Craving Solitude

I love the peace that comes after the storm.   Or the quiet in the office after all the day’s hustle and bustle has died down and the only thing to hear is stillness (except for the air conditioner).   If I have a choice, I prefer taking lunch later in the afternoon because all my favorite haunts are nearly crowd-less, and the overwhelming waves of chatter and clatter are reduced subtle roars.  The quiet coffee shop in the wee hours of the morning is another of my favorite places.   What could be better than breathing in freshly brewed beans in the quiet thoughts of reflection?

I love to go on long drives but seldom do because my responsibilities often get in the way.  My soul longs for moments of solitude with on empty roads.  In the lateness of the evening, occasionally, I’ll role down the window and pop the sunroof just to listen to the wind passing by.  It might be brisk, and this time of year it’s downright freezing, but risk of frostbite seems insignificant while I listen to tires coasting across smooth black asphalt.

Bookstores are amongst my favorite places to be alone.  Most times I love taking my kids with me–they enjoy book browsing as much as the old man.  But I also treasure those moments of wandering the shelves alone, like exploring catacombs in pursuit of my own personal discoveries.  It makes me smirk how people often treat bookstores with the same silent reverence given to libraries.  Call me selfish, but I enjoy having the whole aisle to myself.  It’s not that I mind other shoppers, but book wandering is enhanced when I’m not consciously thinking thoughts about being in someone Else’s way.

Expressing my joy about solitude causes me mild concern–am I becoming a hermit?  My concern is fleeting because I love my social interactions way too much.  Still, this recent passion for solitude makes me wonder was it always there and  I just never noticed it before now.  Or is part of me seeking shelter from life’s storms?

I seldom feel like a man caught in the midst of conflict, and there are few days that my soul longs for refuge.  Could it be that as I age and my experiences mount in numbers, it just takes longer for me to mentally process things?  Or was I just less reflective before?  Or worse, is this just part of getting old?  I’m not certain, and whatever the case, I certainly love my interactions with friends and family.  I think part of me has awakened to the simplicity in spending moments alone and with any acquired taste, my taste buds are just waking up to it all.

A Reference Letter To My Co-worker

Jennifer,

The other day, I was saddened to hear that you, a long standing member of our C&W family, are leaving to pursue bigger and better things. Of course I am happy for you, but sad to see you go, *sniffle, sniffle*.

Jennifer McQueen, I consider it a privilege to have worked alongside you since February 2008.

Most of us in our life have approached an employer about obtaining a reference letter. I have no idea if you even needed such a thing to obtain your new position, but knowing you and your contribution around here, the reference letter would have been legendary, if not infamous.

With your pending departure on my mind, I was inspired to construct my own little “Reference Letter From a Co-worker”. I figure you’ll never need my reference to get a job (In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “You have skills.” and those speak for themselves), so instead this letter serves as my own personal tribute to having enjoyed working alongside you.

To Whom This May Concern,

First off, I figure if you’re reading this then you’ve deemed Jennifer a worthy candidate for the position. Congratulations, you must be an astute employer with an eye for talent. Now hurry up and offer her the position.

For nearly five years, Jennifer has been an excellent coworker to me and many others here at C&W. Amazingly, the business has neither burned down, nor has anyone been arrested in handcuffs during her tenure. Colleagues from both the local and national offices frequently rave about Jennifer’s contributions, specifically how she exceeds all expectations (especially considering that she started out as a young aspiring artist from Saskatoon). One agent, so impressed and thankful for her creative deliverables, bought her Italian designer shoes (She gets Italian shoes and I get cookies—go figure).

Most of Jennifer’s work for the Agency involves creative design in print and copy mediums. Beyond that she has also demonstrates excellence with painted media, covert web development, golf merchandising, and even small-screen acting. Recently an internal office training video went viral on the internet, and Jennifer’s acting has been equated to a young Heather Locklear (Melrose Place 2(Too)? Well it happened for 90210, right?).

Her interpersonal networking skills are honed. Whether she’s rubbing elbows with bikers at the Shamrock, or hanging with the Finer Things Club, Jennifer is a piece of the puzzle that seems to fit everywhere. If there was a place you wanted to go, she’s probably been there, and if not, she always knows who to speak with about gettin’ in. And don’t get me started about her unique magnet collection (apparently that’s a Calgary thang).

