Thursday, May 25, 2017
I used to know this woman. A long time ago, I was working as a consultant in Lansing, Michigan, and my then-boss introduced me to her; she worked as a recycling coordinator for a city in Oakland County, a heavily populated area north of Detroit. She was smart and energetic and unique and I liked her but only talked with her a little before I left the firm.
Fast forward a few decades. I was able to find her again thanks to Lord Zuckerberg of Facelandia. We liked each other’s posts and appreciated each other’s writing but that was it. I learned that she relocated years ago to an extremely rural area of northern Lower Michigan with her husband and daughter. She works from her home as a writer, although the word “writer” doesn’t do her justice. She’s a “word goddess,” as her wonderful new website proclaims. A “wordologist.” A “content collaborator.” And I just discovered that she’s one of the most fun and compelling conversationalists ever.
I stumbled upon her website the other night and was so impressed – it had just been redesigned – that I filled out the “Contact Me” form and scheduled a phone call. We had that call today. When we hung up after just over an hour, I noticed that I had taken no fewer than 19 pages of notes. She monopolized the call, throwing out book suggestions and the names of people I need to Google and things I need to think about, slogans and catch phrases interspersed with descriptions of her life and background. She shared tidbits about her friends and family, compliments and kind words about me, lessons she had learned and decisions she had made about her business, and enough humorous anecdotes to keep me chuckling long after the call ended. We promised to stay in contact – we might work together if we can figure out how – and even exchanged a few follow-up text messages.
And this is what occurred to me: I’m in a rut. I do my work and focus on my family and worry about money and fret about the Oval Office Occupant Who Will Never Be My President and lament the tragedies taking place around the world (including the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England three nights ago and the drunk driver who drove on the sidewalk for three blocks in New York’s Times Square on May 18, plowing into pedestrians and killing a young woman). I bitch and moan about a jerk with whom I work. I whine about the normal teenage things that my kids do. I spend just enough time in Facebook to be disgusted by at least five posts each day. I concentrate on gun violence, police brutality, climate change, racism, war, death, corruption, the ugliness of politics and all the other bad sh*t going down at the local, state and national levels. I think about all the things I wish I could change and should have done differently and hope don’t happen. But that’s really it.
I don’t take classes or go to lunch with friends. Anita and I talk about going for walks at night like we used to but we’ve both been too tired to launch this plan. I haven’t resumed my Portuguese lessons and I seldom read books like I used to. I don’t play with my puppies or engage with my son and daughters. I can’t remember the last time I went to a concert, an amusement park, even a movie. I’ve denied myself stimulation and somewhere along the line I’ve gotten old.
And then I talked to this potential colleague today. It was a great call. It made me smile and ponder and wonder and remember. I pledged to check into some things and figure out others. I promised to come up with reasons to talk again and write together. And I backed away from my desk feeling better about who I am and what I can do.
My wife and kids deserve a fresher, more positive, more energetic and balanced Patrick. Anita’s been struggling and coping and tolerating the Old Me for far too long. I’ve denied myself excitement and possibility and an expanded mind and more living in my life. And I’ve denied the people closest to me blue skies and singing birds as well.
I bet I’m not the only one either.
If I can get all this enlightenment from a single phone call, imagine what I could glean from an all-day conference…