Not fishing related…but then, not everything in my life is….
There are moments that are so vivid in my mind, memories that I can replay with such clarity; moments, people I meet, feelings of sadness or pleasure. These are events that are so minor they would go unnoticed were it a movie playing out in front of you, but somehow had a dramatic impact on my life. I know some will call it chance, some fate, some coincidence….some God….some explanations I wouldn’t even know how to explain. But I live my life in such a way that I believe this world will care for us in its way, in its time, giving us what we need – so call it whatever gives you comfort.
One of those events was a random stranger walking into an elevator at a Holiday Inn on Panama City Beach in Florida.
My daughter and I had left Clarksville to go off for a couple of days. With only enough clothes for an overnight trip, but she started asking to go to the beach. It was spring break, she was eight, we had no reservations or plans….and I knew the beach was the last place I needed to be for spring break….the absolutely worst place….but her mother was moving out, my life was whirling (what at the time seemed to be) out of control…so we headed south. And it was a bad plan for so many reasons, but we had a blast in spite of it all.
Anyway….one afternoon we were leaving the pool – it got a bit rowdy around five each day, too much happening for an eight year old – and walked to the elevator. The door opened, we walked in. As the door was about to close, a lady rushed in and stood across from us. She smiled at us both, I smiled back and noticed a book she was holding.
Again, y’all can call it whatever, your path is your choice, but I can even see it today….the title and author just visible over the towel…the cover at that time red in color…the image is still as if it just happened. Then one floor away, she smiled again and left the elevator.
We went on about our trip, made it home…divorce began….hurt came, anger followed…anger, more anger….and sadness….then more anger. I was on the verge of falling back in to the addictions that consumed my life, craving coke and meth, feeling that a healthy combination of valium/vicodin/muscle relaxers I had just won the battle against might be the answer to stop the pain…falling apart…literally trying to hold it together for my little girl; for myself. I was not ok. Not even close.
Then, cannot remember why, I was in a bookstore…not really a normal place to find me during that part of my life….and there it was on the shelf. The red book that had been peeking out from the towel just below her smile….I knew it as if I had owned it my whole life…Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh. I had no idea what it was about, why it stuck with me or anything. I picked it up, half looked at it, then bought it.
I am not going to pretend that I subscribe to all that was written in it. Not going to pretend to be a Buddhist. Not going to do anything other than let you know; the book set me on a journey of exploration that changed my course and helped me to change who I was, before I was me. It (and the other books I read by this monk) allowed me to formulate how I approach each day. I found ways to deal with anger that had permeated my existence; anger that hurt myself and my relationships. Anger that had been exposed by the events that led to that trip. I realized the hurt I had caused….man, I could go on and on…but the real reason I am writing here in the middle of the night is because today the world lost that monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.
I usually am not emotional about news, or the passing of those not in my daily circle…Hell, Joy would probably tell you I am not really sensitive about much at all…but this Buddhist monk’s words so formed how I pass through each day that I felt a need to let this out. To share with hope that maybe someone else might pick up that book and find some peace. I mean just yesterday, before I learned of his passing…I shared a simple phrase that helps me too often with someone who was having a bad moment.
“Breathe Out Smiling”.
To very loosely (and probably poorly) paraphrase a wise man’s words…. When shit is hitting the fan and control is slipping…close your eyes for a second…take a deep breath…and then let it out slowly with a smile on your face.
First time I did it…I laughed out loud in a meeting because I felt so stupid…and people thought I had lost it…but the reality is I had found a way to be ok. And today I am still closer to ok than I was then…and I am working to be more ok for tomorrow.
So….this world gave me what I needed…and I am thankful that our paths crossed due to an elevator trip with a (random?????) stranger….though we never met, I am thankful for you sir.