wordjunkies

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Expectation, Unreasonable or Otherwise April 2, 2012

Part 2; April 2, 2012

Previously on wordjunkies: Annie Maier was distressed at having been dissed. Enraged, she paused… Thought about her reaction (gone and done, no time to change. Desire? Not really.) Wondered if she had perhaps erred in her previous assumption that one would, if done with another, speak up. Such thinking had, after all, led her “straight toward expectation and into the arms of…”

Disappointment:

Noun

  • the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.
  • a person, event, or thing that causes such a feeling.

and,

Anger:

(noun)

  • a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility

A very strong feeling. Upon learning of this deception (noun; the act of deceiving), I freaked out. Hearing my screech and observing the force with which I hit “respond,” my husband very gently placed a hand upon quaking shoulder and suggested I hold off till morning when I might better be able to “control” my emotion. But at that moment, I had little interest in control. I wanted to stand on the roof and shout this person’s name for all to hear. I wanted to whip out my credit card and order a two-page ad in the Charlotte Observer. I wanted to D E L E T E D I wanted to… cry.

Ever since taking “Mind Moving” with Erik Anderson, possibilities for using writing not only as an access into our own inner workings but as a method of contemplation and release have been swirling in my brain. When the opportunity to make this dream a reality arouse, I leapt at the chance. I plotted, wrote, and marketed the class. My cohort was not idle in this time. S/he worked as well. Not as hard, not as passionately, but still.

The day came. I sweated and worried: Was the idea as good as I thought it was? Would people be inspired? Had I chosen the right examples, written the best exercises. left enough time for all I wanted to accomplish? Would everyone show up? Would they be glad they had? Would I?

The time came. Everyone filtered in. With the exception of one slight glitch,  D E L E T ED – – D E L E T E D – – D E L E T E D     The day was a success. We planned another workshop, six weeks out.

So what went wrong? And more importantly, did I have the right to become so angry? To feel betrayed? If it was simply a matter of I’m sorry, I don’t want to work with you, well, fine. But say so. If it was something more, okay, still fine. But say so. In the ensuing silence, I assumed all was well. Assumed six weeks meant six weeks. I waited.

Now, that may have been a mistake. Should I have initiated the conversation sooner? Maybe. Would that have changed the outcome? I think not.

Anyway, Saturday night. I pounded out a response. Expressed my dismay. Told the person I was horrified. Hurt. Said his/her behavior was reprehensible, unkind and presumptive (that felt good!). Said I wasn’t surprised, as I’ve witnessed such behavior in the past—that felt even better.

Maybe that was a mistake. Not the saying so, but the witnessing. The expecting I wouldn’t be treated that same way. I ended the email with the assertion that I would not be returning to his/her studio for any reason. That felt best of all! Because I’ve been supporting this person’s business for FIVE years. Not only by attending his/her classes but by referring potential clients. We’ve made drums together, chanted beneath the moon together, shared wine. In the past year, D E L E T E D. The  D E L E T E D.      D E L E T E D.  D E L E T E D continued to go out of respect for the person and our history. D E L E T E D. But no. Fed up, I burned that bridge straight to the ground and left it smoldering.

Which leads me to…

(to be continued)

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August 4, 2010: Little Old Men (Part 1) August 5, 2010

Filed under: Life,Uncategorized — Annie Maier @ 10:04 pm
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I have a thing for men. Not just any old men, but little old men. You’ve seen them, fiery eyes, white hair, mischievous grin. Some are tall, some are stooped, some are thin, some not. Most wear long sleeves in the heat of summer and carry some kind of stick–a sheleighly, a cane, an umbrella–anything they can poke you with to get your attention. Many have blue-eyes (does that come with age or wisdom?), but some have gray or brown. None of that matters. What’s important is the age: 75 is the minimum, but over 90 is best. I have a history with these men. They seek me out in the most unlikely places. Church was a hot spot back when I went to church. Hospitals, nurseries (the plant kind), Target, I’ve even been approached in nursing homes. I used think I emitted some sort of little old man beacon, one  that shouted, at just the right little old man frequency, “Good Listener Ahead!” or “Geriatrics Welcome.” Today, I know better.  

I met my first LOM when I was in my late 20s, separated from my husband (I don’t know if that detail is necessary to this story, but at this second it seems important.) and living in College Park, MD. Mr Helwig lived a few blocks down the street in a rambling brick house with decaying floors and no central air. Pulling up in front of this house was like stepping back in time fifty years. A gravel drive led to a lean-to garage with an ancient, rusting car parked beneath crumbling beams. The property, unique in a neighborhood of .25 acre lots, resembled a park more than a yard, with a long, deep lawn, rows of old-fashioned rhododendrons and flocks of  birds fighting and calling in the enormous oak and maple trees planted when the Helwig children were small. 

