Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Kingdom for the Force

It's hard to encourage people, it's no wonder most people don't. In fact I don't most of the time because the reward is usually nothing as compared to the effort. Even I don't feel good after the fact as often as not, because I keep second guessing whether I should just stay in the shadows and let people pat themselves on the back when they need a lift.

I was in an office supply store yesterday and this kid helped me in a perfect fashion. He didn't push, he didn't judge, he didn't infer I was a moron. And the minute he opened his mouth I knew he was being straight with me, not using some technique he'd learned at sales associate school.

As it turned out I wasn't sure about an item so I had to return today and there he was. So as Linda and I were looking at items he helped me again, calmly, evenly, honestly. So I told him so. I had to force myself to say the words, and I struggled with what words to say that wouldn't make me look like a fool, or a guy looking for a third for a menage'. I didn't want to say anything because he could have reacted badly, gotten uncomfortable, assumed I was pulling his chain or looking for a discount or simply mentally ill and prone to talk nonsense once in a while. I didn't want to blow my badass cover, my hard, candy shell; I didn't want the guy to think I was playing him or looking for a date. I just wanted him to know in 40 some years of shopping I seldom come across someone who is so beyond their job I can see big things happening in their lives by their humanity alone; they've confidence without swagger, knowledge without arrogance, compassion without greed. But who the hell would stop a sales clerk, or any other stranger in life, and tell them they are, in the speaker's estimation, quite a human being; especially poignant at an early stage in their lives?

His response was unexpected and so gracious I damn near grabbed his hand to shake it (but I'm not quite that dumb). He was stunned, but very grateful, he'd never received a compliment from a customer before, and I was happy to let him appreciate and then walk away so as not to make it too big a deal. It wasn't a big deal really; my thinking he's got his shit together means nothing as compared to the cosmos. I'm no one, can't do a damn thing for him; my compliment and a quarter won't buy him a phone call to the bus company if his car runs out of gas.

I remember a few times in my life when I was complacent, uninspired, ready to fold up shop and move on to something less taxing than putting my creative ass on the line over and over. I tried not to think about it much but being in the limelight is incredibly stressful and it's impossible not to care what others think because your continued employment depends on it.

Even still, even as needy as that makes a creative person it was easy to blow off positive comments made by people that had a financial stake in my being good; whether that's right or wrong, there it is. Sometimes even when I was being kissed and hugged by friends and coworkers as if I were a puppy, I was still on the edge because I couldn't believe them; not fully. And then some stranger would hear or see something I did and say "You did that? Wow." And I'd be recharged for a month, after I'd caught my breath.

It doesn't happen often, it's not easy to set yourself up to be glared at for interfering in someone else's life; even if all you want to do is say "go team" there's a big risk it'll be taken wrong. Linda thinks any stranger that's nice to her is a potential con artist looking for something, and she's in the majority by my experience.

Every time I open my mouth in the direction of someone I don't know there's a chance they'll assume I'm a salesman or stalker or testosterone typist looking for a good time. There's an even better chance they'll just ignore me, which is fine really, but gives me all the less impetus to do it again; not because I need thanks for what I give, but I need to know I was heard in the spirit in which it was said.

I was truly energized when someone would encourage me for no other reason than to share their strength, and though it hasn't happened often, it's happened when I've needed it most. So I give it back. Not as if it's a mission, I'm way too introverted for that. But when I can get up the guts to tell someone they amaze me with their talent or their beauty or just their courage in the face of adversity, I do and I'm damned happy I can. I never lie about it, it's far too hard to do it at all much less make it up; you have to really move me to make me care enough to speak out of turn. But if I do, I meant it; I don't suck up, I don't have an agenda, I'm not looking for anything but to do for others what's been done for me.

I was starting to turn that spigot off of late, I'd given far too many standing ovations and gotten far too many shrugs in response. In fact I often think to just shuttup and mind my own business, that no one needs my atta boys and too many see them as "c'mere little girls". But today put me back in the game. Sometimes a random act of commiseration gives both parties an edge. I was due, and I'd bet so was he. I'm glad I found the guts to just be who I am for that moment; it's scary, but someone has to do it. 

I'm sure most people that do this sort of thing just do it without thinking, not caring "how it makes them look", not really even interested in the target's response. It's one of the fascinating things about being me. Everything I do is a production, every word I speak is pulled from my brain with a vice grips by a giant cyclops. It's a wonder I even get out of bed for all the work the day's gonna bring...

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