Friday, June 13, 2008

Calling:Hot Chocolate

As you well know, I am frustrated by my job. It really doesn't matter when you are talking to me or if you last heard from me 8 years ago. Regardless of when we last had a chat, I was/am not altogether thrilled by the things I do to bring in money. I am tempted to make jokes about that last statement, but I'm going to be very mature and keep on with my very important, life-changing blog.

Every few months (days), I have the same argument with my spouse. I tell him that I conduct a worthless existence between the hours of (fill in the blank of my current work schedule). He says that of course it isn't worthless; I am making money that allows Sabra to have the staples of diapers, chocolate milk, and the latest innovation in eczema care. And while I can concede to this idea, I am arguing a much larger point.

I read a bit in a magazine once about a study that was conducted by some group of smart people with nothing better to do. The smart people paid twenty dollars an hour to each college graduate who was desperate enough to be in this special study. The graduates would work eight hour days doing nothing more than moving a pile of dirt from one spot to another. With shovels, they spent their day picking up a pile of earth and transporting that earth a distance of ten feet. When the mound of dirt was completely shifted, the process would begin again. The study was to continue for as long as the employees wished to remain.

It wasn't long before every single one of these 'employee-human-lab-rats' gave up this job to go work for much lower wages doing something, anything that was more meaningful than playing with dirt.

And this is the story, now probably much altered, that I tell Austin through my tears and clenched fists.

"I'm not looking to change the world!" I say, lower lip trembling. "I just want to DO something! Something that matters....something that actually helps people or at least is FUN!"

One time, trying to be nice, Austin told me that I am being helpful when I make someone their coffee and remember to make it just how they like, with two ristretto shots and a packet of raw sugar on top of the breve foam.

And while working in coffee often was fun, this really wasn't the answer I was looking for.

I've often wondered why in the name of everything sane I am banished from important work, work that satisfies and nourishes, work that is cutting edge and trendy, or work that is calming and curing.

My list of jobs in the ten years I have been allowed to legally work have been:

Nanny - two horrible little brats who locked me out of the house on the first day. Yikes.
Barista- too many different cafes to name...but in all, a pretty good experience. Besides the whole getting up at 4:30 a.m. bit
Receptionist - I also like to call this 'Office Rat' because it covers all of the non-desirable functions that must be completed in an office. This can range from phone answering to event planning to head lice checker (at a school, natch). Ahhh. Office Rats are very multi-talented.
Bookstore Clerk - What should have been a nice experience was horrific because for some reason that I cannot now recall, I worked in a Christian bookstore. You can guess how well I did in that environment.
Retail - I was pretty good when I felt like it, which sadly wasn't all that often. I started to not care about helping Little Ms. Green Hills find the perfect pair of socks to match her baby's going home pashmina outfit.
Truck Unloader - Yes, I did. They even let me use those sharp slidey blade things. I only cut myself a few times.

That covers the majority of jobs, and I've cycled through some of those more than once.

I know that somebody has to do those jobs, because those jobs just have to be done, right? I won't underestimate how important answering this phone is, because if I walk down the hall to go to the bathroom, someone will no doubt walk in and be very mad that the desk is vacant. That means I'm essential to this organization, right?!

I know that as children and even through high school, we have these lofty dreams of saving the world or entertaining the world or teaching the world. And then out of necessity we get jobs at a fast food restaurant or unloading a truck, and several years later wonder when the world-saving is going to happen.

If I had my choice, I would be at least cleaning up my house and teaching Moira how to tie her shoelaces rather than sitting in an empty office on an empty Friday, waiting for the clock to hit 4:47. I mean....5:00. I always wait until 5:00 on the dot.

Before you think I'm having a pathetic cyber-pityparty, I'll lead you to my recent sentimental findings.

As I've fussed and fretted my way through this week, I keep coming back to a comment that someone once made about me. It was one of the nicest complements I have ever received. And it came won't believe it.....

