Sunday, January 30, 2005

"Money's just something you throw off the back of a train"

The other day I was drying my hair when a very uncharacteristic thought occurred to me. I thought that perhaps everyone in the world was pretty much self-serving, greedy and manipulative. I don’t remember ever thinking anything like that before. The hot air must have blown a little more crazy into the pandemonium of my brain.

The thought lasted all of three and a half seconds before I said to myself, "That can’t be true. For one, I’m not like that." I then immediately thought of my Dad, whose greatest joy is finding new ways to make life better for others. There’s also my Mom, who despite her quirky agenda of year’s past to mold me into a Barbie/Betty Crocker hybrid, has grown into one of the strongest advocates for the poor that I know. She also relishes in countless opportunities to feed everyone cookies and pie. Lu popped up right away too. She’s the kindest and most accepting person I know. I was flooded with dozens of thoughts of people that I trust to be genuine, true and kind. Not just trusted friends, but also strangers who’ve been kind to me when they had nothing whatsoever to gain. I ended up sitting on the bathroom floor weeping and thinking about the generosity I’ve known. It was a good cry (especially for a girl who’s de-toxing from nicotine and god knows what else they put in those cigarettes).

When I was in college, one of my jobs was working at the world’s greatest Day Care Center. One afternoon I was doing an art activity with the 4-year old group. Things weren’t going as well as I had hoped. I mumbled under my breath, "I’m running out of patience." A second later I felt a tug on my sleeve and a sweet little voice piped up, "Miss Ka-Treesa, if you need some more patience, you can have some of mine. I have extra." What a perfect gift! I laughed and we finished the project without anymore problems. Even now when I find myself running short on patience, that funny little memory gives me enough extra to get through the rough spots.

One of my favorite treasures is a little bright blue and silver lapel pin in the shape of a high-heeled platform shoe. A dear friend gave it to me after he’d been on holiday in London last spring. It’s special to me because it’s perfectly suited for me. The other thing that makes it special is that he and I have never exchanged gifts. It’s not a pattern in our relationship. In fact, it seems a bit out of character for him. So, the fact that he thought to get me a gift at all, and that he found something so perfectly delightful, makes it very meaningful. Every time I wear it I think about how wonderful it is that I’m not always the expert I think I am at figuring people out.

I have a love/hate relationship with money. I love what money can do to help people live comfortable, happy lives. I hate what the love of money sometimes makes people do. It can blind them to what really matters. Sometimes I think I’m smart enough to be making a lot more money. If I put my mind to it, I could have more of the things that make life easy. But then I remember that I’m only motivated to make more money when my monthly budget doesn’t balance. Sometimes I get really stressed about money. To feel better, I only have to remember that my friends and family would never let anything really bad happen to me. We’re good problem-solvers. And, if I needed a helping hand, they know I'd never consciously take advantage of their generosity.

One of my favorite songs is a Kathleen Brennan – Tom Waits song. Nora Jones sings it on her second CD, Feels Like Home. The song is called "The Long Way Home". I’m not particularly fond of the music, but Nora Jones’ voice is a slice of heaven and the lyrics are phenomenal. As usual, Brennan and Waits say more in a phrase than other folks can in volumes of prose. I find myself thinking of one line in particular whenever materialistic concerns overwhelm my attention. When Jones sings, "Money’s just something you throw off the back of a train", I feel a calming sense of relief. It’s a perfect reminder that money doesn’t matter compared to other things.

The other thing I thought about as I sat crying on my bathroom floor, was the generosity of the folks who respond to this blog. More than once my breath has caught in my throat as I’ve read the thoughtful, tender, and sometimes funny messages that people have left for Lu and I. That kind of generosity is especially touching because there seems no expectation of gain. Each compassionate human connection of support and encouragement has helped so much. As I battle with this crappy addiction, these messages have often been the reassuring hand to regain my balance. I was also deeply moved by those who responded to my post about being raped. At the time, I was very afraid to post the essay. I don’t know what I expected. Now, I wonder why I was afraid.

You need only turn on the news to see the horror and cruelty that humans are capable of imposing on one another. I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve heard it all, or at least enough for one lifetime. The nightmares that I’ve borne witness to, are safely tucked away. They are entrusted to a vault where I store the purged pain of others. Yet, I’ve seen more beauty than pain, and I believe that humans are born to be loving and to be loved. I cherish each time I'm surprised by our capacity for selfless love and generosity. But then I’m a big ol’ sappy romantic Chik.

Here’s a thought from Albert Einstein. (He taught me a lot about spirituality. Perhaps I’ll share a few bits of that sometime).

"The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been
Beauty, and
The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, and luxury have always seemed to me contemptible."


At 5:53 PM, Blogger Larry Jones said...

Beautiful, Theresa.
But I would love to have walked in on you sobbing on the bathroom floor. Was the hairdryer still going?

At 6:20 PM, Blogger theresa said...

Once I stopped screaming and recognized you, I'm sure I would have been glad for your company, Larry. Although, I'm sure I looked a mess.

No, the hair dryer was off.

At 11:34 PM, Blogger cricket said...

such a beautiful post, theresa! i'm not nearly that coherent when i'm crying on the bathroom floor... ;)

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Ed said...

humans are born to be loving and to be lovedCouldn't agree more, Theresa.

Made me dewy eyed, that post. Guess I'm just a big softy!

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Chick said...

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind." ~Henry James

I'm a big ol' sappy romantic too.

Your words are tenderly written. Did you feel better after that good cry?

At 12:31 AM, Blogger theresa said...

It wasn't the kind of cry where I was in a lot of pain. I was just really emotional. I tend to cry easily the first few days after I quit smoking, so it was bound to happen, I'm glad I was by myself. I got to be as ridiculous as I wanted to be without worrying that I was upsetting someone else in the house.

I really like the Henry James quote.

At 5:44 AM, Blogger Lu said...

What a lovely post, T. You covered a lot of emotional stuff...

And thanks for what you said about me. I think I must have inherited the kindness from my dad and the acceptance of others from my maternal grandmother, which makes me love these gifts even more. I'm proud to have them and awareness of this is another stepping-stone on the way to total self-acceptance. (I sound like a Buddhist, don't I? Jeez, must be my daughter Leah rubbing off on me again, lucky me!)


At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

It's mother's day, I stumbled across this post somehow and all I can think about is my mother. While we were growing up she would say things like this everyday, and I never really believed her, but now I know its just the wisdom you get from living.

Thanks for the tears.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you for giving props to TW/KB. That's a great line from a great song: one of my baby son's bedtime favourites is the original from Tom Waits's 'Orphans' album. Nobody sings his songs better than Tom.


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