Truth and Tricks and Things in Between (AKA Sneaky Stephanie Bends the Truth)

Gather round, Peopleaneous, for I have a confession to make and news to share. I’ve played a little prank with the help of a fellow blogger. I’m pretty sure you know exactly whom I’m talking about. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you this time. Let’s get the confession out of the way, shall we? We shall indeed.

CONFESSIONS and TRICKERY

Confession 1: This one’s the real whammy – I didn’t go anywhere this past weekend, over Valentine’s Day / President’s Day. And I certainly didn’t go to meet a fellow blogger.

Confession 2: Josh and I noticed some time ago that people were leaping to conclusions about us and what may or may not be going on between us. Some of them kind of made sense, given the nature of our public conversations, banter, flirtations and challenges to each other. But some were wildly out there and hilarious in the far-fetched assumptions. So we decided to play a prank: to make you all think we were going to meet up over Valentine’s Day weekend.

prank-word

Confession 3Not only were Josh and I not together over the weekend, but I was right here in Louisiana – doing important shit around the house. And I actually had to work yesterday. President’s Day is typically only observed by government institutions, at least in these here yonder backwoods.

Confession 4: There is a real connection. Had we acknowledged it when we hatched the plan for the prank? I’m not telling. Is there now? I’m pretty sure that’s obvious enough that you know there is. And I don’t think either of us is trying to hide that fact.

Confession 5: Yesterday’s post should have been tagged “fiction.” But it wasn’t, as it was the final part of the prank. I wasn’t in any airport yesterday. I wasn’t on any airplane yesterday. Do I wish I was? I’ll leave that to your imagination. I’ll tell you one thing: I sure as fuck didn’t want to be at work. Ugh.

TRUTH and NEWS

Truth Nugget 1: I just spilled a lot of truth up there. First off, the intention was never to lie, but more to play a harmless prank that we both hope you’ll find amusing rather than insulting. From the beginning, we both planned to reveal the prank as soon as this past weekend had passed.

Truth Nugget 2: I am planning to move to the Seattle area. Sooner than later. And I have been longing to move to the Pacific Northwest for most of my life. It’s always been a dream of mine. This year I decided to take control of my life, stop wishing and start planning.

Truth Nugget 3: I spent the weekend packing my house and hauling shit to the storage unit I rented a couple of weeks ago. I’m not done, but I’ve already begun the first stages of the hard cleaning so that I can put the house on the market in the coming weeks.

Truth Nugget 4: I’ve already submitted my very first application to a job in Seattle. And it’s perfect for me. So fingers crossed, y’all.

Truth Nugget 5: Do I plan to meet Josh? I won’t speak for him. You can go read his post on this to see what you think. But for me? Sure. Why shouldn’t I? What does that mean? If anything? I’m not telling. At least not right now. I may or may not. Go ask Josh.

~

The readers that Josh and I have in common – hell the readers we have, period – know that we’re both irreverent, snarky, playful and mischievous at times. I promise you this: any time you’re pranked (which I have no plans for as yet), you will always be told in the end. And if it’s the Flat Out Truth, you’ll know that, too.

~

But the question remains: Just who was pranked in the end: you or us? That’s for us to know and you to find out. For now, we’ll all Float On okay.

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A (Temporary) Departure

Sitting in the airport
Waiting for my flight
The one that will take me
Back far away from you

From the top of the country
I’ll return this day
With a heart so heavy
But so full of you

I blame you fully
For how I feel

You welcomed me warmly
Showed me your life
You made my heart skip
And stole the breath from my chest

So it’s your fault, my dear
That my pulse has quickened
And I want to flee the airport
Come running back to you

Just a few more things to tidy up
And I’ll be back before you know it
This is the flight that takes me away
Soon I’ll take another, this time to stay

Want to Need to Want You: An Essay on Love as a Need

February 14 encroaches with its thundering storm of love and lust and capitalism and shared venereal diseases. But I will be indisposed over the President’s Day holiday, which comes directly on the heels of VD Day. (That’s VD for Venereal Diseases for those in the know.) (Welcome to The Know.) So I’m gonna talk about L.O.V.E. today.