I’d read about Mr. Helwig in our church bulletin. No longer able to drive, he needed a ride to the doctor and the grocery store. The day I met him, on a sweltering day in July, he wore a white collared shirt, a brown canvas jacket zipped to his throat and grey dress pants. His hair was wild, white and straight and pouncing off his head in all directions, and he had those blue, blue eys. I was smitten. After that, I left work at noon every fourth Tuesday to drive Mr. Helwig to the commisary where he bought frozen dinners, Cheerios and milk for himself and Nicolodean tv dinners for my daughter. (Lauren had long begged for those  toxic-stews in a box, but I’d always refused on the grounds that she’d be better off eating garbage from the street. When Mr. Helwig entered the picture though, I caved. If he wanted her to eat garbage, then by god she was going to.) 

Always concerned about “not being a bother,” Mr. Helwig never accepted any other overatures (lunch, dinner, help in the garden) from me than our monthly drive. Over time, though, and dozens of glasses of warm lemonade or tepid tap water shared in his airless kitchen, I learned about his life–his wife of 60 years, who had recently died of cancer, his children, all living far away, and his career as an engineer. He’d attended Perdue University and was one of the smartest man I had ever met with a long list of impressive jobs and degrees to commend him. Nonetheless, except for his birds and a wiry neighborhood cat, who Mr. Helwig assured me never ate a single other critter, he was alone. 

Two years later, when I decided to move to Arizona from Maryland, I had a harder time telling Mr. Helwig than I did my own parents. But he was nice about it, assurng me, as my father had, that this was the way of the world and wishing me luck. I cried when we said goodbye.   

Next up: Herman

 

November 23, 2009 November 23, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 1:31 pm
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“A John”      (Part 5)

 

“What’s that?”

“Can I pray with you?”

Damn! Why couldn’t he have said pray for you? Even before I gave up on religion, praying wasn’t something I did with anyone.

“Would that be okay?”

I nodded, once again aware of the passing cars.

He lowered his cross. “Is it okay if I touch you?”

At his tone, which clearly said he would understand if I refused, my hesitation vanished. This was Jesus after all and a little more human (some would say divine) interaction is something we could all benefit from. “Absolutely.”

“Can I ask your name?”

“Annie.”

Without moving any closer, he placed his left thumb on my forehead and began praying. “Lord, please look down on your daughter Annie. Bless her, take care of her, take care of her family. Thank you for sending her to me today. Enter her heart, let her know your love.”

At first, my thoughts were clear, because every one of my senses were singing with self-consciousness. As he kept going, however, I lost track of his words. My heart rate slowed and I quit thinking about what Mom or anyone else might think about this impromptu blessing.

He finished, once again lifting the cross and whispering amen. 

We stood quiet for a moment and then he thanked me. Turning to go, I asked his name.

“Me?” I thought for a moment he wasn’t going to answer, but then he said, “I’m a John.”

“A” John. How was that different from plain John? I had no idea, but clearly there was some distinction. No matter. I held out my hand, saying, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, John.” And because he knew I was sincere he grasped my palm, holding it for what would have seemed, in the real world, a breath too long. 

“Take care, Annie.”  

“You, too.”

Climbing back into my car, I felt my face flaming. Forestalling Mom’s questions, I handed her the ten dollars, tossing the groceries into the back seat.

“Didn’t he want it?” she asked.

“No.”

“No? What kind of a nut is he?”

“He’s not a nut,” I replied. “He’s a John.”

Or so he said. I’m thinking he was a Jesus.

 

 

November 18, 2009 November 18, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 11:07 pm
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A John            (Part 4)

By now I knew this man would never accept Mama’s ten dollars, but I also knew I’d better not climb back into that car without at least trying. “Since you won’t take food, I imagine money is totally out.”

He laughed, probably at my awkward delivery more than my words. “Yes, money is definitely out.”

Relaxed now – all my offerings had been dispensed and rejected, what else did I have to lose? – I found myself enjoying this man’s company. No longer bothered by the traffic, or the stares, I began speaking as a human being, not a helper of the homeless. “I think I understand,” I told him, “but I have to admit I’m a bit chagrined at being rejected.” As his eyes registered the slightest hint of remorse – rejection had definitely not been on his list of things to do today – I rushed on. “No, it’s okay. It’s was a lesson that needed learning.”

He let that go, instead nodding in the direction of the road, where my bright red Mini Cooper rested. “Nice car you have there.”

Surprised, because I had more or less decided this man was Jesus and who knew messiahs had any interest in cars, I thanked him. At the same time, I cursed whatever gods had given me the means to have such a vehicle when this man didn’t even have a safe place to sleep. “It gets great gas mileage,” I said. As if that somehow made everything alright.

“I appreciate you coming out here.” 

He did?

“It was a brave thing to do.”

It was?

I thought about this. I knew what he meant – I had felt exposed and stupid facing all that traffic. But twenty feet of discomfort is nothing compared to hours of cross-bearing. “I don’t know about brave. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I’m wrong about that sometimes.”

“Not entirely wrong – there is one thing you can do for me.”

I knew where this was going, of course. Had known since this morning when I first saw him. Somehow though, I had hoped to extract myself before Jesus offered me something I didn’t necessarily want. It was too late now, however. I had offered and he had accepted. I had no choice but to suck it up and be gracious.

