Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Speaking into thin air

Racing this morning. Had to be at a radio station by 7am for an on-air interview. Forgot the studio number, (I thought) on my desk. Raced into the office. Not here. Desperately search my bag, notebook. All the while cursing red lights slowing me down. Get to the radio station. Stand outside. Waiting. Hoping someone might turn up to enter the building. Search bag again. Still no number. Search my daytimer. Not there. Finally, in a fit of pique, I decide to go to Starbucks for a coffee. Guess what's inside my wallet -- the telephone number I need. Call. Whip back to station. Make the interview with seconds to spare.


As I whipped along city streets, I felt my anxiety level rising. Breathe. I told myself. Calm down. Getting anxious. Fretting over what is or is not will not help.

At one point, as I left the shelter where I work and drove along the avenue lining the river to cross the bridge to the North side, a client from the drop-in crossed in front of me. Illegally. I changed lanes to avoid him, but as I drove by, he flipped me the finger.


Anger flared. How dare he? Who does he think he is? Whenever I've seen him in the centre, he's been friendly (overly so at times). He laughs and jokes. But, there he was on the street. I am as anonymous as him. Suddenly, his anger surfaces. I am every person who has condemned him, shunned him, ignored him.

Anger is the most prevalent emotion on the street. Anger masking fear. Masking despair. Hiding shame. Shame and the pain of knowing, this is my life. This is what it has all come down to.

This morning, I drove through the city searching for a telephone number I could not find. And then I found it. All was righted with my world.

This morning, a homeless man crosses the street in front of me. Defiantly, he tells me what he thinks. But his gesture is not about me. It's not a reflection of my state of being. It is a reflection of all that is wrong with his life.

And I can't change it for him. I can't change where he's at. I can't be visible to him out there, in the wide world, because to him, out there, I'm 'one of them. Just another face in the crowd making him feel small.

But, in the instant of his disdainful gesture, I found myself having noisy conversations in my head. Here's what wrong with your attitude, I tell him. Be nice. I didn't do anything to you. I didn't hit you or even aim for you. I gave way for you. How dare you treat me with such disrespect -- LOL -- I can have a very busy head!

I wanted him to understand why I didn't deserve his rude gesture. I wanted him to know that what he did is a reflection of where he's at in his life -- and he doesn't have the right to take it out on me -- in essence -- I felt helpless to create change in his life, yet wanted to act out my frustration, sort of like he did!

I had to let it go. Conversations in my head with someone who isn't there make no sense. They just keep me stuck in focusing on an event that was transitory. Passing. Fleeting. An event that does not mar my day -- unless I invest power in it.

But I did learn something really important for me this morning. I discovered that radio interviews are not my strength. It was an interesting observation. The announcer was on the other side of the room, hidden behind a big black microphone and the engineer who sat in the desk separating us. I couldn't see the announcer. Couldn't make eye contact. Without that visual contact, my mind did not connect to his questions. I wasn't talking to a person -- just hearing words enter my mind. My answers became stilted. Monosyllabic.

When the man walked by and flipped me a sign of his angst, my angst was not because of what he did. It was because his gesture became the focal point of our connection. We were not two people building bridges, we were like the announcer and me this morning -- words spoken into space, disconnected from meaning, from substance, from the human element that makes life so rich and rewarding.

For the man crossing the street, the world of 'normal' is a foreign place. Adrift, cut-off from 'everyday living', he is disconnected from meaning, from the substance of being part of the human element that makes life rich and rewarding.

I'm still racing. Got a meeting this morning that will take the entire morning. Must run.

A man flipped me the finger this morning and I flipped into defensive mode, into wanting to tell someone who cannot hear me, see me, or even identify with me that what he did was wrong. I wanted him to understand my point of view -- and didn't really care about his.

Until I can find the way to connect with people who cannot see me, for whatever reason, I will never be able to make sense of what they do in a meaningful way -- and they will never be able to connect with me in meaningful ways. Like the questions fired at me on-air this morning we will continue to pass-by eachother, giving our respective acknowledgements of the value of their passing through our lives.

The question is: Where in your life are you having conversations with people who cannot see you? Where are you talking without connecting to the person with whom you're having a conversation?

No comments: