Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Don't Stop Believin'"

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Unbound from Self-bondage

Occasionally and usually playfully, I acknowledge my self-absorption, and am pretty certain I've done so right here in this blog. Early this morning, though, it didn't feel funny.

Blame it on too little sleep; no swimming; working by myself at home too many days in a row; missing the cats after getting into a nice rhythm of having them around me all day while I worked; recent reminders of personal disappointments, e.g., not having succeeded in conceiving a child -- unwittingly, a colleague invited me to sit at the IBM table at the upcoming "Working Mothers" magazine gala...whatever the reason, I was in a dreadful mood as I drove to work this morning. Dreadful.

Driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge, the sun was just beginning to rise and I saw some pinkness on the horizon and even as I registered its beauty, it made me sadder. I was actually moved to pray to God aloud by myself in my car. And it would be neat if I could tell you I heard a disco-fied version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" after praying, but I'm not sure that's true.

As I heard the song, I recalled how much an adorable colleague from BlueQ (IBM's Canadian GLBT employee networking group) relished the song -- how she lit up when she heard it during the reception of a conference we were both attending in Austin last fall. Thinking of the colleague and her sweetness distracted me momentarily, but only momentarily.

Only one other piece of the morning cheered me briefly; as I put on my necklace while getting ready, I thought of my friend Radhika, who had given it to me when Pat and I lived in India in 2007. And then I was sad again, as I missed her.

The day would have to be just something to get through.

And then this afternoon, I spoke with colleague and friend. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the birthday of the baby-boy she lost shortly after child-birth. I was staring into the fall foliage, disturbed by the unkindness of nature as I listened to her confide in me.

"The better part of me feels like I should just shut up and listen," I said, "But I want to tell you that the closest I can come to empathizing is by thinking of how I felt, realizing that I couldn't have a baby -- well, I suppose I still might have been able to have one if I had gone to extraordinary measures, but after nine IUI's...well, still it's a lack, more than a loss....Well, it's a loss, but of what I never had, whereas your son was already a person with a personality. I'm sorry. I don't know what to say."

I told her I loved her when we hung up and I do. And I wish that people's love and high, high regard for my friend could heal her magically, but what would healing mean in this case? Surely, it should not mean a dulling of her memory.

Connecting, Not Isolating

While listening, of course, I also realized how small my bad mood was in the giant shadow of her justified grief. It did not make me feel better to hear of another's misfortune so much as it restored me to my most loving self, being able, mostly, to listen. I've written here before about my favorite saying from Ethics of the Fathers: "Al tifrosh meen ha'tsibor."/"Don't isolate yourself from the community."

Probably, it's my favorite because it's a challenge for me at times not to do so. I'm an extrovert, but also sometimes, I think my extroversion is just an aggressive shyness, which I've written about here before, too.

In talking with that friend -- who would be justified in wanting to isolate from the community -- I was inspired that she was not doing so; I did not need to be cocooned in my own crummy mood....I don't think any of this part was conscious at the time.

Talking with my friend and then also being scheduled to join two different virtual community meetings today for work, my self-bondage was further freed. In both meetings, I asked questions that made me feel so much more connected to this world, and potentially, might have even been helpful to the other participants.

Why Self-destruction Doesn't Pay

My sadness and self-destructive impulse, if I think about it, began last night -- not long after receiving that gala invitation -- and I recall now that I tweeted, "Enjoying an escapist mood." Fortunately, the escape was through TV, rather than an even more tranquilizing substance...and fortunately, that's as self-abusive as I ever get -- using TV to distract me from my own life when I'm feeling scared or sad.

Now, of course, I'm feeling defensive, and like I need to qualify that not all of my TV-watching is so that I can become tranquilized (though probably, it's true more often than I'd prefer to admit).

I digress. My point was going to be about the value of resisting self-destructive impulses. I'm so glad that I felt present and useful at work. By the time I left the office, I was able to notice and be grateful for the foliage, the unseasonably warm evening and that it was still light out. Almost never do I get to leave during classic drive-time.

The down-side of leaving at prime-time is the traffic, but the huge upside is the special mixes of music that one of my favorite radio stations, 107.5 WBLS, plays at that time. My mood lifted high up during a series of favorites, including:

TLC's Creep and then Alicia Key's "Teenage Love Afair."

The part about staving off self-destruction hit home as I was driving back over the Tappan Zee Bridge and this time, the sun was setting, and this time, I was able to love the purple-orange, stacked-striated clouds. They reminded me of our kitties' fur or Halloween-hued whipped cream, and I enjoyed imagining raking my hands through them.

Upon reflection, another song broke my sad mood this morning for a few minutes: "I Need Your Lovin'" by Teena Marie. And when I got to work, a colleague had posted the following status in his Sametime instant message updater:

"Chieli haunt my dreams..... I love you and your light-jazz stylings welcoming me to another new day while I am waiting for a 6am conference call to begin." That made me smile, so I guess God was listening to my car-prayers.

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