 

November 17, 2009 November 17, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 11:08 pm
Tags: , ,

A John            (Part 3)

“I’ve got everything I need,” he said. “I have a tent, and I get food stamps.”

“Oh.” I swallowed. “I just thought…” I drifted off. What did I think? I thought he was homeless, which was apparently correct, but I also thought that being homeless meant he needed my help. As his eyes finally met my own, I realized how wrong I had been. They were clear and direct – so deep a blue as to resemble the autumn sky above us. Intelligence was there, as was humility and, now that he had acknowledged me, compassion. He needed something, to be sure, but not from me. Not from anyone naïve enough to offer in such a way.

In the blank space of my dawning awareness, he glanced down at the plastic bag in my hand. I had been holding it slightly behind me – trying, I think, to hide my sudden embarrassment from him as well as the staring pairs of eyes from the road beside us.

“I understand that you don’t need anything,” I said, “but you might want something… a soda maybe or a sandwich.” I lifted the bag higher, thinking maybe he could be tempted. “Wanting is much different than needing, after all.”

He laughed and the remaining embers of his aloofness vanished. “This is true, but I don’t eat or drink anything when I’m out.” He gestured to the cross. “It’s just my way.”

I nodded, finally understanding. He might not word it this way, almost assuredly not being Catholic, but this was his penance. An Act of Contrition without words. Having formed this opinion, I immediately jumped to the next – no one could be sinful enough to warrant living in a tent, eating food supplied by an indifferent government and standing on the side of the road holding an enormous cross and praying no do-gooders will come along to spoil your solitude.   

“I’ve committed my share of sins in the past,” he continued, smiling at the memory. “Maybe more than my share. This is a small gesture to make amends.”

 

November 10, 2009

Filed under: Misguided Acts of Kindness — Annie Maier @ 6:43 pm
Tags: ,

November 10, 2009

The following piece is about one of those experiences in life that you just can’t get out of your mind. I decided to break the telling into smaller segments because no matter how I tried, I couldn’t seem to make it any shorter. And while I love the sound of my own voice as much as the next person – I don’t think I should expect anyone to spend their valuable attention span molecules on my blog. Blogs should be short and pithy, a microcosm of the larger universe if you will, piquing our interest while leaving plenty of room in our heads for more lengthy and, some might say, important literary endeavors – like War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings.

(If you have another perspective on this assessment, please let me know.)  

A John

Driving to my mom’s house last week, I passed a man standing on the side of the street holding an enormous, handmade cross. He was bedraggled looking, with long gray hair pulled into a half-hearted ponytail, a straggling beard creeping toward his chest and ancient, soiled clothes of an indeterminate color. The weather was warm, and his sleeves were pushed up past his elbows. I saw him from about a half mile away, giving me plenty of time to form ideas and opinions about who he was and why he might be standing there. Slowing down to turn, however, I caught a glimpse of his eyes, and was startled to realize that far from engaging passersby as do most of the men who occupy this corner, he was staring off into the distance, deliberately avoiding contact. Clearly my first impression had been wrong. This was no beggar. But what then was he doing standing beneath the blaze of a mid-afternoon sun holding a cross and looking in desperate need of a handout? Surely he wanted attention – why else stand so openly exposed at the edge of a busy street? I had noticed a dirty backpack at his feet, but it seemed deflated, empty. Either he had no belongings or had stored them elsewhere for the day. Homeless? Maybe. Poor? Obviously. What about the cross? Hewn of two long tree limbs and tied together with an old, red rag, it stood about eight feet tall. Perhaps he was an evangelist, stumping not for any particular religion, but for God.

I picked up my mom and the two of us went on our way, running errands and having lunch as we do every Wednesday. Heading back at the end of the afternoon, I decided to bring the man some food. I had a sandwich, but nothing else, so on my way I stopped at a gas station and bought a bag of chips and a soda. The station also had Snowballs, my mom’s favorite treat in the world, and on impulse I bought those as well. As I climbed back into the car, Mom handed me a carefully folded ten dollar bill. I had told her I didn’t think the man wanted money, but she insisted. Then she handed me the cupcakes, saying, “Here. He needs these way more than I do.” Touched by the gesture, but still a bit put out that she had so readily given up my gift, I tossed them in the bag.

When we arrived back at the corner, it was rush hour. I pulled over, trying to get out of traffic as quickly as possible and thus avoid irritating any potentially volatile commuters, and jumped from the car. In my haste to get off the road, I had parked quite a distance from the man. Stumbling along the uneven mix of dirt, rocks and mud, I started feeling stupid. Despite my best efforts, I was causing a snag in traffic – people were slowing down, looking. Some were honking, and others shouted for me to get the hell out of the way. Lurching and sweating and wondering if I had lost my mind, I considered turning around and climbing back into the safe anonymity of my car. But I was on a mission and backing away from that didn’t seem like much of an option.

 

 
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