I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reply, It's Not That Difficult

In my personal life, voluntary work, and professional life, the one thing for which I have no tolerance is the failure to respond.
It is a trait that symbolizes total disrespect.
Responding to people when they reach out to someone is important in every aspect of our lives. It shows respect, it shows appreciation, it shows professionalism.
In my business, when someone contacts me for a timing quote for their road race, I respond as quickly as possible. It is part of establishing myself as a professional and it shows to my prospect customers that I respect and appreciate their time. However, after I reply if they decide not to do business with me, I don’t hear back from them even after I follow up.
As a race director, I’m in contact with diverse sources. I reach out to vendors seeking to hire their services for one of my events.  Photographers, timers, DJ, volunteers, etc. In my experience, when they are not interested in working the event they do not get back to me with an answer.
The success of an event depends greatly on planning. I depend on these people, the vendors, and the volunteers to have a good race. When they are not going to be at the event, they don’t need to tell me why, all I need is the courtesy to let me know they will not do as requested so I can cross them off the list and pursue another alternative.
I make a point to always reply when the message is addressed to me, that excludes mass emails or spam, of course. I receive several quotes from timers, t-shirt stores, website designers. I thank them and let them know I already have someone lined up for the job. I give them the respect of an answer. I do the same in my personal life. I reply to my friends regardless of the nature of the message. I always reply. By doing so I let them know I appreciate their contact, and I appreciate them. I give them respect.
I give what I like to receive.
I answer emails, I reply to text messages, I call back, I show up when I’m invited. I treat others like I want to be treated. It’s not that difficult. It is doing exactly as I want done onto me.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Drifting Away. Is That What Friendship Is?

I saw her pass by my vehicle as I was parked waiting for a friend to go for our run. She waved effusively with a broad smile. It took me a minute to recognize her under her shades and hat, but a quick search in my memory bank reminded me of her. My friend! We had been such good friends a few years ago! “Had been” was the key word. We no longer were. Well, we had not stopped being friends, we had just stopped communicating.

I thought about stepping out of my car and following her to catch up on our lives, but what would I ask other than the simple pleasantries I’ve been known to avoid: “How are the kids? What are you training for? Where are you working?”
It was not worth the effort. Better yet it would not change anything other than give me a more recent picture of my friend.
I thought about the many friends that have passed by my life in the same manner. There have been no bitter break ups or fights, no bad memories of our times together to account for a separation, all the contrary I hold good memories of those days. Yet, somehow, we drifted apart.  Perhaps we served a purpose to each other while we were together. They needed someone to listen to them, to always reply to their messages, to always answer a call, and more than anything someone they could trust with their most intimate feelings and I…well, I needed to be needed.   On occasion, one of those many friends has been someone I trusted with my own intimate secrets but that was rare, yet special.
I often wonder if in becoming friends with someone when we are in need, and drifting away when we are not, we are not using a person for our own selfish purposes.
Or is that what most friendships are?
My perennial friends defeat that theory. They have been in my life for no other reason than to be and remain my friends simply because they want to. We have been friends when it has been fun, difficult, sad, boring, and anything in between, and yet we have never drifted apart. Not even a thought of it. We are friends. And maybe that’s what real friendship is. To be friends when there is no need, only the desire to be with someone for no reason other than we chose to be friends.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Run For The Real Reason

It was a long time before Celebrate Life Half Marathon gave out medals. For a while there didn’t seem to be a need, but as the race grew in popularity, so did the demand. Fifty Staters, Marathon Maniacs, and Half Fanatics began to see “bling” as a prerequisite for registration, as the medals that once were the exclusivity of full marathons became a feature in half marathons. After a discussion among the long- time collaborators, medals made their entrance to this race in 2015.

