Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Little Old Woman



I’ve had a bad case of spring fever or winter blues, whatever you want to call it, this past week. Spring fever if you are a glass half full kind of person. Seasonal winter depression if you’re a glass half empty person. Either way I basically just haven’t felt like me. I’ve been all wrapped up in myself and paying far too much attention to my worries and fears. I haven’t run in a week, since my last post, which is definitely a clue that something is off.
 
I woke up today tired which has been pretty common recently. I procrastinated what I should do. It’s February break week and we aren’t going away this year like we had hoped, which really stinks. Josh was at work already. The kids were quiet. I had lots of work I needed to do for my business and big decisions I needed to make regarding it. And yet I laid there feeling paralyzed. I felt overwhelmed. Life felt really complicated. I thought about a recent blurb I had read comparing worrying to the weight of a glass half full of water. How heavy is a glass half full of water? The weight depends on how long you hold it. The glass of water is similar to our worries. If you hold the glass of water for a moment and put it down your arm only hurts a little. If you hold it for an hour your arm will begin to ache. If you hold it all day your arm will feel numb and will begin to feel paralyzed. Paralyzed? Hmm. I knew that feeling. The same is true for worries. You need to let go of them as quickly as you can to avoid the effects of long term stress. Unfortunately the article didn’t say how to do that.

So I got myself up and around and started my day. Olivia had a friend coming over. I had an important business call to make. I had marketing material arriving today and an account to stock. In spite of all that I had to do, I found my mind preoccupied by stuff that really wasn’t important. I dilly dallied as my mom would say and looked at my Facebook. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Facebook lately.

My day went on. After squeezing a trip to Wegman’s in my to-do list, I bought ingredients for chocolate chip cookies to keep my oldest daughter Elizabeth busy. We all got home with 30 minutes to spare before Olivia’s play date, except one thing. No eggs. Time to run to the store again.

I’m in my car and I’m at the corner waiting to turn onto Main St. Main St is crazy busy. Perfect, I thought to myself, hearing the sarcasm in my own head. There is a cross walk at our corner with lights. IN THEORY pedestrians are supposed to push the button and the 4 lane traffic is supposed to stop. Yes all 4 lanes. However after many runs and walks with the girls when we first moved here, it quickly became apparent that even if the first 2 lanes stop, inevitably one or both of the other 2 don’t. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
Today as I’m rushing to the store for eggs I see an older woman with a walker standing at that corner in the freezing cold. Cars are whizzing by ignoring the blinking lights clearly indicating to stop. Ugh. I didn’t have time for this. You don’t have time to help her, look away, I tell myself. I was lost in my own thoughts and worries. Shit. I reflexively put the car in park in spite of the part of me that wanted to just look away. I got out and ran up to her to ask if I could help her cross the street. When she turned to look at me she had this huge smile on her face and I immediately recognized her from my volunteer job at the community kitchen. Gosh I missed that place, I instantly thought to myself.

I was surprised she was walking in the cold. She always came to the kitchen with the old shorter man that drove. But I suddenly remembered he told me he had been having heart trouble the last time I was there. Did something happen to him? The corner wasn’t the place for this. My presence part way onto Main St had already stopped 2 lanes of traffic. I quickly crossed her and hopped back in my car.

When I got to the store I just stopped and sat in the car for a few minutes feeling kind of weepy and not sure why. As I sat there things got really clear. I hoped my short old man friend from the kitchen was okay. Wow. Had it really been months since I had been there? I thought to myself. I suddenly realized how self focused I had been lately. It wasn’t me and I thought, “This is me. This is who I am. This is what’s important. And if a woman in her 80′s walking with a walker to get food in the freezing cold can still have a smile on her face… maybe I can too.”

I really needed that moment today. I’m so grateful an old woman crossing the street could help guide me back to a place I had veered from. The experience reminds me of my friend John from Elmira. John was an older man diagnosed with mental health issues. I used to go weekly to take him out for errands and to lunch. I started out doing it as a favor to his brother but realized in the end John helped me more than I ever helped him. I called it “The John Effect” and I will post a piece about that another day. But just like I realized with John, I always seem to find that I am profoundly humbled whenever I think I am doing a kindness for someone else. It never fails that I get back way more than I give. Thank you to the little old woman crossing the street for reminding who I am and what’s really important.