Tag Archive : reflection

An additional angle, a new lens, an intensification of passions. This is what I receive from listening to others. And it’s also what I can give back.

I headed for Chicago around 2 p.m. a few days ago. Took me all day and all night to get there from Minneapolis. I sat next to an incredible person–Mark–who recounted to me every.single.job. he’s had in 36 years. He was hilarious. We sat behind (and in front of) Amish people who smelled like a walking dumpster. On a train. They believe in using trains but not in using showers/deodorant? I need to be enlightened.

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Near the Colorado, Utah border

A few pages back, I recorded all of Mark’s past employment. Swing dance instructor, ski resort worker, bartender, horse groomer, website builder, photographer, stage manager, singer, usher, barista… the list goes on and on.

I think what really resonated with me is that there is no perfect job for someone–we are not “destined” to serve a purpose…we aren’t destined to do anything. And we aren’t fitted to a single kind of job. I do believe that we are naturally inclined to be better at some things. I might have a natural disposition for sports. But I choose to pursue or avoid this talent. And I’m not obligated by fate to do so. I told him about my trip and his eyes instantly lit up. He told me he’s always wanted to do something similar, but couldn’t bring himself to make such a leap.

“I’ve been thinking about it for so long, and you know what? After meeting you, I’m going to do it. I’m finally going to do it. Thank you.”

Direct evidence that by meeting people, you begin to look at your own life differently.

Back in Chicago, I showered–YES– ahhh felt beautiful… and I took a nap. Then my host and I experimented with Romanian Food..was soo yummy. I’ve had a cold for the past five days, and menstrual cramps for the last three. This, paired with the cold, snowy weather has been brutal. Lack of sleep on a train doesn’t help. Having a place to sleep, shower, and feel at home in is something to be savored. In the morning, I went to a corner market and got all the ingredients for pancakes from scratch. I made them for my host as a thank you…because I am honestly so grateful.

I love that he’s always eager to try new things with me. It’s exciting. Having company while exercising my interests is rewarding. Especially when that person is just as curious about life. Right now I’m on the train meandering through the snow-covered Rocky Mountains…and wow, this sight is worth every penny.

Tucson, Arizona; Undated 

People are so much more than their body language suggests. He barely looked me in the eyes. It’s a shame…because his eyes were so beautiful.  I try not to come across as intimidating but I can only do my best. “Bye Rachelle,” he whispered, as we went our separate ways. It’s ironic that he was darting eye-contact so frequently– and yet was attentive enough to remember my name.

On the way to L.A (last night) I sat next to an older man. My guess is late 50’s. Black. Wearing a top hat. Fixes airplanes. Several years in the Navy. His life was engaging, and his personality was gentle and humorous. Laugh was incredible. I loved that he laughed so hard at his own jokes. Like he waited to see if I thought it was funny and then full-fledgedly joined in, his deep tone echoing throughout the train.

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He listens better than anyone I’ve ever met. So attentive to each word I spoke– as if he entered my thoughts and felt them before he heard them. He talked a lot about himself, but when the conversation turned back to me, he was like a switch: Now, now it’s about you, and I am listening, and I want to know what you have to say. I want to be there with you.  That’s what I heard while I was talking.

His wife died. He re-married. Was on the train headed to meet his 2nd wife, who was in the hospital dying as well. This man made my heart light up and my smile brighten. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laugh, for a reason I can’t explain. He spoke a lot about how his wife uses all his money for “art.” I could sense he resented her for this. He is a good guy and was being taken advantage of. I understood. And it’s a tough job–masking bitterness. I struggle as well.

 

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Chicago; from the top of a church at the University of Chicago

Today, February 20,  I stepped out of the shower and wrapped a soft, warm towel around my wet body. I lifted the towel up to my face and stood still, as I became enveloped by a memory, bringing me back to a life of simple wants and few needs. For a moment, I rose up, floated away, and was back on the train…washing my face in a tiny bathroom, absorbing my wet skin with inefficient paper towels. I was in the bathroom of Union Station, patting down my face with a T-shirt. I was in the bathroom of countless strangers’ apartments, removing water with whatever I could find–toilet paper, dirty towels, hairy cat-infested cloth, my own two-week-worn sweater. I rose up, soared away to drying my body with a 5-square-inch camping towel– not knowing if the prior dampness was semen or water.

And now I am here, motionless, buried within the warmth and softness of a clean, sweat-smelling towel. I laugh without restraint, without wondering why.  I’ve been home for three days now.

Pulling my body upright, I turn to analyze myself in an unblemished mirror. So many mirrors across the country have shown the same reflection. I close my eyes and open them once again and I’m gone– I’ve risen up, floated away. The mirror I turn towards is clouded, scratched, vandalized and I see a vague reflection which resembles my own. I’m on the train, being casually thrown side-to-side by the unpredictable motion of the platform beneath me. The image I see is smiling, slightly, in good humor.

I close my eyes and reopen them to see my shell, my cover, my preamble. My mask. I am in joy, in gratitude. I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am lost, I have finally found.  I am tired, I am–at last, rested. I, at last, am warm. My face is pale and sleep-deprived as I see my reflection in Chicago. Rosy, alert, clear of acne in NY. Smooth skin, restless eyes in D.C. Sticky hair, glasses, and a spotted face stare back at me through Colorado.

A forced smile, an eager smile, an optimistic smile, a genuine smile… an effortless smile I flash in the mirrors of private restrooms. Bathroom of Japanese food in NY, the deli of Time Square, Thai food in D.C, of a bar in Manhattan, lunch in Sacramento, in the mirrors of countless train stations. And now I’m here,in my own…space. I smile, not knowing what kind.

 

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On the bus to Los Angeles, sunset

Few things I know for sure. Few things I think I know for sure. I know that, to me, there is nothing more important than showing love to other people. This takes priority. And the result is that I’m not depriving myself of anything. By putting others first, I’m actually receiving the ultimate joy of providing love and support to someone who deserves it. Every single person on the planet deserves it. We didn’t choose this life.

This is what is what deserves attention…what is easy to discern as a path worth pursuing… and what is most meaningful to me. Treating people lovingly is not only the right thing to do tomorrow, or in 6 months, but is also the right decision in this moment, this very second.  The right decision is timeless.

 

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On the train, through the Rocky Mountains; Colorado

There are so many people we deem “crazy”–but what is  “normal”? Just a word that segregates us…and put us at opposite ends of an imaginary, inaccurate spectrum. Terms like “normal” and “weird” create distance between us and the unknown, between the familiar and the unfamiliar. This distance is scary until I realize the person I’m talking to has felt all the same emotions I have–until I realize that we all endure hell every day and struggle to find means to cope. What am I afraid of? The ways we are similar outnumber the ways we are different.

Talking to strangers has allowed me to appreciate human nature in all its forms. There is no one single form that is most beautiful. The fact that every person I meet has an entirely different tone, different laugh, different talent, different perspective–this is where beauty is found. Human nature unifies us–and the ways we differ don’t necessarily have to divide us.