Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From the Yin to the Yang and Back - Chapter 4

She came to me like an angel when everything was torn apart. Erasing all the madness she came and blessed a broken heart ...

A Voice in the Darkness

 After I had served on the BCAS Board for a few years, I identified a pattern pertaining to the At Large members.  Every year without fail, a chorus member was elected to an At Large position on the Board who had no real idea what he or she was signing up for and, furthermore, no real desire to fulfill the duties.  This resulted in a Board member who just took up space at the monthly meetings and sometimes quit before the season was up.  By the time 2009 rolled around, I had developed a little game that I played with myself for amusement called "predict the warm body".  After the election in May 2009, I thought I had this one pegged for sure.  This woman had been a member for many years, but she was like a ghost to me.  She had taken a leave here and there, and when she was active, she was very quiet.  As Secretary, I prided myself on knowing everybody, but this was a tricky one.  My only knowledge of her had come from our illustrious President who had attempted to involve her in the choosing of new ladies' concert attire a few seasons prior to this one.   It was ridiculous to me, because she was on leave at the time, but he would not let us make a choice without her involvement, and she apparently was ignoring him.  I remember being highly annoyed and wishing that she would just tell him to bug off so that we could get on with business.  Needless to say, my expectations of this new Board member were not high, and I remember arriving home from the annual meeting and saying something sarcastic to my husband like "Well .....  we've got another live one again."

I can't pinpoint exactly when my opinion started to change, but it was some time in the Fall of 2009.  If I look back at e-mails from that time period, there are e-mails involving the entire Board, and slowly but steadily, the e-mails between just she and I began to increase.   I guess when she announced her proposal for the next Chorus trip and then when she basically took charge of it, I should have gotten a clue that this was more than just a warm body.   As my relationship with Marcia continued to sour, I instinctively turned to her for help in understanding what seemed hopelessly non-understandable.  But it wasn't until I announced my intention to retire from the Board that I felt the full force of this woman.  Unbeknownst to me, she had been forming an opinion of me that was unlike any that I had ever heard before.   She began a quiet, persistent campaign to convince me of my value - not just as a member of the Board but as a human being.  Could it be that she had figured out that I was lacking any sort of affirmation on any level from anyone, and that I was incapable of recognizing my own value?    I remember repeatedly telling her that nothing she could say was going to change my mind about retiring.  But it was more than just her words working its magic on me.   In order to understand my about-face, one must understand the inner workings of this woman.  When she meets someone for the first time, she will engage them in conversation and by the time it's all said and done, she seems to know the person's strengths and shortcomings.  But that isn't the whole story.  She will always celebrate a person's strengths and downplay their weaknesses.  You can see it in the way that she talks to you or engages you.  In my case, she always treated me like the person that I was capable of being, while everyone else close to me was reacting to my current state of being.  I was cynical, negative, temperamental and just downright bitchy.  I might have felt justified in feeling and acting as I did, and I attracted the negative attention that I so richly deserved - from everyone but her.   To her, I was a valued, intelligent human being.

Something happened to me one night that I may never be able to fully explain.  We had sung an Evensong concert that was truly an artistic success.  We were full speed ahead to our next concert tour.  And I had just been informed that a qualified person had agreed to run for Secretary and take my place.  It was a warm April night, and I was driving home with the windows cracked, enjoying the first warm air of the year when the reality of my situation hit me square between the eyes.   I was on the brink of throwing away the chance to be involved in something spectacular - and why?  Because some people had personality quirks that bugged me?  And what made me think that my life circumstances were so much more dire than anyone else's?   As I drove, I engaged in a mental role call of our chorus members.  For the first time, I saw them as individuals and I thought about some of them and the crosses that they bore every day.  Why did I want to step away from serving as their Secretary?  The answer was clear:  I didn't.   In those moments, in that flash of clarity, I realized my own worth and the worth of everyone surrounding me - from those closest to me to the people who can barely say hello to me once a week.  The rest is history.

This turnabout happened three years ago.  For three years, I have tried to pinpoint what it was that changed my thinking in such a profound way - profound, because of its far-reaching results that extended beyond my role as Board member.  I saw everything and everyone differently.  My husband would go on to completely change careers, and I am positive that the cynical, narcissistic, negative person who inhabited my body for so long would not have been capable of supporting his decision or the extra hours that were required for him to make this change.  He is a different person now - no longer imprisoned in a dead-end career that was so wrong and unsuited to his talents.  My job is what it is, and I am respected there.  Instead of looking for things that a job is not supposed to be giving me in the first place, why not celebrate what it does give me?  All revelations for me after all those years.   I had finally grown up.

There is no way to place a tangible value on a friend who comes along just at the right time, or in my case, just in the nick of time.  This is a value that is immeasurable.  It is easy to want to help someone by stroking their ego or telling them what you think they want to hear.   It is another thing entirely to tell them what they need to hear and to actually live your words every day.   A person who is drowning in self-doubt, a person who feels that they have no worth to the world, needs more than just words.  This person needs someone to emulate - a person who forces you to see the world through his or her eyes simply through the sheer force of their personality.   And now, I say this:

To my dear friend,

I am forever indebted to you.  Your presence has changed my life and the lives of those I love.  You have asked me on more than one occasion to stop describing you as a saint.  So, I give you this:  you are stubborn to the point where I want to smack you.  You are so driven and task-oriented that I so often want to kidnap you and force you to smell the roses.   And just when I want to kidnap you and smack you, I realize that it is those qualities that allow people like me to be spontaneous, and it is those qualities that made it possible for you to penetrate the wall that I had built up around me.  Likewise, it is my spontaneity that allows you to laugh, to relax, to let down your guard and reveal your inner self to me.   The wonder of our friendship is that we have so much in common, yet it is also these differences that enable us to be the best people that we can be when we are in each other's company and even when we are not.

I have tried before to describe to you all of the different demons that were working inside of me when we first met.  I hope that this has shed some real light on what I was all about back then and why your efforts on my behalf and your friendship were so important in turning my life around, and especially why you are so important and special to me now and why you will be so for the rest of my days.



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