September 08, 2010


By all objective standards it had not been a good day.

My cat sat on the other side of bars admonishing me for my absence though I was but a few feet away. Sometimes I would speak to her.

“Hello. Oh? What? Are you sure? Really? No, I can’t come in. I know. Yes.”

Between each response she would retort in her characteristically harsh voice, yellow eyes glaring at me through the metal screen, ears twitching at the sound of my voice. She sat prim and proper, with her tail curled about her feet, whiskers forward, head angled down. Every now and then she would wander off, but shortly return and our conversation would continue.

The sky was overcast and I turned my tall collar up against the chill breeze. I was glad I was wearing my blue bomber jacket instead of my lighter corduroy. I had run out of coffee that morning and now it was afternoon. I was tired in that emotionally wrought way which surpasses physical exhaustion, but my warm bed was squarely on the other side of that locked door.

I knew it as soon as I did it, of course. I stood with my hand on the silver door handle and cursed. Not only was I locked out, but my keys were locked in, leaving my bicycle securely chained to the front gate. Did I have enough time to make it to class? I didn’t know, as I left my helmet on the table behind me and walked down the drive, avoiding the tree full of bees at the end.

I missed my bus. It was on one side of the busy intersection and I on the other, with no hope that the light would change before it pulled away. I sat at the bus stop for half an hour, reading my assigned text and trying in vain to stop the story running through my head, worry that long predated the mornings events. Woe is me, woe is me, woe is poor, poor little me. How can I feel sorry for myself sitting here reading about the Holocaust? But the mind is a fickle bitch who preys upon herself.

As I fed my very last dollar into the till, the bus driver lectured me on proper etiquette for hailing a bus, as if it were a foregone conclusion that busses the world over must be hailed. Apparently it is. I thanking him and found a seat near the rear exit, watching the time scroll by on the automated display. I had ten minutes left to get to class. I would be late. I hate being late, but there was another stop I must make, driven by that long-standing worry.

I pressed the palms of my hands together firmly as I begged the young man behind the counter if there was anything he could do.

“Not this Friday? Next Friday? The … 17th? Is there anything at all you can do to get my disbursement quicker?”

“Well, I can get the checks, but they need two signatures. Sometimes it’s hard to get those people. You could try again in a few days, but I can’t say I’ll have it until next Friday. I’m sorry you’re inconvenienced,” he explained in the baffled tone men tend to fall into when they’re confronted with a woman just barely failing not to cry.

“By next Friday I won’t be inconvenienced. I’ll be hungry. This is already weeks later than I expected. Is there anything at all that can be done?” But I was bound to be disappointed. I left with my head down, trusting the brim of my hat to hide my eyes and responding curtly to greetings in the courtyard.

I walked straight past the open classroom door and headed for the women’s room to blow my nose and dry my eyes. Then I went to process. Our weekly process meeting is a place in which the candidates in my program can “check in” with each other about what’s going on in our lives. I tried to make it into a joke and managed to get through the bit about no coffee and locking myself out and missing the bus, but could barely choke out the news regarding financial aid before hiding my face in my hands and falling silent.

I respond very badly to a small number of things in my life. In situations of danger, I keep my cool. In the face of other people’s suffering, I am outwardly calm even when inwardly suffering. When injured or in physical pain, I am silent and controlled. During times of relative deprivation, I can find humor in lack. But in the face of anger directed at me, when my competency is called into question, or when my financial stability, a precarious enough thing already, is threatened I – do – no – respond – well.

Nor did I have time following the delivery of the bad news to employ my most common coping mechanism – isolation. I could not go find a nice empty corner in which to silently rage and cry and collect myself before calmly explaining my most recent setback with a flippant tone and a Gallic shrug. I couldn’t be Monica, the one who always has it together, who can handle any situation life throws her way, who doesn't burden other people with her negative emotions. Not today, anyway.

But people are good. And thanks to those good people, I’ll last until my aid comes.

“Thanks.” It seems like such a feeble word in the light of good people’s grace. This is my hallelujah. This is my God – that people are good. Just good. That’s all. That’s everything. It doesn’t even matter why people are good, or how they got that way, or that sometimes they forget they are. People are good. Hallelujah.

Even on this day, this objectively bad day, there was laughter and smiling, good talks and good times with good friends. And though I sat three hours waiting for my roommate to come home from work, my cat complaining all the while, and though worries and fears still preyed on my mind, and though I tried again and again to cut the story line and even succeeded in large part to concentrate on my reading despite my emotional exhaustion and caffeine deprivation, though all of that, now at the end of it, I can think only one thing of my objectively not good day.

It wasn’t so bad.

1 comment:

Teacher Jim said...

I think the stars are misaligned this week as it has been bad for me too here in Mongolia. But I liked reading about your day, not because it was entertaining, but because some days are like that for everyone everywhere. Thanks