The wisdom of a driver named Minnie

I heard her pleasant good evening, how are you all tonight? as I ducked my head into her Chevy Cruze, barely making out her profile in the driver’s seat, that five o’clock view you get of most Uber drivers’ faces. Minnie was our ride from the hotel to a Latin restaurant a few miles away, our short connection a happenstance of supply and demand at the right time, right place. Her voice was as pleasant as the smile that graced the corner of her mouth and her personality filled the car with joy.

Our trip didn’t last more than a few minutes, but we learned that Minnie was born in rural Northern Arkansas, not far from Memphis. She’d spent years in Detroit but moved to Louisville for a new start away from a once vibrant Motor City.

I was there when our mayor smoked crack, she noted.

Ah, good old Marion Barry, I chuckled.

She was quick to defend her former home and her family members that still live there. They’re doing a lot better now. 

She told us about her mother who’d recently passed — the glue of their family, the reason for all coming together on a regular basis. Her family was a United NationsWe had blacks, and Asians, and Caucasians, and Puerto Ricans. And we all came together. She worried that they’d drift apart now that their matriarch was gone.

As we approached our destination One of us commented how upside-down the world seems right now. Minnie paused, and said matter-of-factly, We just need a little more love. Love is easy. It takes effort to hate. 

Her words bounced around in my mind and heart as we stepped out of the car and wished her a wonderful evening.

Love is easy. It takes effort to hate. 

 

 

 

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An Indelible Reminder

tattooI’ve spent much of my life, the last decade in particular, trying on different skins, looking for the one that felt right. I was searching for the man I wanted and needed to be.

I wanted to both feel right and be in the right.

There are times when I’ve craved a blank slate, a new canvas on which to start over. Blank slates, though, are fallacies. Impossibilities. Figments of our imagination. Our history can’t be rewritten or erased. It’s what lies under our skin.

I thought I was looking for the right skin. Continue reading →

On the Other Side

I set out to kill my optimist this time last year.

I proclaimed that replacing him with my realist would help me deal more evenly with life’s failures and disappointments. I told myself that my realist would help me accept life as it is, rather than always striving for something better. I tried to run my optimist through the ringer. Life, at times, enthusiastically tried to participate in his demise.

There was one problem.

I’m an optimist. I’m a believer that I can create better versions of myself through intentional choice. If there’s something at my core, it is this belief. Continue reading →

Allowing the Present to Arrive

My Monday commute started 300 miles from my office, long before the Eastern horizon even hinted at dawn. I saw flashes of lightning silhouetting clouds in the darkness, soon followed by sheets of rain that provided ample volume for the semis to spray on the windshield. In between the swoosh of wipers, I tried to keep my focus on the newly painted lane markings along the always-under-construction I-70 West — my road most traveled between Ohio and Illinois — but my mind kept wandering to seven words from Friday night’s Shabbat service.

We need to learn to forgive ourselves.

It was my first Shabbat service ever. As a recovering Catholic who has been non-practicing and essentially agnostic for more than half of my 45 years, the simple act of being inside any religious building is surreal. But I proudly sat next to my girlfriend at the official start to the weekend’s celebration of her daughter becoming a Bat Mitzvah, an adult in the eyes of her Jewish community.

Near the end of the service, congregant and community notable Artie Issac was invited to give a guest sermon as the Jewish calendar approaches Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. He rambled delightfully among several philosophical themes but ended with a reminder.

We need to learn to forgive ourselves.

By the time I reached the halfway point of this morning’s commute, the rain stopped but clouds still covered the sky to the horizon. The weather forecast promised cooler temperatures, but the heavy overcast was a pall over my hope for a beautiful fall day. We were a few days past the equinox, but yet to be blessed with that first really crisp, cool, and crystal sky day.

My mind still tossed around Artie’s words.

We need to learn to forgive ourselves.

I just got divorced two weeks ago. Well, I moved out of the house we shared more than two years ago, but a family court judge — deliberating his last docket before retirement — pronounced my divorce official just two weeks ago. Our marriage was effectively over the day I moved out, but I still feel the weight of its failure — my failure, our failure.

Artie’s words made me think of the relative power of Catholic versus Jewish guilt, and the endless debate over which is more severe.  Regardless of the winner (loser?), nothing is heavier than guilt. It was there when it was clear my marriage of nearly 20 years was ending. It was there the day we told our son. The day I started packing boxes. The day I first turned the key to my new apartment home.

And it was there two weeks ago, when the judge wished us good luck after declaring our divorce final.

I can run in selfish, justifying circles of logic to describe why our marriage failed, but there is no escaping my personal failure. I failed to be the person and husband I promised to be. I failed to work hard. I failed to turn right when I should have turned left. I failed to care enough. It may not have been my failure alone, but it was still my failure.

There is nothing I can do to change my failure. I can learn from it. I can be kind, patient, and understanding as the best co-parent possible for our son. But I can’t change my failure.

As I approached the Illinois border along I-74, blue sky appeared on the horizon. I could see the trailing edge of the storm front, but couldn’t judge its distance from me.

We need to learn to forgive ourselves.

I think I was destined to sit in that chapel to hear Artie’s words about self-atonement. I’ve been waiting for the world to absolve me of my transgressions. Perhaps the world has moved on to more important things, and I’m the one who needs to stop waiting for its forgiveness.

My late friend Laura once told me put down the 2×4. I think she was saying the same thing as Artie.

We need to learn to forgive ourselves.

 

skyfront

I arrived home and stepped out on my balcony for a moment. The edge of the clouds dissipated directly above me into the clearest blue sky.

What’s done is done. What’s past is past. No amount of self-flagellation will resolve it, and simply allows the past to control the present. Forgiveness from the world, from others, may arrive and we should welcome it if it does.

But I think I know what Artie was saying now. Until we learn to forgive ourselves, we don’t allow the present to arrive.