Category Archives: life

The gas station

Occasionally life has moments that I swear belong in a movie or sitcom. Maybe you have them too. And, if you’re like me, when those moments happen, your first thought is “What just happened?” followed closely by”Who NEEDS to hear about this first?”

I had one of those moments the other day. I was almost running late to run an errand before work, when my gas light determined my absolute first errand of the day. So I headed to the bank, picked up cash (which I rarely carry) and then the gas station, knowing that my “first” errand had moved to sometime the next day.

The closest gas station is one I’ve used forever and now all the time because of my commute. And of course this day it was full, because that is how it would be in a movie. I drove around the station once, and found a lone pump recently vacated.

The broken pinpad discouraged anyone else from braving it and forced me inside. I generally dislike going inside because it requires me to actually talk to people I don’t already know – one of my least favorite things to do. But I had to get gas before I could do anything else, so I headed inside.

Everything seemed normal about this pit stop, with the exception of paying cash inside. Until I headed back to my car with my change, ready to leave. That’s when a nicely dressed guy in a decent car slowed down between the little building with the register and the first row of pumps to get my attention.

Because I was at a gas station, I stopped to talk to him, because generally lost people ask for directions at gas stations. And, despite disliking meeting people I don’t already know, I like to be helpful.

Except he wasn’t lost. He leaned toward the passenger side, where I was standing, and told me that I was quite attractive and wanted to know my name and if he could have my number to call me and maybe have coffee.

And I kind of panicked. The number of times I’ve been hit on in my life is negligible to the point of being never. It simply doesn’t happen. I don’t know why (though I suspect the not liking to meet new people has something to do with it), but I also don’t really care that I never get hit on as I dislike meeting people I don’t already know. So I started thinking of ways to get out of the situation because I was not giving my phone number or having coffee with a random guy who stopped at the gas station to talk to me across his car.

I gave him my first name, because that’s pretty much public knowledge. I told him that I was sorta seeing someone and that I was running late for work (which were true enough that I didn’t feel like a complete liar). And when he asked again if he could have my number, I shook my head no. I thanked him for the compliment, and told him again that I was running late for work and headed to my car. He drove out of the gas station as I jumped in my car and locked my door.

And then I sent my text messages and twitter post. Because these types of moments have to be shared. I mean, who hits on someone when they are driving out of a gas station? And where were the movie cameras? Because how does something like that happen in real life? And how could I not share this with the world?

As much as the moment itself was awkward, I’m not sad it happened. It’s on my shortlist for Most Bizarre Moment of My Life, and Most Random Moment of My Life. And it’s a funny story I get to share with people. And that’s what I like about life – the funny moments you can share with people. Especially when you meet someone for the first time.

picture of Ban Ban Springs, QLD borrowed from Wikipedia, because I couldn’t find mine.

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it never rains but it pours

I had one of those weeks last week. All the news that came in was bad, and I kept expecting it to get worse.

I’m still recovering from it, but that week started me thinking about creativity and life.

I have been keeping a distant eye on some really neat creative projects that launched last week. (I will be posting more a little later) And there are some fascinating collections that are calling for submissions. And there are projects I was in the middle of and that I still need to finish. But I couldn’t track with much beyond my own life last week. Not that I think I needed to (the deadlines are still far enough away that giving myself the necessary time), but I still chose to be fairly isolated.

Writing this now, a line from the end of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. “[Mother] prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels.” I have loved this line since I first read it, but what I see now, added to everything else I’ve seen in this quote, is the absolute need for space, both physical and mental, to understand your life.

I gave myself some space, and I found the beginnings and concepts for more stories than I now have time to write. Not that I won’t try to write them all, but in that time of turmoil, I discovered my brain was working on ways to process and siphon of the influx of emotion and information.

T.S. Eliot is quoted as saying something like: I have lived through enough for an epic. The timeframe given is not long before he leaves to write The Wasteland.*

I don’t know about you, but I frequently remember quotes like Eliot’s when I’m in the midst of events or situations where I don’t have control.  I’m also a believer in signs, so I don’t discount the appearance of these random quotes. I go with whatever my first thought is in response to the quote, and see if it’s something helpful.

