Life is filled with fought. The longer I live the more I understand there will always be titan-sized battles of tug-of-war between hurry-up and wait. There always seems to be something or someone that needs your attention coupled with the realization that one more time, you’re going to be putting yourself further and further back in the line in order to make it all happen.
I wonder if waiting bruises our delicate sense of being oh-so special when we have to stand in line with all the other cattle gathered at the department of motor vehicles. Or how about this one: Have you ever called 1-800-call-somebody and had the calming computer voice assure you that your call is important to them and…‘your anticipated wait time is 53-minutes’. The only up-side here is at least you know no one will be able to cut ahead of you in line. Since calls are answered in the order in which they are received, you’ve got your place.
I was in our favorite Italian grocery the other day, standing in front of the deli cases with 35 or 40 other lemmings, each waiting to call out their cold-cut glory. My place in that kind of line of waiting comes from the ticket I pulled from the dispenser on the wall next to the glass cases of rare roast beef and pastrami. With ticket firmly clenched in my hand, I took my place in the milling herd. With time passing so slowly, it’s not uncommon for a fellow shopper to strike up a casual conversation with me that goes something like this:
“What’s your number?”
“Me? I’m 67. You?”
“Oh that’s not so bad” (…not what I’m thinking, but no need to gloat).
Another shopper leaves with their white paper package and the cycle begins anew.
As if trained seals, every one of us looks down at their little piece of paper ticket hoping that somehow our number is going to magically transmute into a number 20 points lower than the one we’ve got. It doesn’t happen.
And woe to the fool who tries to rush the counter on a bluff.
Obvious the jerk is cutting, playground justice kicks in, transforming we waiting cattle in raging bulls even Pamplona would be proud to have clearing its streets. And in an instant, it’s over. The PA crackles; “Clean up in the deli. We need a mop… and a body bag”. Order restored, we all look at our tickets and the wait plods ahead.
The other thing about fighting to preserve your rightful place in the wait is how it can effectively prevent you from doing much of anything else. Despite all the propaganda about multiple tasking, it’s tough to do much but kill time and maybe update your Facebook status while you wait. I’m sorry, but other than getting your lunch meat for the week, your needs are not being served as you stand there, rocking from one foot to another.
I don’t know about you, but for me the last year or two seems to have been particularly full of fight. Fighting to find a good job; fighting to keep a roof over our heads while I do and then, there’s the whole thing about making sure we have food to eat and gas in the tank. Life has indeed been primal of late. Fighting fire after fire, one after another, has consumed most of my time and energy. Ultimately being a physics problem of time and space, it hadn’t really occurred to me in the midst of all that fighting, I hadn’t really been taking care of myself.
So it came as a surprise to me when I got an email from HR the other day. Seems I was being reminded to make an appointment for the upcoming health screening that was part and parcel of the health insurance I was now part of. As suddenly as the deli cows had gone bullish, an odd sense of not knowing what to make of the wellness screening came over me. After the past few years of working all manners of temp assignments and all the uncertainty that comes with it as I looked for my ‘forever job’, I was now and finally a permanent part of a company that wanted me to be healthy.
Intellectually, I understand that a healthy workforce doesn’t call in and that’s good for productivity, etc., but I wasn’t used to anyone else taking care to make sure I was doing the same with my own body. Granted, Rick tries, but I’m stubborn. I insist on coming from my mid-western roots, him first, then me. ‘Everyone else into the life boats first and then, I’ll get in…if there’s room. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine‘.
The voice of learned denial continued to whisper its misgivings into my ear. “You’re as healthy as an Irish workhorse. It’s been ten-years since you’ve had to go to a doctor. What a big, strong man you are. Yeah sure, you’ve got insurance again, but you don’t need no stinking wellness screening.”
But alas, being a part of the health plan, the heralded screenings were not optional. If I wanted the low rate of employee contribution for my coverage, then I’d better pick a time and show up.
