03 December 2009

The Art of Living

"All the art of living is a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
Havelock Ellis

* * *

I let go today.

For anyone that knows me, they may be surprised. I was surprised, initially.

I was listening to a client droning on about why he didn't accomplish the *two* things I asked him to, again, looked at the files piled up against my bed, and then glanced outside to look at one of my favorite sights: The bird feeder outside my window. The cardinals are back.

As he continued with his excuses, I flipped through his file, through all the work that I had done for him, and thought, "I don't need to save him. I don't need to save him to save me."

Each window outside our home has a bird feeder outside of it. I pulled back all the shades today so that I could see them. Most of them were empty.

The thing about the birds is that they are forgiving. Leave town for a week and return with feeders bare and no chirping to be heard, walk outside with sunflower seed and almost immediately, despite your neglect, you hear them sing.

You say it's primal, it's their own need to feed themselves, it isn't for me, personally. They are oblivious of me. They could care less who I am.

This isn't a new concept to me, I tell you. I know oblivious.

When I offer them things in my out-stretched hands, they sing their praise to me as they circle and finally land upon my fingers. That is something; they see me.

I've many gifts tucked away, gifts I haven't been able to give, things I crafted and perfected and offered, cautiously, carefully, eagerly--oh, when they see this, I won't be invisible anymore! And I pretend not to care when I return, hands still full, heart ragged and I smile and say, "it's not a big deal," and go to my office and turn on my computer and pull out a blue file: Who shall I help tonight?

Because God forbid the person that I help might be myself.

Until today.

Laying in my bed, my computer resting on me, him telling me the stress of having been up late on the wii and losing his bus pass and could I call him in like two hours because no, he doesn't have any of the 17 cards I've given him with my number on it, all those papers in the file!

All those hours of MY! LIFE! that I'd given well beyond the wages I earned for him.

The hours that I handed over to him; far more than any other professional in my field would consider giving and he cannot program my number? He cannot return a piece of paper?

He thinks nothing to think not of me at all.

I told him I'd call him; knowing that I wouldn't, knowing that he wouldn't notice that I didn't.

Instead I wrote his closure recommendation and breathed deep. I would have been crying, before, letting someone go like that, writing I don't believe there is hope for them. Today I just breathed relief.

Within three minutes of sending that recommendation, the phone rang. I smiled at the number.

"Ms. Jenn!" She squealed; my smile spread quickly, too quickly it turned out; I forget the blisters from the fever still, and soon I felt the blood draw to the surface and grabbed a tissue and watched it turn bright red.

"Ms. Jenn! You won't believe this! I have four interviews within the next week! Four! Just like you said, give it three to four weeks and they'd call!"

She named the employers and I continued to smile; I know she will find work soon--good work-- and I know she will be grateful and I know from experience that a year from now, I could pass her on the street and she would stop and hug me and tell me how I changed her life. A stranger, really, she is to me and yet I know she would do this; she will always remember me. She will be shocked to know that I will so easily remember her.

I will hold her always, with many others that I know have genuinely wanted help and a chance and someone to recognize what they were holding in their out-stretched palms.

They are always amazed at my kindness, they say at our last meeting when I give them a card and a hug and tell them anything they need, they can always call. It's never my letter writing, my coaching, my gut-wrenching honesty, my driving them to interviews. It's always my kindness that they say they will remember.

I like that about me.

"I have no idea what the hell you saw in a fuck-up like me," one of my favorite clients said in our closure session. He'd been on the brink of disaster when I first met him; he was 97 days into full-time employment, with benefits, and his house payments were current again the day we said goodbye.

And breaching all protocol, my voice wavering, no attempts to hide the tears spilling from my eyes when I grabbed his hands, looked directly at him and said, "I saw myself."

"Fuck," he said, wiping his face. "I gotta go. Can't be late. Jenn would kick my ass." And we smiled and hugged and when he left, I looked at the tears on his paperwork. At some point this past year, he sent me an email with the picture of his newborn daughter and he told me how "fucking blown away" he was with her. I told him to make sure he told her this. "How could I not fucking tell her?" He asked. "I'm fucking living for her." I'll hold onto him always.

If I've learned anything of late, it is that there are things worth holding and there are things that you just cannot hold anymore because the weight is too much. It is time to dust off those gifts and give them to someone else; they are gifts; they do me no good here; perhaps they were meant for the new recipients all along.

* * *

“One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us.”
Michael Cibenko


Mama Goose said...

Kindness. It certainly is a gift.
I like that about you too.

Anonymous said...

...sigh... letting go. so simple. yet so, so complicated.

flutter said...

You have such a servant's heart, Jenn. You don't need one damn person to save you.

You blessing.

luckyzmom said...

"I've many gifts tucked away......." You're making me cry again. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Loralee Choate said...

You NEVER cease to amaze me. NEVER. xo