I don’t mean love in the way someone says:

  • OMG I just LOVE those heels, girl! You must tell me where you got them! Hashtag YOLO!
  • Dude, this chicken is divine. I would totally LOVE it if you’d left out the cream cheese.
  • I LOVE Bonobo. Like totally LOVE Bonobo. The music gets me high.

No. I’m talking about Love as in Eros. Merriam-Webster defines Eros as such:

  1. The sum of life-preserving instincts that are manifested as impulses to gratify basic needs (as sex), as sublimated impulses motivated by the same needs, and as impulses to protect and preserve the body and mind – called also life instinct.
  2. Love conceived by Plato as a fundamental creative impulse having a sensual element; erotic love or desire.

I also consider the nature of love is more than emotional/sensual “feelings.” Love is a verb, meaning it requires attentive action toward your partner. And despite what many believe, it does require effort. If you’re not willing to put forth any effort in your relationship, then can you truly call it love? I think not.

(P.S. The concept of Eros deserves a post all its own. Psychology fascinates me, and Eros is no exception. If you’re into psychology or the inner workings of humans, I suggest digging in.)

Note that I placed emphasis on certain words in those definitions. Chiefly need(s). For that, my dears, is what I’d like to discuss today: Love as Need. How Wanting your Lover becomes Needing your Lover.

Some people believe that love (and desire and lust and passion and psychic/soul connections and all that goes with it) forever remains in the realm of want. I disagree. Strongly.

Love in an adult relationship between two unrelated, attracted adults, certainly begins as want. (I’m not going into polyamory. I’m discussing this from the perspective of a monogamous coupling.) But as it progresses, if in fact it progresses from strong connections and compatibility to a mutual desire to become long-term partners, your love for one another should certainly still be a wanting. But I will argue that it also becomes a need. And I don’t mean need in the way some perceive it as this negatively connoted cloying, whiny neediness. I mean need in the way that you finally reach the stage where your want becomes so strong that you need your partner to fulfill your wants and needs.

Most people who give the concept of need serious attention and thought, only go so far as to consider the physiological needs of humans (and mammals in general): air, water, food, shelter. While these are critical for survival and must be met first, human complexities include more than just physiological needs. These may be the only ones necessary for survival, but we need more than that to be fulfilled and live lives worth living.

Countless studies have shown the importance of interpersonal relationships, communities, families, intimacy. Consider infants. One simply cannot dismiss their need for love. I could cite study after study on the nature of childhood development and the effects of love upon said development. Parental affection is critical for most infants to become well-rounded, healthy members of society as we know it. Children who are deprived of love are wont to develop such afflictions as social anxieties and depression. They often have difficulties relating to other human beings in acceptable ways and develop issues with trust and self-worth. These are proven facts. Children need love. Parents who provide for the physiological needs of their offspring but withhold love and affection are psychologically damaging their children.

We, as humans, simply require more than our physiological needs met.

Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds

In order, he places physiological needs as the foundation of human needs, which of course is inarguable. Once those needs are met, we move into safety needs (adequate shelter and clothing to protect one from the elements and predation). But take a look at what he places next:

Love and Belonging. Here, Maslow argues (and I adhere to this psychology) that friendship, intimacy and family are requisite for social and emotional stability. Otherwise, as previously discussed, we are neglected and ostracized, which typically develops into severe depression and other psychological problems.

Now let me place this into the context of a long-term monogamous relationship.

Real Life Shit

I do believe in soulmates. I do not, however, ascribe to the notion that there is only one person in all humankind that can fulfill your own personal needs of love. There are billions of people on this earth, and while we will never meet even the tiniest fraction of those billions, rest assured there are many people out there who are capable of fulfilling your love needs.

But while in a monogamous relationship, the person with whom you shared a mutual attraction and wanted to become your lover…that person is the one whom you’ve chosen to fulfill your needs. I do not argue this in a toxic way. I do not argue this as a way to say, “Well, I fucking need you, so you have to put up with whatever I do to you. However I treat you. I don’t have to do a fucking thing to actively love you, but you have to stay because I need you.”