The compliment was given to me by my mother-in-law.

Several years ago, my husband's family was going through a bit of a rough patch. I had been part of the Cagle family for about seven minutes. I didn't know the 'ins and outs' of the family dynamics yet, and I certainly didn't know my place. They were happy to point out the was at the end of the table. Hahaha. But seriously...

I wanted to help everybody, wanted to be part of what was going on so that I could march in, torch blazing, and proclaim that I had found the way in the dark night...all would be well....we're not going down, not on my watch.....(yes, I am seriously that dorky).

Sometimes I wasn't really 'welcome' into the family conversations. Not because they didn't want me, but because everything was new and I was too embarrassed to flat out ask if I could sit in and listen.

One of these times, I was left in the kitchen for a good two hours. I ranged everything from sympathy to anger to boredom to indifference. And then I wanted to help again. My love language is gift giving. If I had a billion dollars, I would go on a fabulous vacation (or few) and then spend the rest on everyone I know. I would pay off debt, fix the air in your car, buy you those coveted Minolo pumps, give you a day of relaxation, and pay for your summer childcare. I adore buying presents, even down to buying groceries. Whatever will make you smile, bring you relief or laughter...I want to buy it!

As wallets do not always allow for extravagance, sometimes I have to be creative.

That one day, standing in the kitchen, I thought about buying some flowers or maybe tickets for us all to see a funny movie. Or...could I offer to clean? Ew, no...hate cleaning.

I settled on some hot chocolate. I personally really love my homemade hot cocoa. It is winter and holidays and cold days and sweatpants and twinkling lights on trees and love in a cup.

I made a batch, served up a few steaming mugs, and took a tray to the living room. The family members blinked, perhaps forgetting that I had been in the kitchen. I handed out my mug magnificence and went back to my perch by the breakfast nook.

I felt better. Not because I had helped, but because I just did something. I busied my hands and my mind, and to be cheesy, my heart. It wasn't much, and I'm not sure if I did it as much for them as for myself. I needed to know that I could help, even if I was only helping with the refreshments.

A few years later, my mother-in-law was speaking in front of a large group of people. She was talking about walking through life's rough spots and making it through to the other side. I was listening, of course. But my ears perked up when she said "my daughter-in-law..."

I started, tensed in my seat, waiting for something bad. I tried to remember all the naughty things I had ever done or said in front of my MIL. I could not imagine what she was going to tell on me for.

And then came that compliment, the nice thing that I chew on every once in awhile.

She said that sometimes people just need a small bit of kindness. Yes, we need prayers and staying up late and talking. Sometimes praying and talking are the acts of kindness. On that day, the bit of kindness came in the form of my future prize winning cocoa.

It stuck out in her mind as something nice I did for her, an act of thoughtfulness that meant something. She didn't say that I changed the course of her life or even the course of her week. But she recognized that I had done something nice, something I didn't have to do. Just because I wanted to, just because I know the prefect ratio of cinnamon and vanilla.

I'm grasping at straws here, I know. But what I've been thinking this week is that if a cup of chocolate made a small difference in someone's day, perhaps the nannying and the phone answering and even the Christian book selling will have one day made a difference. I'm not sure to whom or if it will be anything worth blogging about. But sometimes I've got to have a reason to keep mucking through the monotony of my underling job.

The older I get (I'm very old and wise, I'll have you know) the more unsure I am about what is going on and what is coming next. Assuring, isn't it?

I just mean that I've already seen that our best-laid plans don't always come out right, and that the only thing to do is hang on tight and do the best you can with whatever you have.

Right now I have a keyboard, and a most-of-the-time functional computer monitor. So I'm brightening up my own day by having this little chat with you lovely people. And the fact that you read, and sometimes comment, changes my day.

So thanks for listening. Cheers to you. I raise my mug of frothy, is waaaay too hot for that. I raise my glass of frosty, umbrella adorned.......

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