The day came and I had fasted as instructed. No breakfast and no coffee (which seemed so wrong on so many levels) was making me cranky so as soon as I arrived at work, I walked directly into the designated meeting room now converted into a draped MASH unit. There, I signed the clipboard and in no time, a deceptively polite nurse was taking my blood pressure, measuring my waist and taking a vial of blood that would have made any vampire jealous. No waiting. Done. Still chalking it up to a waste of time, but I’d done my part. How good of me, right?
“You’ll have your results in a few days. It’s completely confidential. Your employer won’t see it and you’ll be able to share the assessment with your doctor.”
The other night, an e-mail arrived at my in-box alerting me that my screening results were in and available for review on-line. Unable to quash my curiosity, I dug around and found my sign-on and password, oddly unable to not want to know. Let’s see how right I was at this whole incident of wasted motion. Sure enough, my triglycerides were stellar and my blood pressure exemplary.
“There, you see!”
But then I saw these red “Xs’s” – what’s that all about? Upon closer examination, it seems my blood glucose and HDL cholesterol were each around 20% outside the normal ranges for a guy my size and age.
But the report went on by saying (in effect), ‘Oh and by the way, you could lose a couple of inches off your waist’.
It took awhile for the results to sink in. Like I had in the deli, I kept looking at the ticket numbers on my screen acting as if I did so long and hard enough, they would magically improve. But they did not.
But the more I stripped away the unicorns and jelly bean sparkles I’d been selling myself, the more I could honestly reflect on the medical facts I’d been presented. Only then could I appreciate the realization of my statistics having no moral or ethical value. I wasn’t being insulted. I was being served!
In talking all of this over with my spousal unit, it began to make sense. Why was it all that surprising that in the midst of all the stress associated with surviving over the past few years, I’d taken my eye off my own maintenance. Fighting to stay alive, much less prospering, comes with costs. Without even knowing it, I had started to pay some of those debts in tangible ways. If left unchecked, my current trajectory could shorten my life. I’ve historically been an active guy. Words like heart attack, stroke and diabetes had never, ever, been used in the same sentence with my name before. And now, there it was. There were my numbers; science no clever rationalization could dispel. All of which brought me to my next question, ‘What are you waiting for?‘.
Answer? Nothing. It’s my turn. When you fly, very smart people tell you that in the event of an emergency, you should affix your own oxygen mask before helping others do the same. No pun intended, but that still seems to fly in the face of everything I was taught to do about putting others first being a noble characteristic. Didn’t St. Francis say something about the superior of all being the servant of all. How do I square this with my numbers? Easy.
Do something. In that quiet moment of moon light when the only silence I could hear was the backbeat of my own pulse running through my ears, I knew. I am now resolved to do the job of taking care of myself first. I now understand I’d been conning myself every time I put myself in the back seat.
Truth is when I first tend to my own health and welfare, I’m actually putting myself in a better position to care for the ones who depend on me…the ones I love while I get to go to work doing something I really enjoy. The power of such a quiet realization of personal responsibility truly felt like my a winning ticket.
I don’t know where any of this finds you, but I do ask you to think about it. Next time you’re being asked to take a number, I dare you to do what I did and ask yourself. Am I being served? Answering that question honestly and for reasons that are only yours may well have an effect similar to my own. Your answer will tell you what you already know down deep you need to do. You are not a number. You are One and that counts for something. Cut out the bologna and act like it.
(Saturday 25th, January 6, 2014)
Music is What Unifies
“Chicago has lost one of its visionaries: Deborah Sobol, an outstanding musician and an inspiring educator. Throughout her career, Ms. Sobol was the embodiment of the Citizen Musician movement: engaging musicians, music lovers and organizations in using the power of music to create connections and to build community. With her hard work and dedication, the musical community of Chicago has grown and will continue to thrive.
