Thursday, October 15, 2009

Deserving It

Yoga, as usual, proved an inspiration, a reconnection to my body in a soulful way, a personal way, not like a look-inside-my-nose-with-a-rubber-hose kind of way. (See my last entry if that confuses you:) The greatest thing was that I got to wear my new clogs. As I walked in to the studio, I walked in behind another girl whose clogs, in black, looked suspiciously new. I was right. Within seconds, she came over to take a closer look at my brown ones.

"I have them in red and, now, black, I love them!" she said.

Other women weighed in on their own clog stories, their colors, when they bought theirs and where. It was hilarious. I had been afraid to buy them because they were trendy, but I suddenly understood the allure of wearing what everyone wore, something you actually loved and others loved too: it gave you an instantaneous connection. Duh, as my kids might say. Yoga and clogs have gone hand in hand since the 70s, which we are now fully entrenched in mimicking in so many ways, so it made sense.

"I love getting a group of women talking about shoes!" I said as we all sat across from one another on our rubber mats, excited and chatty where usually we were calm, if not silent at least whispering. We all laughed.

The teacher gave food for thought, as usual, with her stories, this month focused around the idea of Service. She talked a bit about what giving to others can do for you, about a man who stands outside the Park Slope Food Co-op giving out stickers with little sayings, a man she and her friends refer to as The Sticker Man. I made eye contact with my friend across the aisle.

"Like gold stars..." I mouthed, and we both smiled.

"You should meet him," my friend mouthed back. It's true. I might have to visit The Sticker Man, give him a gold star sticker. The giver sometimes does need to receive.

Today, I received a lot as I gave, it's the reason I gave, as usual. I get so much out of my interactions with people. Today, to get my fix, I wandered down 7th Ave., which, like Madison Ave., like any avenue filled with shops probably, offers many opportunities for interaction.

After a few false starts, some not-so-pleasant interactions I won't share 'cause I don't want to dwell, I hit pay dirt. Although the store I went in to didn't have the gloves I had gone back for, which always happens, every winter, with hats or gloves or something I think about and then miss out on, it did have a beautiful grey scarf, reasonable enough to buy. I wasn't going to miss out this time.

Wrapping the soft wool around my neck, seeing myself happily typing away in it this winter (as I am right now,) I said to the mirror and to the saleslady with a smile, "I'm going to get it. I deserve it!"

I was thinking as I said it that I didn't actually deserve it, that I've shopped too much for someone working without pay, except for the few dollars that are soon to run out from my 6-year-old boss/son.

The saleslady smiled. "That's right, you do deserve it! You do deserve good things!" she said. At first I thought it was just her sales pitch, but then, looking at the intent on her face, in her eyes as she spoke, I realized she really meant it. She went on.

"So many times, people only think they deserve the bad things, the terrible things that happen to them, like they happened because they've done something wrong," she said, shaking her head, getting upset at the notion.

Funny, I had just been having that thought to myself on my way to the store, about how scared I am of fulfilling my dreams, any of them really but, currently, mostly, my lifelong dream of writing a book. I had been thinking how, maybe, I don't deserve it. I knew exactly what she meant.

"I know!" I said, "Why are we all like that?"

She shrugged as if she didn't know but then gave a thought. "Well, I'm from Jamaica," she said, "and there is an old wives' tale that says, 'Chicken merry, hawk de near,' so that any time you are happy, you have to feel bad about it."

This time, we both shook our heads. "Crazy," I said, "but every culture has it, this feeling of being doomed if you feel good about something, feel happy. In Judaism, it's 'Poo, poo, poo...', shushing someone when they talk about something positive, like you're going to be punished for your hubris."

(Okay, okay, I don't think I actually used the word hubris, but it's my favorite word - even surpassing otorhinolaryngologist I think - and it fits, so there!)

We went on to discuss how sad this is, how mind-boggling, how we try not to do that to our children, how we try to listen to them and let them express themselves, figure out what really makes them happy and not make them feel bad about it. Will they be better off for it? Will they feel more deserving of good things? Better yet, are we really doing it? How can we honestly pull off helping our kids think feeling good is their due when we don't really believe it? It's a question I ask myself almost daily.

Either way, I got a great new scarf and made a new friend who shared my concerns over how hard we all are on ourselves and, hence, others, our children. It's too bad. We are all deserving of good things and should get them. Of course, I gave her a gold star, which she placed directly on her hand and held it out to see, beaming. It never fails to make me feel great to make someone's day or week, as so many people say the star does. Amazing. Such a little simple thing...

I scattered stars up and down 7th Ave. as I did my errands, finding it easy because of all the shopkeepers willing to engage in thought-provoking conversation, trying to be sunny despite the rain. One man, working behind the counter at the Ansonia Chemist got his for remarking on his luck, having had "two beautiful ladies walk in the store..." So cute, so well-delivered, so like my own Dad. I immediately reached for a gold star, giving one to him and the other "beautiful" lady, and his already bright face lit up brighter.

"Wow!" he said, "You ladies are probably too young, but they used to give us kids gold stars at school."

The other beauty and I laughed. "We got them," I said, "and they still give them..."

He went on with his memory. "I was a Mama's boy," he told us. Gesturing to himself, he said, "I'm a tough guy now, but back then...I used to run home when I got a gold star and show my Mom. She was so proud."

Well, as I said to the barrista at Parco this morning who made a woman laugh twice at the same joke, I certainly found my audience.

"You made my week," he said, staring at the star, the proud, happy kid clear in him.

And he made mine.

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