Despite the obligatory increase in price to accommodate the new expense, the addition was well received. After all, awarding medals was not a new thing. Boston Marathon has been giving medals to all finishers since their debut race in 1897.
The industry rapidly changed from medals for marathoners to medals for half marathoners, then for every distance, and to bigger and bigger medals, putting at stake the quality of a race based on the size and look of the hardware received. Some of the medals are so big that, let’s face it, they come with instructions on how to carry that much weight.
 I don’t dispute the symbolism of a medal that commemorates an accomplishment. A survivor medal to a person who faced cancer, a ribbon in a 5K to a person who lost a limb, that is a tangible reminder of a major goal achieved, and one to be proudly hung on a rack. A medal is also a souvenir, a reminder of a memorable event and the effort invested in a race regardless of the distance. Just ask a person who trained to run a hard mile and they’ll tell you they worked as hard as you did for your marathon. But I wonder if in all the demand for bling we are losing sight of the real feat: the glory of reaching a goal, of following a training, of toeing a start line and crossing a finish line. Are we belittling the joy of conquering our fears, facing our demons (I see plenty of them at mile 23, believe me) and neglecting to celebrate our accomplishments?
This new “must have” and everybody is a winner in this privileged society we live in, is making race directors scramble for ways to satisfy the hunger for bigger and better while increasing the price of registration to accommodate the somewhat unnecessary expense. And while we feed the demands of the privileged we increase their demands.
Take for instance the person who, instead of being grateful for lunch served after a race demands vegan or vegetarian dishes or the ones who return and demand an exchange of their SWAG because a small thread came loose. How many times we hear of people who complain of not getting something the race had even when it not included in the race entry? Are we signing to run a race or are we trying to score the best deal in meal and attire and while we are at it, can we take some of the left overs home?
It’s not an auction nor flea market. You signed up to run a race and if you are there to support a charity, then pay an entry fee that covers your expenses and if you can, donate a little more.
What if instead of asking “Are there medals for all finishers?” or “Will there be awards for my age group?” or “Are there awards for walkers?” that runners and walkers participate just for the mere joy of doing so and celebrate their triumphs even in the absence of the weight of a medal around their neck? Wouldn’t that be a goal worth pursuing? What a novelty that would be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Promise

There are moments that stay frozen in our minds whether they were of uplifting happiness or unprecedented misery.  They mark our lives and they are never forgotten.
I remember clearly, after hours of insults, walking into my mother’s bedroom and seeing her drunk husband sitting on the floor. I was 17 and my English still limited. In a firm voice I made a promise to him and to me, “I’ll raise above you. I’ll never let anything control me like it has you. I’ll never have an addiction.”
Months and years of hard work followed that day. I walked hours under the scalding sun of California to make it to a factory where I made cassettes 5 days a week and two days at the garage in the Ontario Airport. When those jobs didn’t have enough hours, I was a maid at a Motel 6 and I lasted a few months at a laundry mat where hot sheets fresh off the dryer burnt the tip of my fingers. Eventually I bought an old car and with two dollars gas a day, I made it to college in the evenings.
During those years there were times when I didn’t have enough to eat. Days when my menu was white rice with nothing else I could afford. I put back a .25 apple in the college cafeteria when I couldn’t pay for it.
But the difficult times didn’t dent my resolve. I never picked up a drug, and never smoked a joint.
Over the years I have enjoyed drinks, but I’ve made sure the drinks never enjoyed me and when a cup of coffee became too important, I made sure I skipped it a few days. Nothing, no substance will ever be a necessity in my life. Nothing will ever control me.
I have tried to help others overcome, but I can’t truly and honestly relate to them. I don’t know their struggle. I don’t know the demons that live within. I have only lived the horror of being around an addict. At times, I pity the mother who watches their kid succumb to an addiction. At times, I pity the addict and at times I am angry at both.
I sit on my porch sipping a glass of wine and I remember the dark days of my youth. I can still feel the fear, my heart beating fast to the sound of the voice of that drunk man. His tall figure balancing against the door. My mother crying yet always defending him. And I remember that promise:
“I’ll raise above you. I’ll never have an addiction.”

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

You, My Children

I often hold back from telling the world about you. There is really no need. The world doesn’t need me to tell them the person you became. The world is meeting, first hand, the human being you are. It does not need a preface.
You were born the same, yet you both have grown to be different. You have chosen to be unique. This is all your doing. I don’t take any credit for your goods. I do, however, own the bads that were the result of something I did or maybe didn’t do. I own that.
You’ve chosen to believe in fairness, love, and peace, in a world that constantly fights.
Race, skin color, gender, are not identifiers you ever remember or mention. I, at times, struggle to remember a friend to whom you are referring, only to finally ask “was that the Chinese kid?” and you, rightfully look at me confused. Why would that one characteristic make me remember a person and not all the others you’ve provided? Such is the world in which I
grew up, my children.

