Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Sway

This entry will be a small whisper settling on rough winds.

There is this painting above my couch that my dad framed for me a long time ago by Edouard Manet. It's called "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" and is possibly one of my favorite paintings in existence.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

The way Manet captured this woman's expression and the many stories that can be woven by just looking into her eyes and at the man reflected in the mirror behind her enraptures me.

Last weekend, I was randomly reminded of it. I went to dinner with one of my best friends and then we went out for a drink with her friends afterward. While I scanned the bar we went to in Medina, my eyes stopped on a man sitting directly across from me. He looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s and wore an electric blue button down shirt and suit pants, as though having come in straight from work. It was 10 p.m. at this point and he was well acquainted with the mixed drink in front of him. I imagined it had Scotch or Vodka in it. It looked like it'd been that kind of day for him, possibly that kind of week, month, year ... life.

I found I couldn't stop looking at this man and felt my heart squeeze inward. I remember he leaned forward as though peering into his glass for answers that were not there while rubbing his temples. He then looked up, as though realizing he was in a crowded bar for the first time and lethargically asked the bartender for his tab. Never once did he look at anyone directly. Never once did I look away. I wondered if he'd just lost his job or someone close to him, or perhaps he'd done something awful to someone else. Whatever it was, he'd lost the battle that day. He slowly signed his bill as though signing away his life and as he buried his face into his hands, I wished I could have told him everything was going to be alright. But I never moved. And then he was gone.

Suffice it to say, the moment stayed with me. It's not the first time I've seen someone in that light, a complete stranger, and wondered what ailed them, what made them look so disparaged. I also realize now, at one point not so long ago, I was one of them. And many times, someone did whisper to me everything would be alright.

Amongst some very good changes in my life, I've also been facing some challenges with stress relief and being there for those around me while battling my own demons. My cousin, Nikki, and I were inseparable growing up. Though life has pulled us both in our own directions, we're still bonded in a way that has never been severed. She used to tell me that the moment I answered my phone and she heard my voice, I brought an instant calm and peace to her mind. She'd often call me in the midst of a panic attack or in the middle of crying and as soon as I started talking to her, I'd hear breath ease back into her lungs and rationale seep into her mind.

I didn't fully comprehend that gift until I got older and continued to hear it coming from other people in my life. On the flipside, I'm also a sponge to those around me, soaking up what they're going through down to its finest detail. For years, I've struggled to find a balance. However, as of late, I'm being forced to find that balance in a very real way. Because people in my life need me in ways I never thought they would and everything inside my veins pulses to be there for them. Yet, I, too, have needed help. And I've just recently removed myself from the very painting that is my life and looked upon it like a grand spectator, watching how those in my life who are true sustaining forces are bending forward and backward right along with me. We all have sustaining forces in our lives, but I'm not sure we always recognize who they are.

I'm realizing I don't have to just focus on my own path versus helping those around me. It doesn't have to be one or the other. It's about striking a balance between both. Being good to myself ... it's taken me so long to remember what's good for me -- I'm still learning. But it's also healing for me when I'm able to help someone else, even if it's just being a quiet, gentle sounding board or eliciting a smile. It's about recognizing what is nourishing but also being cautious of situations that could potentially be unhealthy or sapping. I've had to learn that the hard way and still am, but I'm also learning to listen to an inner voice I'd ignored for far to long. And as of late, hearing its whisper and following its natural pull has only provided me sustenance.

Whether people believe in karma or not, I find that the more good I'm exuding, even in the smallest, subtlest ways, the more benevolence I'm receiving in my own life. And more oftentimes than not, it's through those very same people who have their own struggles to deal with. I'm learning to ask for and receive help when I need it, despite the very strong, defiant part of me that tries to do everything on my own. Because now I see that it's about swaying forward and backward with others, helping each other grow that extra inch longer.

And it makes me sad for people like that man at that bar, who, at least in that moment on that night, had no one.

I can only hope that in this moment on this day, someone found him.


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