Your stupid life

September 27, 2012 § 36 Comments

Me: “I’m just not very introspective.”

Friend: “But you seem to write a lot about your life.”

Me: “That’s not introspection. It’s narcissism.”

One afternoon at the Coffee Bean and Gossip Leaf

I had stumbled in, mid-morning, to get a big black triple shot of get-me-through-this-fucking-day. The nice girl poured my coffee and I sat down at the giant wooden table they’ve recently put in to make the nationwide franchise look more like an indie coffee shop. I stared at the coffee in the big ceramic mug and remarked at how sad and lonely it looked, topped off as it was with non-fat milk (an oxymoron) rather than with the gooey, fat-studded chunks of heavy cream that, like pink unicorns, populate my dreams nowadays.

Two very pretty women sat down at the far end of the table. One of them was troubled. They glanced at me to make sure I was minding my own business, which made me stare even more listlessly at my coffee and listen with all my might.

The pretty blonde asked her friend, “So what’s on your agenda today, Janey?”

The pretty brunette answered, her face contorted in pain. “The usual stuff. Laundry. Gonna meet this afternoon with the girls from book club. Then fix dinner. Check the kids’ homework. Listen to Brian complain about his job. It’s all so stupid. God, my life is so stupid, Anne. It’s so stupid.”

Anne reached across the table and grabbed her friend’s hand. “It’s not stupid. Why’s it stupid?”

Janey didn’t say it, but a huge wave of my-life-is-passing-me-by swept over the table. “All these things, what’s the point? I’m just taking up hours in the day. It’s all so pointless. And stupid.” She was crying now.

“It’s not stupid!” the other woman answered, and she spoke with the warmth and passion of a friend. “Janey, think of all the people who love you. Think of all the people for whom you’re a ray of happiness and light! Think of your kids who love you and to whom you’re the world, Janey. That’s not stupid! That’s as far away from stupid as life gets.”

Janey was crying so hard that her shoulders shook.

I gripped my coffee cup tightly, feeling it burn my palms as I tried to keep looking listless. But what I really wanted to do was jump up and give that crying lady a hug and say, “It’s not stupid! Listen to your friend. If your life is stupid then all of our lives are stupid. There aren’t any stupid lives, Janey, only people who don’t have someone sitting next to them when they need it most to remind them that it’s not stupid, that their lives have meaning and are important even if they don’t feel it at that very second!”

My hands were trembling from the pain of the hot coffee, and from Janey’s pain, too, I guess. I’m kind of a pain conductor that way. I was frozen with fear for this nice young lady and her sadness. I wanted to say to her, “Janey, my brother thought his life was stupid, too, but after he took it, it just proved how stupid his life really wasn’t. We’re destined never to see who and how and why we are what we are, but don’t mistake that for a stupid life. Please, please, don’t.”

I was sweating now, and took a bored sip of coffee.

The two friends had stopped talking. Janey had stopped crying, and the other woman was saying something that made her smile. It was a beautiful smile, and as the corners of her mouth turned up, her eyes crinkled. She had the prettiest eyes I’d ever seen. I couldn’t hear what they were saying any more; the sounds inside my own head had drowned out everything else.

Suddenly, I had to go, and couldn’t even finish the coffee. I would have hugged her if I’d dared, and thanked her, and told her that she’d helped a stranger, a stranger who loved her anyway.

§ 36 Responses to Your stupid life

  • Barbara Radnofsky says:

    That’s not narcissism. That’s introspection. And, your best, most generous writing.

  • dbjones says:

    I live and ride in Kalamazoo, MI. Never been to the South Bay and know none of the people you write about. I read your work daily just because it is so well written. Your ability to capture the dynamics of cycling in words is great. Today you moved beyond cycling to life itself and what makes us humans. Thanks.

  • Wank: Serious writing? I loved it. Nice change-up. Very poignant and helpful for so many of us.

    • Admin says:

      I spend most of my waking hours trying to avoid the serious, but it sometimes creeps in around the edges…thanks for the props.

  • Erica says:

    I am a new reader… Some nice cyclists I met on the bike path (!) told me about your blog. I really liked this post too. I think we all struggle with things like this. I actually struggled a lot more until I started cycling every other day or so.