Sexual orientation in others does not change the way you view them and you are perplexed when it makes a difference in the way people are treated. You only know how to treat with respect and it flabbergasts you when that is not the norm.
You stand your grounds and you are strong in your believes, yet tolerant when a dissenting opinion is offered.
You are righteous and fair.
You are good hearted, and kind, and give more than you receive. You don’t recognize it when someone takes advantage of you because you have never cultivated that feeling in your heart.
You hurt when I am not treated fairly based on how I sound or simply on who I am not, but you hold my hand and smile knowing that is merely an isolated incident and not a rule.
You look at me for an answer when a decision based on misogamy confuses you, and I want so much to tell you that what you are seeing is not the world in which we live, but I don’t find the words to tell you it is.
I want to tell you there will be jobs you’ll leave in spite of the pay you get when you can’t accept the advances of the boss, or when your work is disparaged based on nepotism or some other attribute more desired than your knowledge.
You are confident and trustful and I know you will always be like that despite of how many times you will be disappointed. And I know those experiences won’t harden you because trust is an innate quality that we have or not, and you, my children, have an abundance of it.
You have faith and you believe in God or in a “something” that is greater than you, and that faith will, as it has me, carry you through the difficult times life will present. Of that, if nothing more, I can assure you.
You have yet to figure out the value of money. You give away $100 to a person in need with the same effervescence that you receive a dollar.
And you have not found out yet that you cannot change the world and I hope you never stop trying because knowing you, one day you will.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Laughter, Best Medicine?

Self effacing has been my preferred form of humor since my early years. I found out how effective it was when it helped me avoid the bullying of my classmates.
I quickly realized the bullies enjoyed it when the victim was visibly upset. In fact, they would increase their tormenting jokes, but they would let up if there was no reaction or if the targeted person enjoyed the pranks as I did. I became good at laughing at myself before they could. I became my own best bully. Eventually they stopped the teasing and accepted me and even made me their friend.
The insecurity of my early years carried into adulthood and so did my self effacing. Making fun of myself gave me the chance to laugh at me before anyone else could. It protected me. More importantly, by laughing at myself, I was able to laugh with others.
Laugh with others, that’s the key word.

I do not laugh at others.
Simply put I know what it feels like to be embarrassed in public.
Here is the difference; I laugh when my friends joke about their weight, but I never make a fat joke. They are the masters of their own humor when it comes to their body. They own the right to make fun of it. I do not.
Social media has provided an arena for those of us who enjoy self effacing, but simultaneously, it has also become a forum for hurtful, humiliating, and embarrassing comments that can be funny on a one on one setting, but not in a public site.
While I am good at my “own people’s” comments, my accent is the target of many unwanted and unsolicited jokes.
Recently while talking to a friend, the lady sitting with him repeated most of my sentences and followed it with a hard laugh. Twice I expanded on what I had said thinking perhaps it needed explaining. Finally, I asked “do you feel the same?” She replied with a laugh, “no, it’s just the way you say it”. If the woman thinks that kind of mockery is funny, she is sadly mistaken.
Humor serves many functions. It can serve as a pleasant exchange. It can ease the tension in a conversation, but there is a fine line that should not be crossed in humor or we’ll end up embarrassing or offending someone.
The world is a better place when we laugh with someone. But if you must laugh at someone, let that person be yourself.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Be Like A Mirror

In between warm hellos, hugs, and light conversation at a local race, an acquaintance approached me. “I just want to tell you how mad I was when I read the Facebook post (blank) wrote about you. It was so wrong” she added. I blinked twice, shook my head and asked “I’m sorry, what?” Oh, I thought you knew. There was this post…and then…” I wasn’t following anymore. “Such angry person” she said as she ended her monologue.
“They are free to post anything.” I said. Another person approached me and I excused myself from that conversation.
The brief encounter resembled a yahoo chat group years ago where people engaged in angry confrontations and accusations about the senior management of the company we worked for. At times I would run into a person who had been the latest target of one of the insults and I would offer my sympathy. Little did I know then that any words of consolation meant nothing as long as I kept paying attention to the group chat. As long as I was a captive audience, the offenders were getting their way. It would be a while before we all caught on, stopped reading, and the chat died.
When I was little I used to watch the Kung Fu TV Series. How could I not? It was the only show in one of the three channels we had. In one episode David Carradine had visited a cursed town. A witch or medicine man (I can’t remember that far back!) had seized a town under their spell. They terrorized the residents of that area and had erected a cross on the ground convincing everyone around that whoever was touched by the shadow of the cross as the sun set, would be cursed and perish.
Carradine listened to the fear of the habitants. Asking to be taken to the forbidden place, he sat in front of it and waited for the shadow to cover him. His message was simple as he remembered the teachings of his master. “Be like the mirror that does not get burnt by the candle, instead reflects back its light”. By not believing in the power of the shadow, he was not touched by its curse. It can only hurt you when it’s given power by thoughts and beliefs.
So, I don’t pay attention. I don’t think of people whose existence I’ve forgotten, but I must ask as I laugh when someone brings up a similar incident:
“Oh, come on! Still? What the hell is wrong? Get a life and move on!!!”
No one cares. I certainly don’t.