If one is aware of one’s surroundings, life lessons abound.
A long time ago, I used to be sort of a Kelly girl. (I was actually a Welley girl — the independent temp agency was run by the Welley’s, a husband and wife team.) In those days, the economy was such that I could work one or two weeks a month at a few cents above minimum wage, pay all my bills for my own apartment and car and have money left over for fun. (Or for saving.) Those days, of course, are long gone — you can’t have much of a life if you make only slightly above minimum wage — but the lessons I learned are still with me.
For example, one time I started a temporary job the same time a newly hired employee began a permanent job. She was nice, attractive, competent, but people didn’t particular cotton to her because she tried to fit in. Makes sense — that was going to be her life, and she wanted to make friends, and they weren’t ready for changes to the status quo. On the other hand, I had no stake in the job. I put in my time, was pleasant to everyone, but didn’t try to be friends with anyone. After a month or so, she was not accepted (wouldn’t be accepted for another few weeks), but amoeba-like, the group had absorbed me, the non-threatening one. Ever since, when joining a new group, I don’t try to insinuate myself into the group, but simply be there, be pleasant, and enjoy whatever fellowship comes my way.
I’ve been taking dance classes occasionally with a more advanced group at the studio, one that has been together a long time. I expected a bit of resistance when I was first invited to practice the dances I knew with them, but it didn’t happen. I never tried to be more than I was — a neophyte delighted to be dancing with more advanced students — and they seemed to accept me as such without even a hint of unwelcome. I’m sure if I had tried to push my weight around, things would have been different, but since all I want to do is dance, we’re doing fine.
The same thing happened with group I go walking with. I walked with different people at different times, sometimes talked, sometimes asked questions, listened, and somehow I ended up making a lot of friends.
Other lessons are harder to learn. I’ve always been a bit of a worrier. This tendency might be a genetic pre-disposition since my parents were both worriers and fidgeters, it might be learned behavior, or it might simply be . . . whatever. I’m trying to overcome that tendency to worry, though I will always be aware of potential snags in order to avoid them if possible, but I no longer wish to waste time fretting.
People worry about me and my future, which I appreciate, but I’m not too concerned. I’ll find a way to make money, or maybe money will find a way to me. More importantly, I’m preparing the best I can by learning not to worry. I see how my 97-year-old father frets about the most trivial things, and I don’t want to be like that when I get old. Don’t want to be like that now!
For example, last night he rang his emergency bell, and both my sister and I went running to see what the problem was. The emergency? He had two bottles of Ensure by his bed, one for 1:00 am and one for 7:00 am, but he didn’t have the one he would need sixteen hours later at l:00 pm. Apparently, he’d been lying awake stewing about it, and so in his mind, it became an emergency.
The whole Ensure thing is ridiculous anyway. There is no reason for him to be drinking so much Ensure at night, though he refuses to listen to my sister and me when we tell him that those extra hundreds of sugar calories are what’s keeping him awake. Still, since he is insistent on following his self-imposed schedule, I solved the problem. I now store all his Ensure in his room instead of in the pantry. (He can walk to the pantry, just refuses to do so.) He can set as many bottles as he wants by the side of his bed, and if by chance a bottle is not by his bed when he wants it, he only needs to walk across the room to get it. But it will be by the side of his bed. He will “ensure” that.
When I find myself fretting, I stop and take a deep breath. My worries are for the future, not this minute. And this very minute, I have nothing to fret about.
Lesson learned, perhaps.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.