    • Admin says:

      Thanks for the nice words. Cycling is, without question, therapeutic. It’s the antidote to more poisons than just inactivity.

  • A-Trav says:

    Kind of hurts and feels good at the same time, don’t it? That’s the humanity coming out of you. You’re a good egg.

  • JP says:

    Right place at the right time. Nicely written.

    Good ride this morning WM.

  • New Girl says:

  • Seattle weenie. says:

    I 2nd all that dbjones said. Always great relevant writing. Sometimes it even helps me go faster; Sometimes it makes me pass out. (breathe through your nose!??)

    • Admin says:

      Whoa! The nose breathing thing is working out great for me. You just have to get used to it, and know when to shift to half-half and then full mouth. Note to new readers: This isn’t a sex manual.

  • Andrew C. says:

    Thanks for this one…

  • Rev says:

    “but after he took it, it just proved how stupid his life really wasn’t.” That’s one of the most poignant things I’ve ever read.

  • Jk says:

    Sitting in a lonely hotel room after a way too long work day and a boring 3 weeks off the bike due to injury, this story instantly made my day through the powers of perspective. Better yet, had me thinking of home. That national chain tends to be my first stop when I get into town and my last stop out. Thanks for the read!

  • cmparrish says:

    WOW – WM – Shit! This one really touched me too.
    “We’re destined never to see who and how and why we are what we are, but don’t mistake that for a stupid life. Please, please, don’t.”

    I may frame this – I wonder daily why I am here, and battle myself while feeling I am not good enough. I am usually feeling like I am not “good enough” for anybody, mostly myself.
    Last week I was really thinking my time here and my life is useless and a waste, lonely – bla, bla – Feelings suck ! Which is why, I guess, I had to drown them in some nasty substance to blot out and forget how much I don’t like myself for most of my life. You are a “good egg” and you seem to remind me that I am a “good egg” too – I am tired of worrying my life away, and cycling seems to be the only magic I have found to remind me that I am not here to waste my time worrying about what people think of me. I guess it does not matter who or why I am here, but what i do every day to be the best I can in whatever capacity does matter to me. So I have a mountain to climb fast tomorrow, up hill, while breathing through my nose, on a strong coffee breakfast !!! – and I better get some pink unicorn socks to make me FLY faster, while I am at it!

    Seems your brother is talking to you. Thanks for making my Friday, again – shit, it’s not Friday, ti’s Thursday? – crap, I will just read this again tomorrow night –

    You touch a lot of people. if we are not laughing, we are crying or ‘thinking’

    • Admin says:

      Drown them in a nasty substance? You need to quit drinking decaf. That’s just wrong.

      One of my college history professors, Dr. George Forgie, used to describe the difficulty with studying history like this: History is like a mountain. When you’re up close to it you can see all the detail, but you can’t see how it fits into the landscape. When you’re far away you can see its significance, but you can’t see the details that make it up.

      I’ve often thought that our lives are exactly like that. We’re the ones living the life, so we can’t see beyond our noses, and sometimes not even that far, but we can be uniquely in touch with the things that make us “us.” How we fit in, or what we mean, is for others to figure out.

      Best of all, maybe, is a quote from Jerry Garcia when someone asked him what the lyrics in one of his songs meant. “Whatever you want it to mean.”

      Nice answer, and apropos…

  • Albert Lagunas says:

    Seth, Bill Strickland would be proud. And, I mean that as a compliment.

  • Quite, quite beautiful. Seriously.

    (Now man the fuck up and get back on your bike!) :0)

  • Ralph Hartman says:

    I’ve often wondered if all of us have those feelings or are there some folks that just can blast through life without doubts or feelings of inadequacy. There’s a reason why I don’t own a firearm and ride a bike.

    Thanks for the story.

  • Jody Prummer says:

    Very amazing post.

  • I think this post will be one that I reread from time to time. Thanks for sharing and the perspective – we all need reminders.

    • Admin says:

      Yep. I spend so much time in love with my own wonderfulness that it’s to forget how much I’m hated. Denial is my happy place, punctuated only by death and the rantings of people like Cher. She’s no exception or outlier, either. People just want us dead. Like people in Texas used to say, “Killing’s too good for ’em.”

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