Jennifer demonstrates a life-long pursuit to develop her interpersonal working skills. Long gone are the days when Jennifer was sat down to cover the basics of “How not to treat the newly hired support staff.” And only one past C&W employee was recently reported to have given Jennifer special hand signals (God Bless our dear little Romeo, wherever thou art now).

Innovation is synonymous with Jennifer. Not only was she the founder of C&W’s Employee of the Month Award, she chaired its selection committee, repeatedly was nominated for months, and eventually even received the esteemed honor herself—You go girl!

Jennifer frequently motivates the people she works with. Just thinking about her magic touch with computers (some might say more occult-like than magical), it brings tears to my eyes. In her own special way, I’ve seen how Jennifer’s keen powers of observation correct those with run-away delusions of pride, and restore the multitudes to simple humility. How does that saying go… “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?”

After working with Jennifer, words like discretion, compromise, empathy, sensitivity—they just simply aren’t the first things that pop to mind. But knowing Jennifer is to experience genuine outspoken honesty. Many a time, Jennifer shows kindness in providing her less-than-subtle reminders of the way things were, are, and should be. She usually knows what is best, and if not, you just let her think that she does (Just ask her interoffice sweetheart, Jordan. Not to be confused with that nutty wife she’s married to on facebook).

Whatever the case, clearly by now, you the employer, should realize you have a keeper. Jennifer is the real thing and SHE IS the one for your company. And if not, well, it might just be better for everyone involved if you let her think she is. Deep, deep down, my coworkers and I will dearly miss Jennifer, indeed! (No, it wasn’t a typo, I really meant dearly, and not barely).

Sincerely,

Lane Smith
IT Network Technician

So, since you already have your position at BMO, and you likely won’t need this letter any time soon (or likely ever), I hope it serves as a keepsake of your time with us at C&W. It occurs to me that some things are worth blogging to the world, other things are better announced on facebook, but a few select things, more personal in nature, should be treasured between good friends who started out as co-workers (with a bunch of Bccs to people you worked with who might also find it amusing). Can you guess which I chose today?

Looking forward to working with you for a couple more days!

With Kindest Regards,

Lane

And Jennifer’s response…

You posted this on facebook??? LOL. Thanks Lane I’m going to print this out and put it up at my new office/ cubicle whichever it is I get. Of course I’ll wait till I’ve cleared the 6 month probation period just in case someone reads it. I wouldn’t want to pull a Lane and have to ask for my job back. You are too funny. I thought you’d mention the dress like your office IT tech day last Halloween. I will truly miss you Lane, and for the rest of my life when I see socks & sandals I’ll think of you.

Jennifer

Free Hugs?

Have you heard of the free hugs campaign?  I had forgotten about it.  A couple years ago it first came to my attention as a popular video through facebook.  It appealed to me right away, and today I was trying to figure out why.  So, was it the idea of free hugs, or the story line surrounding the campaign, or the soundtrack provided by the band Sick Puppies?  Was it a combination of all three?  I’m not sure.  See it for yourself here…

The concept of Free Hugs is unusual, especially to me.  I’ve never been a natural hugger.  Everyone knows, has met, or dreads meeting those natural huggers.  They’re just so expressive, sometimes excessively, with their hugs.  A friend and coworker of mine, Su, is a hugger… not necessarily a comfortable thing while working amidst burly men.  Over time, I came to really appreciate Su’s friendship and his friendly hugs.  Conversely, I’ve also worked with people who are extremely uncomfortable with affection–I never figured out if it was their fear of  affection or pure disdain for physical touch.

Then there’s that element of coed hugging.  I’m okay hugging my Mom, my Aunts, my daughter, extended family members and little old ladies, but there’s always an element of discomfort when I hug women.  Why?  I’m not sure, but it might have something to do with squishing body parts, theirs, not mine.

When confronted with hugging, frequently I have memory flashbacks to my swimming instructor coarse where it was emphasized that you never initiate a hug with a child.  It was okay if the child initiated affection, but an instructor was never to encourage it–for obvious reasons.  For me, it just carried over towards adults too.  You’ll rarely find me initiating a hug outside of family members.  Fear, not my disinterest nor dislike, holds me back.

