Moving on

I made a clean break from a long-term relationship. Not a romance. Not a binding contract. Not a coffee buddy. This was a business relationship that blossomed into a friendship. The lines blurred, making it difficult to get away.

We met in the late ’90s, when I was newly divorced, newly relocated, and in need of a pick-me-up. He was starting his career and looking for clients.

We clicked immediately, sharing the same humor, taste in music, and life philosophies. I trusted him fully with all my needs in his area of expertise. An appointment stretched for hours past the booked time as we drank coffee or beer and talked. It was the perfect relationship. He invited me to his parties and events. We knew each others’ darkest secrets. I really thought the only thing that would split us up would be my move out west.

Then, things changed, as they always do.

He jumped from one storefront location to another, citing personality conflicts. I followed. He was losing friends as well as partners, slipping slowly into a morass of his own making. I stood by him, supported him, encouraged him to stay positive. Then, he became estranged from his family for reasons that seemed trivial to me. I listened but started to feel put upon. I couldn’t get a word in most times.

It was then I realized that it had been a long time since I’d seen the breezy, funny guy I met in the late ’90s. He was moody and distant. He was slow in returning calls, late for appointments, stopped listening to my requests. His workplace was dark and empty. He excused himself repeatedly during business appointments. He was intensely angry. His hands shook when he worked. His eyes were glazed and unfocused. I slowly admitted what I’d suspected for a while: He was on something when I was paying him to perform a service. I considered that I would have to find someone new. The last time I saw him, I told him how much I cared about him, how worried I was, that he needed help to get his life back, that he deserved better.

What I didn’t say is that I would not be back, that I deserved better, too. I didn’t have the heart. As with most things, if the person isn’t well and isn’t ready to get well, then he isn’t going to listen.

The last few times I paid him for his work, I felt ripped off and angry. I questioned my loyalty and my failure to disengage from relationships turned toxic. It was time to break things off.

But how? Our suburb is like a small town. We live within blocks of each other. It could be awkward.

Not knowing any other way, I let time pass and did nothing. As I thought about my next move, the winds of fate delivered into my open hands a coupon to a similar business with glowing recommendations.

Nervous as a cheating lover, I picked up the phone and punched in the numbers. I made an appointment.

On the appointed day, I stepped into a bright place with happy people at the ready. People who remained at their work station, who did not make excuses or have suspect behavior, who engaged in polite small talk. I walked out a satisfied and peaceful customer.  My worst fears were not realized.

I think I understand better now the need for professional boundaries.

My feelings are a mix of relief, of sadness over the loss of a friend and professional relationship, and the realization that nothing lasts forever.

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Gratitude vs. attitude at 6 a.m.

onoff

Photo by Misserion via Creative Commons

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am not a morning person.

Whether or not I embrace the darkness before dawn, I have no choice most days.  My Girl from the West starts school at 7 a.m. School is more than 25 miles away. We need to leave the house at 6 a.m. This means I get up at 5 a.m. in order to shower, prep things for Girl from the East to get to preschool on time, and most importantly,  to chug massive amounts of coffee.

Today we needed to stop at the corner gas station/convenience store to make up for some lunch shortcomings. As I entered the brightly lit world of piped-in pop music, polished tile, humming refrigerator cases and shelves bursting with packaged foods, I noticed the attendant on duty. He was well-groomed, middle-aged and whistling contentedly as he wiped the coffee /doughnut counter.

“You must put in some serious overnight hours, huh?” I asked, figuring the guy was lonely.

“Oh, it’s not so bad. I start at 10 and end at 6,” said the attendant as he walked briskly to the cash register. I noticed he had really nice teeth. The register sang a little electronic ditty as his fingers danced on the keypad. “I am so grateful to have a job. Very thankful.”

I grabbed my change, the plastic bag containing bottled water and Doritos, and looked up at the lean, tidy man with the dazzling smile. He was at the end of his shift and looked as if he’d just showered and shaved an hour ago. I wondered if he had a wife and children and if they missed him at night, when he wasn’t there to read bedtime stories or administer good-night kisses. Or, was a dark and empty apartment  awaiting, with only the mewing of a hungry cat to signify anyone’s absence.

It wasn’t until I slipped out of the artificial light of the shop and into the dark and chill of predawn that his words reached the processors of my brain.

“I am grateful to have a job.”

He didn’t say: “Working nights sucks” or “Those bastards at (Company X) let me go and now this is all I can get to keep Velveeta on the table” or even “I own the damned place but I can’t find find honest help so I’ve gotta be here myself.”

He was thankful. He had a paycheck. He had a purpose. He took pride in his work.

I’ve been hearing this so much lately, from people in all sorts of underwhelming jobs. Happy to be there, collecting a paycheck, doing something other than job hunt or collect unemployment. I can’t remember the last time I heard a workplace bitch-and-moan session.

Before this Great Recession that has cast my hometown in such a negative national spotlight, who would have thought anyone would embrace a gas station/convenience-store gig? Who would think maybe I felt a twinge of envy.

Not many, I’m sure.

Do I envy the job?The hours? No. But I do admire a person who radiates gratitude in the worst of circumstances, who makes being up at 6 a.m. a pleasant experience, who takes pride in his appearance and attitude even if he’s in a room all by himself.

All this I learned before 6:30 this morning.

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Why no post? A top 10 list

In the spirit of David Letterman, who seems to be embroiled in a bit of scandal, I offer you my Top 10 reasons why I haven’t been and may not be posting much in the next week or so:

10. The default font on my WordPress theme makes my eyes cross.

9. Our household Internet service is like Montgomery Burns: slow, spotty and ruthless.

8. The cat keeps jumping on the keyboard and hitting the delete key.

7. My drafts folder is brimming with half-written posts but none ready to go.

6. My youngest has started preschool, which gives me a few hours a week of me time. When she is home, she wants all of me, too. Not conducive to blogging.

5. My oldest is going to homecoming this weekend and the planning is endless.

4. Both a door knob and a window crank on our house have broken simultaneously, coinciding with the recent drop in temperature. Neither of these original hardware items in our 68-year-old home can be fixed quickly or affordably.

3. I have members of  a committee coming to my house in two days to inspect it as part of an application process I am in. I am on a cleaning and organizing frenzy. Not sure how to steer attention away from open, broken window.

2. My childcare for the week is mostly nonexistent.

1. I have found temporary work, which is my No. 1 priority.

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