No. That’s bullshit. And anyone who argues such doesn’t understand the responsibilities inherent to love and interpersonal relationships. Failure to acknowledge those leads to neglect and psychological abuse, which in turn may lead to feelings of ostracism and depression. That is not love. And if your relationship ever reflects such neglect, then your partner is no longer fulfilling your needs. And now you must decide whether you want another to fulfill those needs.

So if I say, “I need you,” I am declaring to you that I’ve chosen you to fulfill my personal needs.

I want to
Need to
Want you

And that will remain true so long as we want to fulfill each others’ needs and actively demonstrate our love.

Today’s Tunes: Brought to You by a Chillin’ Stephanie

It’s always a positive sign that I’m feeling better and more mentally stable when I start digging into music again. When I’m at the depths of my depression, I can’t even reach for music – my soul’s food. Given all the music I’ve been listening to and the string of music-related posts, I have yet another sign that I’m steadily on the upswing. Thanks to a myriad of factors, no doubt. My wonderful Peopleaneous, a few in particular who have seen the darkest sides of me and helped me through, another particular one who thrills me to no end, and the medications I’ve been put on have no doubt played a significant role as well. Never again will anyone hear me say psychiatric medication is bullshit.

I feel compelled to share what my soul is filled with this morning. Soothing me and tugging at me and pushing me and pulling me with its raw passion and purity. This, my friends, is art. It’s all instrumental, but you can hear Keith getting into it. Crying out at times, because he is music.

Keith Jarrett’s Changeless Album (4 songs in total)

Dancing

Endless

Lifeline

I can’t fucking find “Lifeline”. Ripped off!

Ecstasy

Ahhhhhh yes. Enjoy, my friends. Enjoy.

Starlight: An Anthem for 2016

This song means more and more to me as time moves on. And it’s definitely a major anthem for my 2016.

If you’re not into music (what the fuck is wrong with you), let me break it down for you. Check out these lyrics, and you can read it instead.

Starlight

Far away
This ship is taking me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die

The starlight
I will be chasing a starlight
Until the end of my life
I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms

My life
You electrify my life
Let’s conspire to ignite
All the souls that would die just to feel alive

Now I’ll never let you go
If you promised not to fade away
Never fade away

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations
Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms

Far away
This ship is taking me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die

And I’ll never let you go
If you promised not to fade away
Never fade away

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations
Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms
I just wanted to hold

A Public Censure from a High School Outcast

I am in the process of preparing my house to put on the market. This is finally the year that I put myself first, no matter how difficult that is for me – because it is completely out of character. And this is going to involve some major changes and upheaval. I always put others first, even (usually) to my own detriment, almost without exception. I have been this way my entire life.

This change wasn’t some lameass resolution for me. I don’t do resolutions, at least not in the way most do. Life changes and extensive shifts in perspective don’t suddenly and miraculously happen simply because the clock ticked over to a new year. Time as we know it is a man made construct anyway, but I’m seriously digressing here.

The point of bringing this up was to mention I’m working on getting my house ready to sell. And this means days and weeks of meticulous sifting through thirty-five years of accumulated stuff. Some of that stuff is meaningful; some of that stuff is being donated; some of that stuff is being sold; some of that stuff is outright garbage and has been hauled straight to the bin and to the side of the road where people pick it up (you know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure), but some of that stuff is meaningful to me in some way or other and cannot simply be tossed out. Like the box of letters from my paternal mamaw. She was my penpal for a good two decades. Or my diplomas and commendations. Or my report cards and IEPs from elementary school, and the notes from teachers and little awards I received. Or the stacks of photos and photo albums. There have been lots of laughs, lots of tears, some raging and ripping up photos of that man who ruined my childhood and so much of my life and my outlook and behaviors, some quiet reminiscing, some shock; you get the idea.

One thing I came across was surprising to me. I didn’t even know I had it. A simple piece of paper brought on a flood of memories. Unpleasant ones at that. I was in 11th grade, I think, which puts me somewhere between 16 and 17. I was depressed and miserable and hated high school with all that I had. Not long after this period, I experienced some of the best years of my life until the bottom fell out of that, too. But for now, I was fucking miserable. I experienced suicidal ideation. I never cut myself, but I’ve always had this problem with picking and digging and tearing at my skin. So I’d wear long sleeves almost exclusively, in order to hide my arms.

