One of the things I feel driven to do, at work or at home, is render order from chaos until something deep within me answers “Yes, it is now good.” This is why I found myself, on a rare day off on the 4th of July, editing the duplicates out of my Gmail address book and adding my Apple contacts into that and eliminating the duplicates.
I love clean data. It allows you to have faith as you charge forth and generate charts for impatient bosses, or do hurried searches for your skin doctor, or look up the phone and address of your little brother who lives in Portland and is about to get married. Perhaps it is this imminent marriage of my 8-years-younger brother Alfredo which has me thinking in a mimsy way while editing my address book.
I love clean data and structure, but I also love the people whose names were flying by under my gaze. As I watched diligently for those names that were to go under the “Business” heading, I could not help but see the names of the people with whom I’d shared part of my life.
Start with those no longer with us, whose names I left in my address book for memory’s sake:
Louise Dale, mother, born in 1946, died in 2006 of cancer. Visionary, empath, kind soul to those who hurt and strive. Funeral included native American drumming and the presentation of an eagle feather to one undeserving daughter, the vicarious, accidental beneficiary of the joys of a life lived full of heart.
Jeanne Marcoux, grandmother, born in 1913, died in 2008 because she didn’t really want to outlive her daughter. Warned us for years that she would check out, and then did so after a nice breakfast in her favorite easy chair. Left me enough money to move my new family out of squalor and buy me an iPad which I stubbornly cling to, because it came from Grandma. Devotee to the digestive systems of all her daughters, granddaughter and grandson. Fudge and quilt maker extraordinaire. She did not understand her daughter’s death at age 60.
As I read and edited, I deleted the names of people whom I’d met a long time ago and, for whatever reason, with whom I had not kindled a friendship. It was with a sigh of regret for each person, though barely remembered. I knew I must have had at least one meaningful connection with them, to have put them in my address book. Like those unread books filling my bookshelves, I had hoped to eventually fill my days with their potential companionship. But now I know – time is limited and life is scant. Delete.
No one was deleted because I hate them now. That is no longer how I operate. Human beings are full of flaws and challenges. There is no room for contempt and no time for blocking out a potential meaningful contact.
Although I have plenty of confusion about the pain and sadness that still follows me, and bitterness does crop up, I am actively saying no to that way of thinking.
Reading through the names, I rekindled a profound sense of gratitude and warmth at some people who aren’t immediate family, but who nonetheless played an important role in my life. Here is a small sampling of a very large list of caring individuals:
The fellow editor from Tulsa who escaped to Florida after being a balm to my hurts as my mother slowly died. “That’s some shit,” she would say after listening. “Come over and I’ll get you drunk.”
The best, and longest-held friend I ever had, who I met when we were both age 4 (we are one month apart in age), who after so many twists and turns of our lives carried us along separate paths, showed up with her baby and husband at my mother’s funeral.
The fellow editor from Washington who I met at a scholarly society meeting, and who inspired me to understand what I needed now that my mother had died.
The cheery woman who greeted me in an online world where I was still a stranger and welcomed me with open arms, helping me understand how Second Life can embrace a lonely person.
The creative and welcoming man who encouraged others to play and create with him in Second Life, and who listened with genuine sympathy to my troubles.
The quirky boss I had at LexisNexus who taught me how to make a website show up higher in Google, and how to explain that to customers and negotiate in any situation.
The sweet young woman who I was friends with in junior college and who almost fell out of our friend’s truck when the door gave way unexpectedly, but without thinking I yanked her back in and shut the door.
A fellow college newspaper editor, a self-described hick who was funny and warm, who stood guard over me in the campus parking lot with a flashlight while I changed my car’s water pump (insisted on dong it myself, too, and he respected that).
The older couple I met at a small Quaker meeting, who did more to settle my heart and draw me into a new spiritual community than all the religious texts and other churches I had visited.
The Jewish friend who, with her lovely husband takes me to New York some Sundays, to visit museums and eat good food, or just to hang at her house and have inspired cheeses and wines and good conversations.
The kind doctor of physics who loves good beer as much as I do, played Dungeons & Dragons, and talks engagingly about science fiction.
Thank you all, and I hope you are part of my life for a long time to come.