Was I a handsomer man, would I be more comfortable initiating hugs?  Perhaps.  Personal observations lead me to believe that hugs (and other activities in general) from society’s beautiful people are more often deemed acceptable.  Or maybe beautiful people just receive a greater measure of grace when they cross uncertain lines, like hugging.   And for me, I’m naturally skeptical about motives and intentions when a pretty woman offers me unexpected affection.  I don’t believe my body language emits signals encouraging people to hug me.

And maybe in society’s pursuit of safety for all, in an effort to protect everyone possible, hugs have become a social taboo.  Physical affection is often the victim of suspicion.  For that reason, I respect those affectionate rebels that push past the unwritten rules that forbid hugging.  With modest envy, I admire those people for just being themselves and ignoring perceived propperness.

So what motivates those people to hold up signs advertising Free Hugs?  In my office, I have the privilege of working with a young lady, Nicole, who worked in Sydney in or about the time of all this “free hugging.”   I was curious to gain her perspective.  She knew about the free hugs thing, had seen the people holding up the signs, but didn’t know it as a formal campaign.  Her impression was that the Asian tourists loved that kind of thing, almost like a novelty, and the people giving the hugs looked like they were homeless street people  (does the fellow in the video look homeless to you?  To me his burgundy jacket seemed more artsy than homeless.  Then again, most artist are financially poor, right?).  Nicole didn’t understand why people would offer free hugs.  Needless to say, neither Nicole, nor I offered each other any free hugs.  Maybe it would be deemed “office inappropriate.”

Free Hugs.  Is it a public statement about society’s discomfort with public affection?  Or are these huggers actually reaching out to a world of infrequently touched people who have too often been famished from a good squeeze?  Would I feel comfortable offer my affection to a complete stranger?  Would it be easier than offering it to someone I know?  It would seem not, but having done just that, would I be changed in my efforts to demonstrate kindness, or even love, to someone in a way I seldom would?  It might, it might even be life changing.

The video’s storyline is definitely about the campaign being the underdog, having triumphed in the end.  What’s not to like about that?

And the Sick Puppies song that servers as a sound track? Well, I’m a sucker for strumming guitars and a certain passion expressed in music.  The lyrics are interesting at best, but the idea conveyed about acceptance, I think everyone would appreciate a bit more acceptance.

When I first saw this video, youtube indicated the video had been viewed about 500,000 times (if memory serves me correct).  Today, it has been watched nearly 65 million times.  In some way, different or similar to my own perceptions, the Free Hugs Campaign video has peaked viewer interest over the years, and in the least, it resonates with people at some level.

What would I miss if I was deaf?

Today was my lazy Saturday.  Instead of doing something productive (like I probably should have… ), I watched a movie on History channel called There Will Be Blood.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I, but it held me captive.  In the film, Daniel Day-Lewis plays a greedy oilman and prospector, Daniel Plainview, during the early nineteen hundreds.  In pursuit of oil found under the cheap California land, Plainview adopts an orphaned boy to appear family orientated to the land owners of Little Boston.  After an explosion at the well’s derrick, the adopted son looses his hearing for life.

Occasionally in my life, I had thought, “How terrible it would be to loose my eyesight.”  Watching the film and what happened to the boy, it had me pondering about what I would miss most if I lost my hearing.  Music immediately came to mind.  My ability to easily converse with others would no doubt be hampered.  It occurs to me that hearing is something I have always taken for granted.  The possibility of being deaf inspired to listen to some of my favorite music–what would I do if I never heard any of it again?  Would my mind still remember the music from deep within the recesses of my memory?  Over time would I eventually forget the tunes or might I learn to read musical scores and still appreciate it?

I remember reading a CCM magazine article over a decade ago where Amy Grant was asked to list the vinyl records she would want with her if she was stranded on a dessert island (hypothetically of course).  Thinking about my own imagined deafness, which songs or CDs that I would miss most? Or knowing I would eventually be deaf, what songs would I want to hear just once more.  In no particular order–these just came to mind…

Sad Farewell Instrumental from The Mole Soundtrack

Love Theme from The Russia House by Jerry Goldsmith

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2

God Will Lift Up Your Head by Jars of Clay

Last Christmas by Cascada

Tender Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant

When Stars Go Blue by The Corrs and Bono

Everybody Hurts performed by The Corrs

End of Innocence performed by Don Henley

What songs might you want to hear again?