I had changed schools that year, which is what seriously ramped up my depression and self-loathing. Those last two years of high school did a lot of damage to me, but the others did as well. Before I changed schools, I never had what you would call friends. There was simply a group of outcasts who would gather together during lunch. Some of them hung out together after school, but mostly we just clung to each other on the sidelines of life. It was our own little depressed group of grunge kids on this life raft we created to weather the storm of cheerleaders and jocks and geniuses and rich kids and bullies. It raged around us, splashing us with its venom and vitriol. The bullying had gotten so bad that I perfected this death to you glare and assumed anyone and I do mean anyone who looked at me meant me harm. I struggle with that still. And so we gathered together in this little corner at lunch. Playing hacky sack. Sneaking to the bathroom to smoke a roach. Talking about The Doors and Pink Floyd and Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Wearing the tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt I bought at a yard sale. Long sleeved of course. And that silly “Elvis is Dead. Deal with it.” t-shirt I wore all the fucking time. Mostly because it was black. And I was in a black wearing, flannel over-shirt phase. Close friends and confidantes we were not. But we needed each other. Or at least, I needed them.

1990s-grunge-wear
This is what we were like. Only there were far more dudes than chicks. Most of the chicks were banished for bringing drama to the group.

So when I changed schools, I lost that. I no longer had a shield or raft to cling to against the raging tide of bullies. Especially the preps. They were the worst. Those were the ones that made my life hell all through high school. And now I had no protection. I had no wall of outcasts surrounding me to buffer me from the storm of bullying and back-stabbing. Which leads to the piece of paper I found last night.

I had an AP English class, which I would have loved (because English. Yay. My favorite subject for years.). Except there were about a dozen cheerleaders in that one class. They chose it on purpose because the teacher was the mother of one of them. I had no idea, or I would have scheduled a different class or requested a change. Such as it was, I was stuck in a very special hell of torment and glares and snickers and cruel jokes at my expense. Me, the poor girl in hand-me-downs, thrift store clothes, high-water pants and shoes held together with duct tape I’d taken a black Sharpie to on the black parts and White-Out on the white parts so the tape wouldn’t stand out so much.

At some point during the year, we had an assignment. We were instructed to write an original poem and then select one from our textbook that went along with the same theme. Then we had to buy white t-shirts and somehow paint our original poem on the front and the textbook poem on the back, then wear them to school on the day they were due and recite our poems from memory. This terrified me. I didn’t learn how to be able to do public speaking until college in my twenties. I can do it now, but I was terrified back then. Like vomiting over it a couple of times leading up to it the week it was due.

I couldn’t persuade my father to buy a new white t-shirt for me. “I don’t have the money for some fucking school poem bullshit. Use one of my old undershirts.” No, of course he didn’t have the money. He’d spent it on the twice weekly sacks of pot and pain meds from his 19 year old dealer. The shirt he gave me had the inevitable pinhole burns in it and huge deeply yellowed pit stains. I stole change off of his dresser to buy this glittery green puff paint to get the poems on the shirt. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. But I knew I would be humiliated, and I was. But this time, it was mostly in my head.

It was time. The teacher called my name. My stomach flipped and then flopped, and I felt dizzy and off-balance as I left my back-corner desk and walked to the front of the classroom. Voice shaking, I began:

Nobody

You think that you are better than me
From your clothes, to your style and your hair
You think that you are better than me
But I have ceased to care

You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I am not here for your pity
You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I will have nothing to do with your sympathy

In your eyes, I am nobody because I don’t measure up to your standards
But I am not the one who tries to be something I am not
So before you judge me again, take a look at yourself
And face the reality that you are no better than me

And as time marches on
And your shine is all gone
For all of your glitter, you have nothing to show
Now you are nobody, and I am somebody

And you will never be better than me

To their credit, after the snickering subsided, the room got dead quiet. Not even the usual whispers and note-passing that happens during things like this. And the looks on their faces were a mixture of confusion, disgust, surprise, shame. This quiet, wallflower, grungy, nerdy weakling was speaking words of condemnation. To them. This was directed at them, and they knew it.