Ms. Sobol’s extensive career spanned over 40 years. She was known both as a solo pianist and chamber musician, collaborating with many world-renowned artists in concert venues across the globe.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Ms. Sobol’s career was her remarkable dedication to community building through music. It was her dedication to the arts and her drive to present music to communities in meaningful ways that inspired her to envision new music organizations. These include the Chicago Chamber Musicians, and later, the Rush Hour Concert series.”
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, gaiety and life to everything. It is the essence of order and lends to all that is good, just and beautiful.” – Plato
Sources:http://www.rushhour.org/deborah/; http://csosoundsandstories.org/remembering-deborah-sobol-a-true-citizen-musician/ and http://www.suntimes.com/news/obituaries/25262599-418/deborah-sobol-teacher-pianist-created-rush-hour-concerts-formed-chicago-chamber-musicians.html
PETER “Pete” SEEGER
(May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014)
“Participation! It’s what all my work has been about.”
– Pete Seeger
“For nearly 70 years as a performer, Pete Seeger has embodied the ideals of folk music – communication, entertainment, social comment, historical continuity, inclusiveness. The songs he has written, and those he has discovered and shared, have helped preserve our cultural heritage, imprinting adults and children with the sounds, traditions and values of our global past and present. A fearless warrior for social justice and the environment, Pete’s political activism – from the Civil Rights movement and anti-McCarthyism to resistance to fascism and the wars in Vietnam and the Middle East – has become the template for subsequent generations of musicians and ordinary citizens with something to say about the world.
While his frequently unpopular stances have perhaps cost him a greater and more superficial popularity through media and performance blacklisting for during the ’50s and ’60s, 88-year-old Pete’s fearless contributions have nonetheless earned him a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Harvard Arts Medal, the Kennedy Center Award, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, and even membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There’s currently a grassroots movement collecting signatures to nominate Pete for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.”
Check out his remarkable portfolio of music. One notable that always spoke to me is include below and sung by some of his dear friends.
Rest easy Mr. Seeger. You swung your hammer well.
We shall yet, overcome.
Source: http://www.peteseegermusic.com/ photo source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0c/Pete_Seeger2_-_6-16-07_Photo_by_Anthony_Pepitone.jpg/250px-Pete_Seeger2_-_6-16-07_Photo_by_Anthony_Pepitone.jpg
Written by Mr. Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary perform This Land Is our Land live at their 25th anniversary concert in 1986 (as seen on PBS). CLICK the pic and enjoy.
SOURCES, PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS:
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Now Serving: http://188.8.131.52/Now_Serving_3Digit.html; Deli Wait mlive: http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/jackson/index.ssf/2012/01/column_dont_believe_the_hype_a.html; -e29f4ba6275b8423: http://media.mlive.com/news_impact/photo/-e29f4ba6275b8423.jpg; immortals-free-fall-ancient-fighting-aerial1_480_poster: http://mimg.ugo.com/201202/9/8/4/218489/cuts/immortals-free-fall-ancient-fighting-aerial1_480_poster.jpg; Health Screening and Testing: http://www.baycounty-mi.gov/health/healthscreeningandtesting.aspx; Self Diagnosis Kennedys Disease: https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR4yZKdt4nzWXXVakpll3OvW-Ry7YUczOMbWP7BAE0PQsNy5qBFpw; nobody but yourself (really appreciated the depiction of what E.E. Cummings said): http://devouringdclmc.blogspot.com/2012/08/ee-cummings-at-his-best.html; Note to Self notetoselfblog (Sarah D. Tolzmann designs things. She lives and works in New York City. Since 2009, her blog has been her favorite side project): http://www.notetoselfblog.com/.a/6a0115705a75a1970b017c37139007970b-800wi; Mark Twain quote via stephanie quilao: http://www.cravingideas.com/.a/6a00d83451d48a69e201630580a44a970d-pi; Number One: http://www.townandcountryeventrentals.com/inventory/edison-marquee-number-1
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