blessings in unexpected places

You know that sit-com cliché where the main character goes to the dentist because a filling is picking up a radio signal? Yeah. That’s not me. But I do have a lot of noise in my head and I wish it was as easy as replacing a filling to fix it. In fact, I’d succumb to a root canal to get rid of some of the static.

Before you think my mental health is in peril – let me just say that it’s not. Or at least, not too much, anyway. I heard somewhere that if you think you’re going crazy then you probably aren’t. I hold onto that comforting thought. It’s … comforting.

Because you know, there’s a lot of noise clamoring for attention in my head. On a good day I’ve got Leonard Bernstein conducting a delightfully disciplined orchestra with lots of soothing strings and soulful woodwinds. It has to be Bernstein for his theatrics – is there such a thing as a head-banging orchestra? Because on a bad day I have Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols. That’s not even music … just noise. It makes me want to run away.

I find peace in a rather odd place. When Sid bumps Lenny out of the spotlight, I generally head for Taco Bell where I grab a burrito or a couple of tacos and eat my lunch across from the back view of Stone Mountain. Don’t read anything into that view, although in retrospect it’s probably nice to just see the mountain and not the sculpture – let’s call it a little more natural (and a little less political).

It’s not a particularly splendid place, this parking lot with a view, but it’s quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of my busy day. I enjoy my faux-Mexican meal in peace — after all, it is peace that I am seeking.

I’ve been doing this for exactly five years.

Let me just say that I am absolutely blown away by that realization. A lot of things have happened in five years. Holy cow! A lot of things have happened in five years. I’d say the majority has been good, and some bad, but I’m thankful for it all. The thing is this, I’ve been so focused on getting away from the noise, which by the way is made by people, that I totally ignore people in my escape.

That was part of my realization today. I’ve been working at the same place for five years, and getting lunch from the same place for five years. From the same person. For five years.

I was going to get depressed that I was in the very same position I accepted years ago when I realized that the woman who always takes my order has worked at a drive-thru window for at least five years, if not more, and I’m going to say, it made me a little sad. I suppose she trumps me in the lack of upward mobility department.

I’ve seen this woman at least 200 times and I don’t know her name. She’s friendly and courteous, and I am polite to her and always say please and thank you, but I’ve never really seen her. I just go through the motions on my way to what I think is going to give me some peace in the middle of the week.

Not today. For some reason, today I decided to be present in that exchange. It went the same way the last 200 or so transactions have gone. I asked for a #3 with Baja Blast and she asked me if I wanted mild or hot sauce.

And then I paid attention to something she has said to me every time she hands the bag of food to me: Enjoy your meal and God bless you.

This woman whose name I do not know, whose smile I return absentmindedly, has given me this blessing every week since I started eating there.

I always find some peace in my busy schedule when I have lunch at what I’ve nicknamed the Rock. I’ve always thought it was because I managed to escape the throng of humanity making its insistent demands upon me.

It turns out that perhaps the peace I received came from the very segment of humanity I was running from. How’s that for a moment of truth?

back in the saddle again

I suppose that’s a pretty ironic title for me to use since I’ve never been on a saddle or a horse. Nope. That birthday pony a million years ago that my dad walked me around in circles on, that doesn’t count.

It’s just as well. I mean, I’m a little afraid of those huge beasts. I admire their beauty and grace from afar, but I like a fence between us.

On the other hand, I do like cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and one good-looking cowboy-wannabe, in particular, and it ends there.

But I’ll indulge the cultural use of that saddle to mean, finally, I went back to work after a forced vacation due to the crazy weather around here. I missed my office. I missed my door. I missed the lock on the door.

I did not miss the whiny students.

I also missed a part of my day that had come to mean a great deal to me. It started off as a little joke, an opportunity to run away from the madness in the office and eat my lunch in peace. I’d sit in a parking lot across from a fairly good view of Stone Mountain and make all kinds of silly jokes about visiting the rock, but eventually, it really did become an oasis. A spiritual oasis at that, since it was perfect for some reflection, prayer, and more often than not, just a place to sit in silence.

Funny how I am always seeking silence. Even when I’m blaring music in the car at 80 decibels. Except at the rock.