And then I read the poem I had selected from the textbook, and their shame and confusion turned to shock and fear. I could see it in their eyes, because I had finally worked up the nerve to make eye contact. And so I began:

Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich-yes, richer than a king-
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

I somehow got through to some of them. But not in a way that made them nicer to me, more in a way to make them lean away, look away and leave me completely and utterly alone. Which was a relief and respite from the bullying, at least in that class. I think they were afraid of me. Nervous. Fine. Yes. Great. This I can use. And so my death to you glares increased. I rarely spoke, but I could shoot daggers. And I did. And I relished them shifting in their seats and looking away. I felt guilty for a lot of this later, in some ways still do. But at the time, I finally felt relief and used my anger as my new wall of protection, my new life raft.

I read the paper. I re-folded it and sat there in this reverent silence. Then I opened it and read it again, finally re-folding it and tucking it away among the things I’ve decided to keep. At least for now. As a reminder of what I was, and what I’m working so hard to leave behind. The anger, the fear, the skittishness, the guilt, the distrust, the anxiety, the self-loathing, etc.

Here’s to my year of change. It will happen slowly and then all at once. And I can’t fucking wait.

And Then There Were Flowers

Last week sucked. I mean it sucked so hard, it choked on King Kong’s dong. Believe it or not, this week is a fuckton worse. But this is about last week, not this week’s special brand of misery.

But you know what? I’m finally starting to see that maybe, just maybe, it’s worth it for me to fight through it. It’s worth it for me to not lose sight of my goals and hopes and dreams. Because I deserve happiness, too. (What the fuck did I just say? For real? Yeah, you miserable bitch, take that! We’re not gonna be miserable forever! So fuck you!)

Ahem. And there have been a few very specific people who have been helped me through some of my most recent darkest hours. I don’t want to call out names, in case it would make you uncomfortable. But every fucking one of you know who you are. The emails. The voice recordings. The phone calls. The silly memes. The comforting. The commiseration. And I love y’all for it, I do. Not the I wanna sex you up kinda love (well maybe one of you – maybe). But there are other kinds of love, and I’m feeling this wonderful familial vibe from so many of you. It’s taken me by storm. And you all overwhelm me with your goodness.

And then there were flowers.

Last Friday, my name was called over the intercom at work. “Stephanie Llaneous, please report to the front desk. Stephanie, please report to the front desk.” Whatever. I figured it was time to pony up another buck for the office powerball pool. When I finally get down there, I round the corner and the women up there are grinning at me. There was a bouquet of flowers up there, and they were for me!

I was befuddled. I mean, who would send me flowers? So I looked at the card, and here’s what it reads:

For a Very Special Friend. Have a Good Day.

The fuck?

I don’t have any Very Special Friends. I mean, not outside of the blogosphere. And even if you know where I work, that isn’t enough. I work in a very specific building, so it had to be someone who knew that. And no one in bloggyville does.

So the mystery begins.

The people I share an office with were lovin’ it. And dying to know, right along with me. So then the questions started: are you seeing anyone we don’t know about? Does someone in the office have a crush on you? Duh. Creepy Carl and Panel Van Paco. But neither of them would buy flowers. They’d just chloroform me and stuff me in their trunks. What about outside the office? Crushes who know where you work? Look, people. No one crushes on The Stephanie, capiche?

The only person I could think of would be my ex who, no matter how many years go by, still wants me back. (It’s a difficult story, y’all, and one I’m not ready to talk about here.) So anyway, I call him up.

It wasn’t me. I wish it was, so you’d know you’re never far from my mind. But it wasn’t me.

Then it was like, “Oh my god, Stephanie! What if it’s a woman?!” So then I actually started getting ideas.

First, there is a woman who works in the room with me, and she’s so sweet and fun and motherly. And she knows a little of the fact that I’ve had a very difficult time of late. No details, just generally speaking. Plus she’s witnessed most of the work bullying and has my back big time. So I asked her, point blank.

