Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Embracing the ordinary

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I've been trying to be better about accepting and, even, celebrating the state of being good enough. It's hard - I'm used to beating myself up over not being the best.

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Success isn't black and white. Success can be grey, murky, somewhat undefined at close-range.

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Shining isn't about blinding others.

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Choosing to embrace the ordinary, the everyday, the normal isn't a sign of surrender or a mark of failure.

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Pushing the limits will become unsustainable.

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I'm opening myself to the notion of just being - in the moment, moderate.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Karma

In 1995, I made a very bad choice and decided to lend a good friend a sizable sum of money. It was for a down-payment on a car that Mike co-signed, and the three of us joked in the dealer's office that, worst case scenario, we'll just take over the car and lose a friend.

And that's exactly what happened. The guy only made one and a half payments on the loan in the 9 months that he owned the car, and he never made a single attempt to repay me. The spring before we were married, Mike took over the balance of the car loan and we took our ex-friend to small claims court - I'd at least had the foresight to have an agreement drawn up that specified the terms of my loan to this guy and we had a lawyer witness the signing of said agreement. The judge, obviously, ruled in our favor. Still, I recovered less than a tenth of the money owed, and after months of physically pursuing this guy and taking him back to court at least once more, I gave up. The energy involved in that sort of thing was exhausting. Plus, I was towards the end of planning my wedding. I considered it a bad experience and a lesson learned, and moved on as best as I could.

Over the years, though, I've often thought about the difference that full sum of money would make. Maybe we would have bought a house sooner, maybe Mike could have finished school sooner, maybe we could have spent those lean years making ends not just meet but overlap. Not a week has gone by when I haven't wondered to myself, "How different would things be with that missing money recovered?" And really, I know that things have worked out, for better or worse. We bought a house, we both finished school, we've found ways to live within our means. I don't think, for as much money as it was, that things today would be drastically different than they are.

When Mike got laid off just over 3 weeks ago, it was during the week of the company's performance ratings. Mike fully expected to walk out of that room with a stellar performance review and maybe, just maybe, a raise. He didn't think anything of the fact that he was among the last to be called down, or even that the owner of the company was sitting in on the session. Things didn't work out like that, clearly. In the days immediately after being laid off, Mike talked with some of his former coworkers at length, including the other guy they laid off, K. K. was somewhat devastated by the turn of events and was made even more bitter by the news that a number of the retained employees received raises.

At first, I was almost as pissed about this as K. How dare the company give raises to employees when 3 people were unexpectedly laid off! But the more I thought about it, the less upset I was - after all, had Mike not been laid off, chances are his boss would have proposed he get a raise. And hard work deserves acknowledgement. For whatever reasons, whether it was majority rules or a matter of hard numbers or personal vendetta (K.'s belief...), the fact remains that Mike was let go. Being angry at the company for then rewarding some of the remaining employees isn't doing anyone any good.

Last week, I met Mike downtown for a drink. We were going to a show at XPN later in the evening (having bought the tickets months in advance) and one of his former coworkers, who'd been in Greece during the Great Lay-Off 2011, wanted to see Mike. Mike waffled about it, but ultimately decided a few rounds for old times never hurt anyone. I joined Mike and E. a little before 6. We shared a final round of drinks together before Mike and I headed over to the venue and E. headed home. When we parted, E. gave Mike an envelope. He said it was half of the money from his raise and that he couldn't take it in good conscious knowing that he was only as good an engineer as Mike had challenged him to be. Mike, of course, refused this offer, but E. insisted, and as you know, it's rude to turn down money twice. Plus, E. was threatening bodily harm if Mike tried to pull another bullshit punk-ass refusal.

I don't remember the walk over the Schuylkill. We both were pretty stunned. After we found our seats for the show, Mike opened the envelope. The check inside was for the exact amount I'd lost to the ex-friend in 1995. And I'm sure it means nothing, it's a coincidence, happenstance, whatever, but part of me felt such a warmth, that I was sure had I been standing, I would have passed out.

This random act of kindness, this unexpected windfall, completely humbles me. Thank you is not enough, and yet it is all I can give right now. It really is true that what goes around comes around.