The events of the day have been tragicomic - everything technological I touched at work broke today (copier, PC, internet connection, network printer) at the precise moment of maximum need/urgency. It was yet another confirmation of the sign I saw on a copier twenty years ago...
WARNING: this machine has been equipped with an automatic criticality detector designed specifically to cause breakdowns, jams and other interruptions of service at precisely the times of greatest need for functionality. If the machine can sense that you're really desperate to use it, it will almost certainly fail. So just stay calm...Of course, the more the machine fails, the more unlikely it is for me to remain calm (or to not act desperate)...so it's a losing spiral, after a point.
And the adventure continued - delays getting out of the office, insane traffic on the way down to Hyde Park to the AA meeting... just a series of classic potential serenity-busters. By the time I picked up my sponsee to get the meeting set-up, I was 15 minutes late, and my mood was somewhere between Oh, for God's sake! and WTF?
And that's when I had to laugh. It's all about my perception, after all. A week and a half after Katrina, just shy of the 4-year anniversary of 9/11, and I'm whining about finances, traffic and technology. I had a warm shower, two good meals, plenty of gas in my tank, and lodging that is absolutely devoid of rats, corpses, E.coli, or heavy-metal contamination. Yet I could easily have talked myself into believing I was having a bad day.
And that's when God reminded me of exactly what I needed to hear...
Nearly eleven years ago, as an on-site consultant for Sprint working in Des Plaines, IL on their Centel merger, I was in an AA meeting at the First Step House in downtown Des Plaines. At work, I was the new-guy-in-charge, and things were not going well. I was afraid of failing, afraid of a high-profile failure, you name it. Fear was everywhere. And I made the mistake of bringing it up in a place where we were literally meeting between the cots in a men's halfway-house...a setting that should have inspired gratitude from the get-go, but didn't, somehow.
The old-timer sitting next to me was the next person to speak. I don't remember his name, but I'll never truly forget what he said. It was exactly what I need to hear, that day and this one, too:
Boy, let me tell you a little secret. If you haven't been drunk, high, naked-in-public, or shot-at, and you haven't used the word "asshole" in the final draft of a memo, then you're still havin' a good day. Because most folks that are still out there qualifyin' for our little club here would take any three of the five I just mentioned. So get over your cheap self and find some gratitude, y'hear?I've lost sight of that thought any number of times, over the years - but I've never truly forgotten it. And by that man's simple measure, I've had a very good day.
Now, I don't want to blue-sky the situation, however. After all, I have (at best) 7 days of assured paid employment at my current position, and a dearth of alternatives. Living here in Pullman will eventually be cheaper than living in Hyde Park - but the first month of moving out has been an expensive one. Just because God loves me and I'm sunny-side-up, suckin'-air-n-sober doesn't mean I don't have lots of "opportunities for growth" that I have thus far failed to rise up to.
But I'm a very, very blessed man. As I told my young friend on the way home tonight, I've had an awful lot of 24-hours "in the bonus round," and it's all been a gift. If I shuffle off this mortal coil tonight, my financial record will read all in red ink - but I'll still be one of the richest men I know. In my youth, I had to memorize a poem, which contained one of the best scorecards for my life:
So count your garden by the flowers,Thank you, God, for the reminders. I needed to hear 'em.
and never by the leaves that fall.
Count you days by golden hours,
and don't remember clouds at all.
Count your nights by stars, not shadows,
count your life by smiles, not tears.
And on this night, when you we honor,
count your age by friends, not years.