This time it was. What I took from the confluence of events is that I have lived through much, because I have been living. So what is there to stop me from taking all that experience and emotion and using it to create something new?**

Nothing.

So I’ve decided that the rest of this week, I will work on all those stories that knocked on my consciousness when I had proclaimed: Do Not Disturb.

Life is what it is. I’m going to embrace it. Time to get cracking on those stories.

    *I can’t remember off the top of my head where I found this. But I know I used it in a paper for the MA, and those notes are currently packed away.
    ** I’m a big fan of the Modernists, and could bore you for hours with minutia from then.

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Des

You probably never met my friend Des. I’m sorry for you. But I don’t want you to miss out on what I learned from his life, so I’d like to introduce you to him through the stories I’ve cobbled together.

I’ve spent around 6 months in Brisbane, Australia over 4 trips since 2004. Each trip has been different in the adventures and experiences. Each trip has remained consistent in the people I’ve shared the adventures with.

Des and his wife Lena were and are 2 of the people who were always part of what made my time in Australia joyous. And they were and are part of the group of people who have become my family.

One year, I mailed them an Edward Gorey Christmas card that showed an assorted collection of creatures throwing fruitcakes into an ice hole. The next time I saw Des, his first word to me were “What’s with the fruitcake?” It had been a year since I’d seen him. That was the only greeting I got from Des for most of that trip. I hadn’t realized that fruitcake is actually eaten in Australia. I will never forget that now.

I saw Des last summer. The schedule was crazy, so there were fewer moments to share. My favorite is rather longer.

20 or so of us, U.S. and Aussies, traveled 6 hours north and west from Brisbane to the tiny town of Eidsvold on the edge of the outback. We were doing some work around the Christian Centre which the community uses for day care and events that need space.

Des was leading the 20something U.S. boys in the cleaning up of junk that had to be taken to the dump, but they were working through lunch. And since we were all there together it meant that we were all waiting until they were done to start eating. People were starting to get restless, and I figured they didn’t know we were breaking for lunch, because when to 20something guys ever listen to group announcements?

So I wander over to the very short fence that marked a border on the property, and I told Des that it was lunch time. Des’ deadpan response was, “Well, you may be here to fill your belly but some of us came here to do the Lord’s work.” To which I calmly responded, “Shut your face and get over to the lunch table. You’re holding up the food for the rest of us.” And then I walked back to where everyone else was, with Des and the boys not too far behind.

Later that evening there were pockets of conversation, and Des and I happened to be in one of those pockets. I’d been thinking about our exchange earlier and I told him that I thought people who didn’t know is might think that we didn’t get along. And he seemed surprised by that.

I think these stories are so clear in my head because they explain so much of who Des was. He was straightforward and dedicated and funny. And he wasn’t too concerned with the way other people saw him. He was himself and never apologized for that, but he didn’t try to drive other people away either. He accepted people without hesitation but was never afraid to call people on the crap they were pulling.

He was a very dear friend whom I admired greatly. 33 is far too young to have your heart attack you, and I am having a hard time believing that he is dead.

I wish I had told him more of this the last time I saw him.

But I hope for so much more. I hope the stories of his life encourage people in his stead. I hope that Des’ example of a fearless life inspires those who know it to walk a similar road. I hope that sad regret does not cloud the memory of his life lived well.

I hope for life

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Shared Grief

I follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter, which means for the last several days I’ve been following his grief over his cat Zoe.

I am a complete cat person, and I have a (I think) 14-year-old cat that I love dearly. I’m already dreading the phone call that will tell me she is leaving or has left this world.

I don’t know that I will post that news everywhere, but I don’t think that Neil Gaiman has overstepped any bounds. I may not keep the people I’m connected to solely by electronic means updated, but I will be keeping the people I am most connected to updated. I will need to in order to still be connected to life.

I think there is extraordinary value in sharing grief. The act of sharing grief with others makes the experience real, and the act of sharing balances death with life. The loss of life makes the live moments precious. Neil Gaiman sharing his grief with the thousands of people who are connected to him electronically reminds us all of the high cost of living.

The beauty of the interconnectedness of our lives now is the way we can share whatever we want whenever we want. In this case, it’s the deep grief over the loss of a small cat first shared with me, and now I’m sharing with you. Perhaps together we can all take the grief and appreciate the life.

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