision and then my focus -” she grieved the loss of her expertise. I mourned the possibility since I’d plan to knit to the very end of time. She and her husband were entrenched in the health issue of their lives. We had a lot to share. Her wisdom stories of letting go are now treasured by me; lasting largesse that I look to every day.
It called to mind a recent story out of St Petersburg, Florida. A gentleman named Al started to seat himself on a park bench to catch the sunrise before work. He was a regular, and people were inspired by his devoted presence and began to confide in him. One person said that by seeing him there on a daily basis, they knew that everything was going to be alright.
I now have a fruitful string of conversation memories that I clothespin to a life line as I dig deep in an effort to remove myself from the surface of things. Case in point was a recent trip to the waiting room at Express Oil. No need to press a red button first as a woman full of fury (one can only speculate originally under schooled in love and personal hygiene) spilled her saga as a long time hospital employee who was not permitted to see her husband of 40 years before he died of Covid. If that wasn’t enough to bare, her jobless child had lost his home; the county was after her to clean up her property and the blame wound round until she began to simmer.
And then I began to place myself inside her world. When my number was called, she reached out to hug me goodbye. World peace? Maybe I’m overstating the power of one on one, but what if I’m not?
Here’s the revised 2” by 2” recipe that I now stash in my pocket:
Open up to an unlikely someone.
Drop your own whipped-up chronicle. Listen.
Look at that someone in the eyes when they speak.
Feel generous toward them.
Make good use of the RECOVERY ROOM. Restore love.