During the most painful moments of my divorce process - I'm talking the most acute part of it - my brother, Stuart, turned me on to a book. I wasn't all that into reading self-help type books. I mean, I'd read them, but the info usually bounced off my brain cells; little of that stuff stuck with me. Still, during that particular time, I was open to anything that might soothe the soul so I scribbled down the title, picked it up a few days later and settled in for the read, figuring, "Why not?"
Who knows why certain things affect us, when they affect us? I've always believed that painful times are often the doorways to some of the most productive learning we'll ever accomplish in our lives. This was one example of that concept in action.
When I started writing this post, I honestly couldn't have told you the name of the book I'm talking about. I mean, you would think that something that reached me the way it did, something that soothed me the way it did, you'd think I would've remembered the title, right? Well ... I'm sorry to say, I still don't know the name of the book. I've Googled and Yahoo'd my fingers off and can't seem to find the right combination of search terms yet. When I figure out the title, I'll pass along the info.
Anyway, I'm not going to get into a long discussion about the entire book here, since I've already drifted pretty far from why I wanted to write today anyway. Suffice it to say that one of the main (if not the main) thrust(s) of the book is the notion that every single person who comes into our life, any any given time, for any given length of time - that person has come into our life for a reason. Good, bad, neutral, happy, sad, angry, tragic ... whatever the experience ends up being, there is reason that person drifted into our life, when they drifted into our life. I think the book went so far as to suggest a very creative concept, something having to do with "contracts." The idea is that there is some great, endless depository of contract-like scrolls where all of these "life intersections" are documented. I pictured a kind of giant - giant's not the word, more like an infinitesimal card catalog, perhaps organized according to the Dewey Decimal System? - where these relationships are tracked. And when we meet these people, there is a definite term/duration to the relationship, certain parameters, each party has certain performance obligations, etc... - just a like a real contract. Sometimes the term can be very long - e.g. life partners. I see some of the couples I've interviewed for Eldercation - we're talking marriages in the 50+ range, some reaching as long as 70+ years. Incredible and quite the contract, I'd say. At other times, the agreement is for only a few years. Sometimes, it can even be a matter of a few minutes, perhaps a chance car crash or an altercation with someone while on line at the market or airport - those are all examples of these relationships being set up ahead of time, according to what these contracts set forth.
Wacky, perhaps. But I have to say, this book and the way the author told the story using this concept, it really took me in and provided me with a sense of peace when I needed it most, giving me a kind of structure to help me make some sense of how my marriage dissolved the way it did. It helped me make some inroads as to the "why" of the whole thing when I pretty much knew that the "why" element of it would, most likely, never be answered. And I ended up being okay with that.
Garlic - Okay, so here's something that made me laugh out loud in the car the other day. Several weeks ago, I met a very nice woman. It happened one night while I was attending a CD release party for a friend's friend at a local jazz club here in Kansas City; a very nice evening and party, by the way. And so, I met this woman; very pretty, very tall, very personable and downright nice. I was actually on my way out the door to leave when I met a friend coming through the door and she was with this woman. And (snap!) just like that - I made a u-turn and decided to hang on for a bit longer. Of course, a bit longer ended up becoming three hours because, once I connected with this woman, I chose to stay and hang out with her. We talked for the next three hours almost non-stop and I had a truly nice time. That, alone, stirred something inside me which I hadn't even come close to feeling in a long time - a nice reassurance that that particular mechanism is still very much alive and kicking inside me. Not that I ever truly believed it was gone for good, but, you know ... So, by the time the three hours were up, it was pretty much just assumed that this woman and I were going to go out, which we did ... the very next night. We ended up having dinner then going for drinks and talked well into the early morning hours.
Now to the universal contract theme: I turned out that this woman - we'll call her Susan - is a caterer and knows her way around a kitchen, to be sure. So I've been cooking a lot over past few months as part of my healthier diet transformation and, one night, I made dinner for Susan and the conversation turned to one of my favorite foods - garlic. I use garlic a lot, in just about anything I cook. And when I use it, I simply mince it myself. It's not a big deal, usually taking just a few minutes to peel and cut up a few cloves, then into the pan with a little oil and ... I'm on my way.
"Don't you use a garlic press?" Susan asked.
I laughed, telling her, "No," explaining that since I moved to Kansas City, I've chosen to buy only essential gear and the garlic press, while cheap, certainly wasn't something I would call essential. Having said that, a quick mini-lecture by Susan, telling me about how the press takes the entire garlic experience to another level, served to capture my attention; She really seemed to know what she was talking about and explained how using a press does something extra; something to do with the extraction of the juices which simple cutting alone doesn't provide.
Anyway - that was that. Susan and I don't see one another any more, for whatever reason. Honestly, it wasn't all that disappointing in the end. As I said, I was actually pretty pleased that I even got excited about meeting someone. That door appears to be open again.
A Whole New World - While in Target a few weeks ago, while walking through the kitchen gadget section, you know it - I snagged a garlic press - remnants of the Susan experience. And I put it to use that very night in a nice stir-fry dish I enjoy. And guess what - she was right - a different level. A genuinely noticeable difference which seemed to explode with flavor. I'm sure the folks at my office appreciate it now that I've learned how to properly cook with the press, not to mention the people in my Bikram yoga class.
All kidding aside, while cooking dinner the other night, I chuckled to myself, first thinking about the brief encounter with Susan and then, for whatever reason, thinking about the aforementioned (still untitled) special book.
"Could it be!?" I laughed hard. "Is that the reason Susan and I met? Is that the reason our paths crossed as I was walking out of the Jardine's party?"
It's wild, I know. But I wonder about that kind of thing, I really do. If there is some kind of universal source energy thing at work here, I would love to see the terms and conditions of that particular document. With the names of the parties listed at the top, the agreement might start with something like this:
WHEREAS this man has been using a particular vegetable in an inappropriate manner and can use some help in that area;
WHEREAS this man has dedicated himself to transforming his dietary needs to incorporate more healthy foods, etc ...
IT IS HEREBY AGREED, as follows:
1. TERM: 28 days, perhaps with an option to extend the term, mutually to be agreed upon.
2. DUTIES AND PERFORMANCE: Susan XX shall hereby introduce Harry Getzov to the garlic press; instructing him about the various potential uses for such a device and so on and so forth.
The rest would be boilerplate, of course, with the requisite warranties and representations, indemnification, choice of law, force majeure and severability clauses and so on and so forth.
Anyway, it doesn't really matter. The fact is, I'm just glad that I've added the contraption to my kitchen arsenal. Sure, it's an extra step to clean the darn thing. But that's all canceled out by the time I now save by not having to cut and mince any more - so I figure it's a wash.
So thank you Susan. It was great doing business with you.
I can only wonder what the next relationship contract is going to bring me. I'm actually pretty excited about the potential.
Perhaps a juicer?
Or a cappuccino maker?