Acquaintances

When I walked out of the Lister Hill library at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, the sky was filled with dark clouds and it was going to rain at any moment. The wind was howling and I was hurrying to get to my car which was parked at least 3 blocks away. As I hurried down the large steps, a lady shouted, “Where’s your umbrella?”.

I looked back to see who it was and mumbled something about not being from around there and not expecting it to rain. She followed up with a bunch of questions- where are you from, what are you doing here, where’s your umbrella…and I patiently answered all her questions. By this time, she knew the basics about me. The sky was getting darker and louder and this lady was trying to have a decent conversation with me. Oh boy! When she realized that I was in Birmingham for just a day, she recommended that I go to Vulcan park and also talked about some pizzeria near the park. She also talked about how she loved nursing and thought I was in for a lifetime of joy of serving the sick. She talked about her sister who was going to pick her up anytime now and wished she’d hurry before it started raining. Her sister arrived and the lady left with her. I ran back to my car and took out my Brimingham, Alabama map to find Vulcan park. It started raining just as I got in my car and headed off to Vulcan park.

I met Bruce at Alabama-Tennessee state line. We were both browsing around the visitor info center when I picked up a brochure for Grand Ole Opry and Jack Daniels Distillery. The plan was to stop in Nashville and be in Louisville at night. Bruce came closer and picked up a brochure for JD Distillery. I asked the employee there about how to get there and Bruce listened carefully, occasionally asking questions of his own. He came to me and said, “So, are we both going to the distillery?”. Realizing that Nashville had a lot to offer for country music lovers and almost nothing for me, I agreed to make a detour to Lynchburg and visit the distillery.

Bruce walked me to my car and then I raced with his white Camaro all the way to Lynchburg. The freeway became smaller and smaller and finally turned into a small country road. Few miles down, there it was on the right side- the place where a well-loved whiskey is born. My brave little Camry was leading the race thus I had time to quickly change my coffee-stained shirt when I got there. I walked into the visitor center and soon Bruce got there too. He turned out to be some kind of salesman out of Seattle, I think… but was working in Tennessee. Bruce and I spent the day together in the distillery and honestly, I had fun. We talked about each other, JD, whiskey and how we ended up in Tennessee. I took a lot of pictures but Bruce refused to be in any of them. He took some for me. At the end of the trip, we parted…never to meet again.

I hadn’t planned to meet the lady in Birmingham. I wouldn’t have talked to her if she hadn’t. I wouldn’t have gone to Vulcan park if she hadn’t told me to. I hadn’t planned to be in Lynchburg that day. I didn’t even know there was a world famous distillery in Tennessee. I hadn’t expected to meet a 50-something dude and spend the day with him. My “creep alert” had gone up as soon as he had talked to me. I had much less expected to enjoy the day. But even today, when I think of them, I get happy and smile. The Alabama lady’s love of nursing inspires me to be a better nurse. Both Bruce  and the lady cross my mind every now and then and I can’t help but wonder if I ever cross their mind. Some acquaintances leave lasting memories.

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Waiting and/or forgetting.

When I first read Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”, I was touched. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which one to do is the worst kind of suffering.” Today, I was just sitting here and thinking (just sitting and thinking has to be a long time hobby of mine) and it suddenly occurred to me how much time we spend waiting or forgetting. Waiting for that text after a date, waiting to graduate, waiting for the right one, waiting for lunch, waiting to get off from work…that’s a lot of waiting. What about forgetting? More precisely, trying to forget. Trying to forget the lost love, a scary movie, sharp words, pile of dirty dishes, bills…lot of forgetting right there.

It is established that there is a lot of waiting and forgetting involved in this little gig we call life. So, what comes after all this waiting and forgetting? Coelho emphasizes the painful parts of both waiting and forgetting and more painful aspect of indecisiveness. Coelho has been one of my favorite authors (AEB me reading almost all of his books), and the mentioned quote has always touched me, specially in times when it has been painful to wait or to forget or not knowing which one to do, but today, it seems to me that there is another aspect of that quote. An aspect which took some “just sitting here and thinking”. Sure, waiting is painful- I can’t wait to travel the world, to run for an office, to graduate from nursing school, to go to places I’ve never heard of, to live a joyous and happy life. Forgetting is painful too- forgetting warm summer as winter approaches, forgetting long conversations with now estranged friends, forgetting home as you go out in the world to succeed. But the other aspect I have been talking about is a positive aspect associated with waiting and forgetting. All this painful waiting and forgetting is a pathway to getting to the destinations you can’t wait to get to. “Oh the places you’ll go.” Waiting and forgetting also imply patience, change and forgiveness. It takes a lot of patience to wait, and lot of forgiveness to forget, all while accepting a change.

I saw a statue called “Mental blocks” in Birmingham, Alabama. It was a big head made from blocks. It said, “Build the blocks to block your emotions and emotional trauma. Don’t build the blocks to block out growth and development”. I think the implied meaning of Coelho’s  quote is exactly the same thing: forget the emotional trauma no matter how painful it is and work towards growth and development no matter how difficult it is. I am awed by how a Portuguese author and Sue Ellen Brown, an artist from Alabama helped me understand the mechanism of waiting and forgetting. Here’s to painful waiting, forgetting or not knowing which one to do…all for the better.

“Mental Blocks” by Sue Ellen Brown at Health Sciences Museum, Birmingham, Alabama.