Nice Lady, did you send these flowers to me?

No way! I wish I had, but they sure are gorgeous! I promise I’d tell you, but it wasn’t me!

Then it hit me. And my sneaking suspicion turned out to be true. It was a woman, someone I’ve had lots of official dealings with during my time at this company. She sends Christmas cards, Halloween buckets filled to the brim with premium candy, King Cakes, etc. For the whole office throughout the year. And when I moved departments, she would make sure that I’d be included by sending me a separate little card or gift. She always missed me when I moved departments, and I missed working with her. She was a bright spot in my days when I’d work with her or talk with her (but oh my god can that woman drone on and on!).

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to clean up messes made by some others (not to imply I don’t make my own now and then), so I’ve been working closely with her again. (She’s outside the company, by the way.)

Later that day, last Friday, she sends me an email to thank me for the most recent thing I had prepared for her. And then she asked…”So, any surprises today?” And my suspicion was confirmed. I was in the middle of doing something else for her, and she wanted to make it clear it had nothing to do with the personal pet project she needed help with. But it was to let me know that I’m much appreciated and how much she appreciates my efficiency, kindness, attitude, and on and on. And then she said,

Also, I just had this nagging feeling that you could use a pick-me-up.

Every time something like this happens, I become more and more convinced of the interconnection of spirits and souls or what have you. I know there’s a word for it, but I can’t word right now. (Fuck you, brainhole.)

And then she offered me a job. Which is straight up poaching, because my current supervisor is the one she works directly with here! I’d take it in an instant, but my choices were between two cities I have no interest in residing in. However, their company does have a big location in the Pacific Northwest. So she could totally be an in for me. I’m gearing up to ask her for a reference. But this all requires a separate post.

Anyway.

Thank you, Awesome Flower Woman. Thank you, Kickass Blogger Buddies. Thank you Synchronicity (ohmygod I found the word! I worded!). Thank you Snuffleupagus.

~

This post brought to you by:

Flowers, because they sure do brighten a day.
The Letter S for Synchronicity. And Snuffleupagus, because he was the bestest.
And Fire, for Fires in the Belly and those who put them there.

Mere Words

Before she could give herself over to her nerves, she dialed the number. It rang four times, and she thought the person on the other end had decided not to answer.

She nearly hung up, but she knew she was being foolish. You’ve spent your entire life being a fucking coward. You know you don’t have to be that way now.

“Hello?,” was the hesitant answer.

“Hi!,” she exclaimed, heart slamming against her rib cage. “I may as well tell you now, but I’m nervous as hell and don’t know what to say.” The stammering speech and nervous laughter testified to this.

“I don’t want to talk to you,” came the curt reply.

Silence followed.

“This isn’t good enough. It will never do, and there’s no time to explain just now.”

“I’m sorry to have wasted your time,” she muttered in a hoarse whisper.

“Meet me after work. The bench. You know the one, by the lake in the park.”

“…okay.”

“We’ll walk to my place from there, because you’ll never understand through mere words.”

Click.

Winds of Change: A 100-Word Story

Fearsome winds whipped sodden detritus about her feet, the ground slick from last night’s storm.

Only mist now meandered its way down from still laden clouds, caught in wisps of wind here, trickling down a lamppost there.

Adjusting her hoodie and leaning into the wind, she stuffed her cold hands into her pockets and trudged forward.

Heart pounding, she couldn’t stop, magnetized toward something unknown. Heady from winds of change, dizzy in contemplation, she didn’t see the limb in her path.

Looking up at the boy that caught her, she knew she had finally found the source of the pull.

A Note of Thanks(giving) on Christmas Day

I didn’t do a post on Thanksgiving. And I’m not doing a post on Christmas. These times of the year used to be so special and precious to me. Now they’re just reminders of how lovely things once were and how alone I am now.

