Monthly Archives: August 2016

Judy

I opened the email from our department’s VP with the subject “Sad News,” more than half expecting it to be about someone in the company I didn’t know.

So when I saw Judy’s name and the words “passed away unexpectedly,” they seemed to fly right off the computer screen and into my heart. I had to read them twice, three times, before I could even gasp.

I was sitting at a desk in our East Rochester office, probably not far from the desk where she had worked, when I read about Judy’s passing. My home office is in Syracuse, but my co-worker Michelle and I travel the 85 miles to East Rochester about once a week to meet with folks there on a project.

Every once in awhile I would think, I should stop by and say hi to Judy during one of my trips there.

Judy’s job involved providing support to the Customer Care staff in East Rochester. This meant handling everything from incoming faxes and returned mail to sending out letters, forms and other materials that customers requested. And, more than likely, dozens of other tasks that she just sort of took on over the years without being told to, but just because.

I can’t remember exactly when my instant messaging relationship with Judy began; it’s been years. I must have really helped her out at some point with some work-related question, because every so often she would reach out to me when she had a situation that she didn’t know what to do with.

Over time, her messages to me began with a familiar greeting: “hi pal o’ mine!” She favored using a bold purple font and lowercase letters. That was just Judy’s style.

Me, I try to be grammatically correct and professional, even in my instant messaging (unless I forget to spell check before hitting send), although I have recently changed my font to one I find more attractive, and made it blue, my favorite color.

“Hi Judy!” I’d type back.

Then came the request. Sometimes it was as simple as sending a reminder out on the department blog, which I maintain.Other times she had a question, or needed direction on how to handle a particular piece of mail or fax.

In any case, once I sent the reminder or helped her figure out what to do with her issue, Judy’s response invariably came back in the form of one of those cute animated emoticons, the kind that gives virtual hugs, blows kisses or produces a bouquet of flowers.

Now and then, if she felt her question was particularly thorny or if I got back to her more quickly than she anticipated, Judy would simply type the words “you rock!” instead. In purple, bold lowercase letters, of course.

I’ll never see those words in that font again.

I checked out her obit, and saw the face of a pretty blond woman smiling back at me. I couldn’t recall ever meeting her in person. Not that I hadn’t had multiple opportunities.

And I read the adjectives other people used to describe her in the funeral home guest book: wonderful (used most often), warm, caring, funny, helpful, kind. Yes, she was.

And yes, I feel regret–regret that I didn’t take a few minutes out of my workday, even once, to locate her work station when I was in East Rochester and experience her smile in person. Or maybe exchange a real, face-to-face, hug.

I’m sure you know where this post is going.

If it occurs to you to call someone, call her. Send her an email or, if you’re old school, a card or a note.Stop by her desk the next time you’re in her office or on her floor.

Because you just never know, right? You just never know when “all the time in the world” ends up being no time at all. Or when there won’t be a “next time I’m in the neighborhood…”

All I can do now is return one of Judy’s virtual hugs. Maybe send her one last, big, “mwwwwwah!” A silent apology for not stopping by to say hello when I had the chances.

And the hope that, wherever she is, she is being appreciated for her wonderful, warm, caring, funny, helpful, kind self.

Because, Judy, you rocked, too.

 

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What Do You Think?

thinker

Came across this Henry Ford quote recently that I love, love, love:

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

Now, you might say, “Come on, Mary Anne–I think all the time! In fact, I can’t ever seem to stop thinking! I think even when I’m asleep! I think that not thinking is wa-a-a-a-a-y more difficult than thinking!”

Au contraire, mon frère, and I know this from personal experience. What swims around in our brains 99 percent of the time are memories, worries, ruminations, replays, reactions and judgments (of ourselves, as well as of others). They’re sound bytes and flashbacks. We can call them thoughts–but they don’t constitute thinking.

What happens most of the time between our ears is a mental cacophony.

As seen in Rodin’s famous sculpture, thinking requires effort. It requires concentration. Just look at his face. That ‘s thinking.

Real thinking is active, not passive. Real thinking is purposeful.

What’s more, real thinking is almost always more positive and productive than the unchecked babble that goes on  in our heads much of the time. Real thinking solves and creates. It empowers us.

Take, for example, when something someone says to us hurts, whether it’s a romantic partner, a family member,  a boss or whomever. Most of us lick that wound over and over until it grows and even gets infected. We replay the words, and the subsequent pain, so repeatedly that they become etched in our memory for future playback, a permanent part of the mental chatter that consumes most of our thoughts.

Now what if, instead of reacting to the words we perceived as hurtful, instead of letting those words upset, anger or sadden us, we chose a different reaction? What if we mentally stepped back, thought “Well, now that wasn’t very nice!” and then went on to not let it affect the rest of our day? Wouldn’t being able to do that feel so much better?

I actually managed to accomplish that recently, sort of, with what I consider a great deal of success. My life partner John, who means more to me than 99.9 percent of the rest of the world, said something that I felt was unkind and unnecessary. My eyes teared and I did say, “You just crossed the line,” but that’s all I said about it.

Next day when I awoke, I realized I had a choice. I could stay hurt and angry with him and drag those feelings around with me like a ball and chain, throwing off negative vibes that would not only impact me  but everyone else within striking distance. I could stoke that hurt like an old coal stove by reliving what he’d said, damn him, and letting my reaction to those words suck the oxygen right out of me…or I could choose to be happy. Choose to make it a great day. Choose, if not to forgive just yet, then at least not let what was said yesterday become the focal point of my today

What a difference such a choice made. And choosing is, or at least can be, a very empowering form of thinking.

As has been frequently said, most of us spend more time planning their vacations than our lives, or how we can contribute to or make a positive impact on the world.

Heck, many people even spend more time planning a meal, right? Case in point: we’ll spend days planning and prepping for Thanksgiving dinner, and were seconds giving thanks. What’s up with that?

And it’s not like we give ourselves much time or space for thinking–instead we cram our days and nights with doingness and/or mindless entertainment. I’m as guilty of that as the next guy. It’s a lot easier to play two dozen Words with Friends games simultaneously or watch “Rizzoli and Isles” than to write a blog post, or deeply think about how I want my next (hopefully) 20 some-odd years on earth to play out.

I wonder about the Rodin sculpture. Is the man weighing the pros and cons of a huge decision that he needs to make? Or is he mentally working on an intricate math problem, or how to bring an invention to fruition, or about some philosophical conundrum about the nature of mankind or the meaning of life?

Whatever it is he’s thinking about, I’m convinced the world would be a better place if a lot more of us did that, too. If we thought before we spoke. Or thought before we react. Or thought about what kind of impact we’d like to make while we’re alive or what kind of legacy we want to leave when our earthly time is through.

And we can’t do that if our eyes are constantly glued to a smartphone, computer screen or television. Our best thinking is done in nature…or in silence…or while listening to certain types of music…or, for those who believe in its power, while praying.

I think, if more of us devoted more time to purposeful thought, the news media would find it a lot more difficult to come up with their endless stream of horrendous and worrisome stories to shine their spotlights on.

And wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

Think about it.