But I met a man in the grocery store Wednesday morning, a man who shook my world a bit and brought much needed clarity and perspective. I was in the produce section, picking out onions, when I heard singing. At first, I decided to ignore it and pretend it wasn’t happening. Isn’t that what most people sheeple do? I was having a pretty bad morning. I’d already been to the rheumatologist, where I had more tests done and more tests scheduled. Mention was made of an MRI and a specialist over two hours away. And I had crashed hard and felt heavily sedated from some new meds I’m on. So I was not feelin’ it.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted him. This little old man, small, frail, harshly stooped over. Pushing his cart at a steady clip and singing his heart out…and in a rather brusque manner, I might add. And I couldn’t help myself; I smiled broadly at him.

Are you laughing at me, young lady?

“No! No sir! I’m smiling, because your singing has brightened my morning!”

Good girl. Music is good for the soul. A little Nat King Cole is good for you.

He went right back to singing, and I do mean he was belting it out. The lady behind me, waiting to get at the onions, remarked, “I don’t know how anyone can be so happy in the mornings.” He heard her.

Happiness is a state of mind. I’m simply choosing to be happy.

I thanked him for bringing a much-needed smile to my face.

He wandered off, seriously pushing that cart hard and fast. He was on a mission to get his things and get the hell out of there. I saw him again on another aisle at the other end of the store. He was still singing his heart out.

“Hello again,” I greeted him.

Why, that’s a song, isn’t it? I do believe you have music in your soul, young lady.

I grinned at him and thanked him once more, letting him know how pleased I was with his music and spirit.

Thank YOU. For seeing me, for hearing me, and not just seeing a crazy old man. Merry Christmas to you.

“Merry Christmas.”

Oh no, I’m far too old now. My Christmas passed away years ago.

And he pushed his cart away, resuming his singing and heading for the checkout. I stood there, frozen in place for a few moments, mouth slightly agape and tears coming unbidden. His last words broke my heart. And yet, his spirit endures in spite of his loss and pain. He went into the grocery that morning and sang his heart out, not necessarily to spread joy but to maintain some within his own heart.

I saw him at the checkout, as I stood there. And he stopped singing momentarily and asked someone I couldn’t see, “Are you laughing at me?…You’re really laughing at me? You think I’m stupid, don’t you? Well you’re a jerk!” Then he picked his song back up and continued singing.

I saw him again as I was driving home. He was walking with his groceries. My heart sank. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t get to him in the traffic. I glimpsed him in my rear view after I passed him by and saw him darting across the road to some assisted living housing.

I don’t think he has any idea how he touched my heart, but I hope so much that he felt the hope and peace he gave to me. And the important reminder that happiness is an action as much as a feeling. We have to seek it out, work for it, find it in the little things (that aren’t so little after all), appreciate it…and share it.

So thanks to that angel of a man, I’m going to choose to be thankful today rather than moping around feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to at least try to be present and thankful. Because even at my lowest, I have much to be thankful for:

I’m thankful for you, my awesome blogger buddies. My Peopleaneous. You make me smile, you make me laugh, you cry with me, you crack jokes with me, you share your music and your lives with me. You come and check on me and show so much patience and understanding when I crawl into my cave and don’t reply to messages or emails for days. I’m more thankful for you than you know.

I’m thankful for being welcomed into the geek fold at work. I don’t get to talk with them often, because we’re in different parts of the building. But it’s nice knowing there are people there who are friendly with me and actually enjoy my company from time to time.

I’m thankful for luxuries like running water, central heat and air, a working washer and dryer, a home with a solid roof and a comfy bed. I’m thankful for a running fridge, stocked with food.

I’m thankful for my two cats, one of whom is my cuddle buddy every single night. He snuggles and purrs and makes me feel needed.

I’m thankful that I wasn’t born in a country where I’m being shot at or bombed every day. Where I don’t know when the next time I’ll have clean water or a full belly will be. Where I’m not allowed to educate myself or speak my mind.

I think of a lot of silly things I’m thankful for: like #2 Black Warrior pencils, double A batteries, flip flops and Welch’s grape juice. I’m thankful for butterflies and tree frogs and dainty earrings and belly laughs.

I hope that you lovely people will take time out of a day (usually) filled with lots of gifts and things and sometimes a lot of stress and personality clashes: take time out and remember to be thankful.

be thankful

Happy Holidays, y’all.